Shoes fit for a Queen? William Hague needs to take the boys shopping!



The head floods with questions when looking at this photograph. Everyone is laughing. Did Her Majesty just make a quip, or did Cameron just let rip? Why is he sitting down with his jacket buttons done up? Is he trying to hide recently gained weight? Why is Maria Miller dressed like a side portion of mushy peas? Does she actually model herself on Hogwarts sabotagess Dolores Umridge? Why is Baroness Warsi still there? I thought she was bringing a dance album out. Is Theresa May's stylist actually Helen Mirren?

The Standard ran it on their cover yesterday - The Queen visiting the cabinet for the first time. It's a big deal apparently because usually its them that go and see her. It's probably just me - but how is that faintly significant? Does it really matter which bits of carpet and gilt frame people meet around? The Queen on Skype. That would be a story. Or William Hague on Gaydar.

Her Majesty manages an impressively neutral smile. We have to remember that she has reigned right through the careers of 13 Prime Ministers to date and their constantly shuffling cabinets. Imagine how unexciting it must be to pose with Nick Clegg when you were once personally collected at the airport by Sir Winston Churchill.

But now let's press on with the important issue at hand here: Shoes!

Clegg's cloggs look tawdry, pale and scuffed like he's just been scaling the tall playground wall at break time in a boisterous grammar school. Black shoes should go with most suits but in this case they're so jaded that they actually clash with his trousers.

Moving on. Danny Alexander's shoes are terrible. Vague and unpolished vessels that are so lacklustre they blend into the antique rug.

David Cameron, what with being the Prime Minister of England, you would expect to be sporting a pair of really smart shoes and yet he too looks like he's just slumped down from his dormitory for a half-arsed smart casual six form social. Can you imagine the President of the USA wearing such middle of the road lace-ups that look like they're from a basket outside Clarkes in Bridgnorth?

There are shoes out there on the market for less than £200 that can connote power, elegance and class.  Take a note out of The Queen's book, you can see the photographer's reflection in the tips of those beauts.

William Hague is the only well-dressed man on the entire front row (which probably won't surprise some of my readers). He wears a charcoal suit with a gentle metallic finish, topped with a thin grey tie that manages to be both striking and understated, off-set rather boldly with a smart gold watch. His shoes have actually been polished, and he is the only gentlemen here sitting correctly with his feet crossed and his hands placed calmly on knees (no splaying your fingers Vince!)

Clearly this photograph, taken by ES photographer Jeremy Selwyn, has been selected editorially for its slightly off-kilter energy. So perhaps the shoes on show are better than they seem, but they just look bad in this particular shot thanks to the harsh flash?

Ultimately though it is Cameron's expression that steals the show. Relaxed and jovial or puerile and yobbish? It's certainly not an expression fit for a Queen. To me it looks like he's trying to do a Boris, act too cool for school in front of the cabinet kids, but can't quite pull it off. Or maybe Liz really did let rip?

But if you're reading this Miriam. Please please take Nick round the January sales and get him some fucking shoes.

@jackcullenuk

London Uncovered: Brick By Brick



One drawback of London's fast moving and packed property/lettings market online is that it can sometimes be hard to find out an in-depth history of specific buildings. If you type the name of a block of flats into Google, you will find a dozen sparse ads for room lettings there before you find a site with any meaty information that gives insight into the history and context of the building itself.

I went to Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre yesterday to do some writing in their cafe. I was working on a piece  about swimming and so it helped to watch the mens swimming team in and around the pool for inspiration (right?). On my way out it was an empty and rainy Sunday afternoon, and I noticed this building across the road:


It's the sort of "ugly" building you walk past everyday. With all of the busy traffic you could quite easily not notice it at all. In fact, if you're walking under its nose along the row of shops and take-aways built into its ground floor then it's almost impossible to take in.

I was intrigued by the unusual boxed-off balconies in the two rows of top flats. It looks to me as if the living room (assuming they're flats at the top) has a wide balcony, and then the (I'm guessing) bedroom above has a tiny single balcony, and both are squared off to make the two balconies of each individual flat self-contained?

Who lives in this building? How long has it been here?

Run-down lettering outside the building told me it's called Centre Heights and so I made a note to Google it once home. I love the name - "Centre Heights" - so grandiose and generous to itself with regards to its off-centre positioning in London and the fact that it's only 8 floors or so high. You could imagine a quite good sit-com called Centre Heights.

After ploughing through endless lettings listings and old ad-funded links that date back to 2007, (including one from a couple of years ago in which the 4th floor was available as an office space for £29 per square foot) I managed to find out that it was designed in 1961 by Panos Koulermos and his mentor Douglas Stephen.

I then found this interview with Panos Koulermos about his time in London as an architecture student in the 1950s. The grisly Centre Heights was in fact his first major project before he moved abroad to forge a highly successful career as a prolific and celebrated architect abroad.

After his architectural initiation with the grey modernity of Centre Heights he went on to design stylish stuff like this years later:



In the interview Koulermos also mentions the famous pioneer of Brutalism - Le Corbusier - as a major influence. He then gave an example of other "Corbu" inspired piece in London, the Langham House flats in Richmond designed by his contemporary Jim Stirling. I Google imaged these flats and found this:


They're the sort of flats that today people would think ugly, poxy, cheap and dated. Yet if you cast your mind back to the 1950s post-war London, I can just imagine how these neat little flats were considered idyllic with spacious windows and cute balconies. You can imagine the dream can't you - a young couple frying eggs in the kitchen, children playing on the grass outside, someone humming a jazzy tune while they hang their washing out.

It's weird to think that these buildings from the 1960s that we storm past everyday were meticulously dreamt up, drawn, designed and built by leading architects from a now gone era.

Of course back then they couldn't have imagined how diverse, complex and selfish the world would become.  That this kind of idyllic communal living, that fragile post-war connectivity, was about to be shat on by capitalism.

Another strong example in London is the Alexandria Road Council Estate near Abbey Road by Neave Brown:


This was the summery dream:


And this is what it became with neglect and decades of English weather:


I actually quite like it. It's definitely one of my 7 Wonders of London and I wouldn't want to upset the architect Neave, who is still alive and vocal in London today.

The Alexandria Road Council Estate has found itself a cult status. There are guided walks along it periodically. Indeed, affluent lefties have snatched up the now privatised flats on this estate and understandably they go for quite high prices. The estate is often used as a filming location and for "edgy" fashion shoots.

The breathtakingly Brutalist estate was the embodiment of a dream: There was housing, a school, an onsite nurse, a groceries store and underground parking. The people assigned to the social housing at Alexandria Road, or "Rowley Way" as it has been nicknamed, would never have a reason to leave. It was meant to be the perfect capsule community (for people who needed social housing...) A post-war dream that early critics saw as perhaps an attempt at keeping poor people boxed off and out of sight.

Today we see a curve of run-down flats with cascading balconies, thick with weeds and piles of junk in the small concrete front gardens. It looks like an abandoned city from an episode of Star Trek. The blanket silence when walking along the estate really chills the bones. The complex has a reputation for crime and muggings along the curved pedestrian pavement (you can trap people in it by walking down from both ends while they're on it...). In fact just catching a glimpse of this estate while passing by on the bus is a harrowing enough experience.

London is full of fascinating pieces of architecture. And while I'm sure there are lovely coffee table books about it and uncountable architectural theses, it would be good to have a visually-pleasing and user-friendly database of it all that is accessible to the public. No?

It would be good if there was a definitive website where we could look up any building in London and find out its story. Not just the bare bones of what year it was built and who by. But information on who lived there, memorable events that happened there and any archive press cuttings about the building. People could contribute their own stories, before they're lost forever.

I don't know about you but I often think when walking past an interesting building "I wonder what scandals, what secrets, what parties, what nights of queer mischief happened there?". That's just my mind, but I'm sure we all have our questions. Because with a city as busy and pumping with people as London, any building that has been around for a few years must have seen its fair share of fun.

I was chatting to a businessman in Soho a few weeks ago and I mentioned the "Walkie Talkie". For those of you who don't know, it's this beast that they're building on Fenchurch Street:


I love the Walkie Talkie. It's big, it's imposing, it's villainous and everything a skyscraper should be.

He told me though that his first ever job had been in the building that they scrapped in order to build it! I gave the building a Wikipedia whirl and discovered that sure enough, on the site of the new "Walkie Talkie" used to stand this cute skyscraper instead:


I love it. Demolished in 2008, "20 Fenchurch Street" was one of the first tall buildings in the City and was even Grade II listed. It just goes to show - nothing is safe, even when Grade listed. If you know what this building's real name was then please do leave a comment below, I can't find it anywhere. I'm assuming people didn't call is "20 Fenchurch Street".

I found this blog about London architecture called Brutalism and Boozing while researching Centre Heights:
http://brutalismandbooze.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/centre-heights-swiss-cottage.html

If you know of any good London architecture blogs or websites then please do leave me a link below. And that's that. An amateur architectural rambling from me. Perhaps my New Year's Resolution will be to give Hampstead History a rest for 2013 and build up my knowledge on London's Brutalist scene.

Anyways, that'll be all.

(Picture at top, a digital creation by artist Filip Dujardin. Sadly this building doesn't exist. Although if it did - that cantilever in the top right would be pretty dangerous!)

@jackcullenuk


Jamie McDermott interviewed for The Agenda podcast!




On Monday I met The Irrepressibles’ lead singer and creative director Jamie McDermott. He joined Sham (the Welsh one) and I in Soho for the recording of our latest podcast episode in which we also discussed gay-to-straight conversion therapy as well as mulling over the results of The Independent on Sunday’s recently published Pink List 2012 (their list of the 101 most influential living LGBT figures in Britain).

The interview with Jamie occupies the first half of the podcast, we discuss his childhood in Scarborough, the processes and concepts behind his band The Irrepressibles, his own coming out experiences and his talent for persuading hot boys to strip and wrestle for him on camera…

Listen to the episode on SoundCloud now:



If you'd like to hear more episodes of my podcast then find us on iTunes by searching for So So Gay, The Agenda, in the podcasts section.

Here are the two homoerotic music videos that we mention in the episode above:



 And...
 

@jackcullenuk

Louis Tussauds House of Wax in Norfolk to close due to 80-year-old owner's retirement



I was sad to read that Norfolk's answer to Madame Tussauds is closing. The couple who run the Louis Tussauds in Great Yarmouth are now in their 80s and plan to retire. The place has a cult following and has previously won the title of "worst waxworks of all time". Generally the dummies have the right clothes, but the similarities stop there.

Here is a great one of Michael Jackson looking like Harry Styles:


The museum is now closed for the 2012 season but let's hope they have one more run next year. Mrs Hayes, one of the owners, says they are definitely open to offers for buying the business - Let's hope Damien Hirst of perhaps Jake and Dinos Chapman are reading.

You can read the BBC story with more info here.


@jackcullenuk 

VICE party for "The British Wrestler" series




Bethnal Green Working Mens Club was turned into a pop-up fight club last Wednesday with a theatrical wrestling contest and free cider tokens for us press folk as VICE officially launched their new series The British Wrestler.

The new series gives a fascinating insight into the world of British wrestling and some of the challenges faced by Britain's wrestling community today, through the eyes of its biggest fanatics. You can watch the first eight minute episode here. It's interesting to observe the multi-layering of homosocial hero worship, a complete immersion in masculinity and guised homosexual desires that reside within the wrestling community.

BGWMC is a great venue with its old carpets and wood-panelling that someone described as "paedo's retreat chic" (?!). They run a gay night periodically, if you've not been there before then maybe follow them on Facebook for a while, there's bound to be something fun coming up soon. This is the link you need...



Down the road from there you have The Star of Bethnal Green too, a fun gay-friendly bar that is also home to the incredible gay night Shake Your Dicks.


@jackcullenuk


In other news, Nicki Minaj & Cassie...


Goodbye Lady Gaga?



South African art-house rap project Die Antwoord hit out with their latest single Fatty Boom Boom, attacking Lady Gaga and leaving the Huffington Post's blog team spinning...

The much-awaited video opens with a man playing Lady Gaga driving through down-town South Africa where her tour minibus finds itself held up at gunpoint by masked terrorists.

A dishevelled whimpering Gaga manages to flee the violent scene and stumbles through back streets wearing a slice of steak on her head and a flapping meat dress which attracts the attention of a king lion which proceeds to eat Lady Gaga whole.

Meanwhile, the members of Die Antwoord perform their new single Fatty Boom Boom outside a grafitti'd garage, doused in body paint. Yolandi has cats' eyes. The drummer wears an execution mask.

"Hi! My name is Yo-Landi fuckin' Visser Fight Fight Fight! Kick you in the teeth, hit you on the head with the mic" comes the lead-singer's welcome...



It's not the first time the duo Die Antwoord (Afrikaans for "The Answer") have slammed Lady Gaga. They turned down an offer to support her on her latest tour and even called her music "weak superficial shit" in an interview. 

"Oh my GAWD, look at their freaky FASHION..." cooes Gaga as her bus passes Die Antwoord on the street, Yolandi staring death-faced at the passing vehicle, "I should get them to open for meee".

Lady Gaga parodies are nothing new and there are several drag Gaga YouTube channels out there scraping together viewcounts. What makes this parody contro is that is comes from another established artist, seemingly unprovoked, and one on a major label.


The fashion-conscious South African duo have found themselves a snowballing fan base after signing with Interscope Records in 2010 and following the success of their incredible short film "What Are You Looking At?" - an extended music video directed by Harmony Korine (find an extract embedded at the foot of this blog post).

While Lady Gaga's music tends to examine the grip of celebrity culture and how the media harnesses women's perception of themselves, Die Antwoord take on a grittier social agenda with their music - unresolved racial tensions in South Africa, and a governmental neglect for the poor, gun crime and the effects of vast miseducation sit at the centre of their music. Unlike Gaga, Die Antwoord seem less interested in gay rights and the story lines of their videos depict a straight world full of angry frustrated sex, tacky male bravado and confused sluttish teenagers.

Like Gaga, and so many artists who have gone before them, the pair use costume to provoke. In the video to Fatty Boom Boom we see a blacked-up Yolandi and whited-up Ninja, jumping in front of a vivid backdrop that is packed with tongue-in-cheek product placements and South African "zef" counter-culture motifs.

The band have toured with M.I.A. before and are closely aligned with her musically. This new song Fatty Boom Boom draws quite heavily upon some of the percussion and rap formations on M.I.A's 2005 debute album Arular.

More of what we want, or slightly behind the wave? Whether Die Antwoord's music can stand on its own as pure audio we're yet to see. Bars and radio stations over here certainly aren't playing their stuff. And while Die Antwoord are enjoying the global publicity from mocking Lady Gaga with their fantastic videos, while pushing out their own hardline brand of rave-rap, I think I know whose music I'd rather dance to and prefer...

Ga-Ga-Ooh-La-La-Fight! Fight! Fight!


Harmony Korine / Die Antwoord :

My gay beef with Dazed And Confused





Congratulations to Owen Myers (^^) the new contributing music editor for prophetic culture bible and factory line of cool - Dazed And Confused. Owen has previously written for Attitude and contributes regularly to PopJustice. He has also written about musicy things at Dazed itself for some time now, beneath timeless deputy editor Tim Noakes who has previously kept the music section close to himself like a well-groomed bonsai for years.

Hopefully this move at Dazed might mean an increase in coverage for the kind of pop stars that I personally like, the kind that Owen has written about for other publications. In other words, a stronger focus on gay culture and the Warholian world of pop for pop's sake that PopJustice so avidly feeds on.

Or am I being narrow-minded and assumptious? There's a bag of stuff Owen's written for other publications like NME that I've not been on the ball with. My coffee table library is a pretty limited canon. Gay Times, Boyz, Teen Vogue, Tatler, that kind of gloss and whatever came in last night's canvas goodie bag (right now "Port" magazine).

So I first looked at Dazed in 2004 when this girl Sophy who I skived chapel with thought I would like it and she gave me one of her old copies along with this jumpy macho mixtape she'd made me (Futureheads/Spoon/Beck/HotHotHeat - !) I felt like she was testing me. What does Jack eat up? The fash mag or the het cassette? Well both initially, but moany old Beck soon fell into the grey matter beneath Meatloaf and Travis in my brain's adolescent landfill site (now has a Mariah mansion built on top of it). Dazed, however, stayed.

I remember the first Dazed issue that I bought myself was from WHSmiths at the train station and had a black and white image of Bjork on the front with her face reproduced atop of itself like a giant fruit sticker. It was this one, and came with a free mini-track preview of Medulla:



That day was actually the break up for half term and I was going to stay with my friend in West London. His mum spotted the mag next to my school satchel on the kitchen table. "What's this?" she said flicking through it, leaving it open a bit awkwardly on a skimpy menswear editorial "Is it a gay magazine?" she enquired softly, re-arranging some items in the fruit bowl with an ever so subtle flare of her nostrils. My friend changed the subject politely and we moved into the living room to play computer games.

With hindsight, she was using Dazed as a fork to encourage me to come out. I was spending a lot of time with her son and so understandably she was interested in whether I was gay or not (and had most probably picked up on it already). Whether she genuinely thought Dazed was a gay magazine I'll never know, but they were quite a sporty newsy straight-forward family, so possibly.

Dazed wasn't a gay magazine but it did offer some kind of escape for me into a gay world. It had racy editorials, acknowledged the existence of gay talent and had Bjork on the bloody cover.

"It's a fashion, music and lifestyle magazine" I would mumble to anyone in Rutland who asked, but for me those things came together to create a patch of grass upon which my gay mind could lie down and rest.

They play an important part in the gay community, magazines like Dazed, and I'm sure other gay kids pick these magazines up and take delight in secretly relishing what few scraps of exposed rib cage and close-ups of stubble they can find.

Of coruse the internet was cranked up and pumping back in 2004, and there were tonnes of gay websites, but somehow I wasn't so interested in gay porn then, I wanted things like Dazed. I wanted the slow leafy fall down the rabbit hole.

With actual gay magazines and gay porn they're more of a product that you sit back and take in. But magazines like Dazed encourage you to think and create. That initial patch of grass that I could lie on, the mental space that Dazed gave me, I then learnt to rip up, dig over, and turn into a new space where ideas could grow.

Then came the lead up to patricide, the adolescent stage of readership in which Dazed used to piss me off. As much as I'd love to pretend I cared about latest news from the rural Japanese graffiti scene, there was nothing so fucking annoying as spending £4 on a new issue of Dazed and there wasn't one faintly cute boy I could blue-tack to the inside of my wardrobe doors. Nothing but page after page of upset looking women on stools covered in self-raising flour and acres of frazzled auburn hair.

This was the nearest Dazed came to being what I needed it to be:


And it was probably one of the least Dazed issues of Dazed they made. I still have the cardboard box this particular issue came in.

I was going through a hardcore consumer gay culture phase by now. I tidn't want to toy with the margins and flirt with the forefront. I wanted good solid gay mainstream content. It wasn't that Dazed was the wrong magazine, it was that I was now the wrong reader for it.

There was a time when I used to joke that you could pick up Dazed and not know anyone in it, then three months later if you went back to that same issue you'd know everyone in it - because Dazed was a who's-going-to-be-who list of everything cool. But then the magazine seemed to hit a hard rock, the internet was deciding who was and who wasn't and magazines had to play catch up. I felt like Dazed was going three ways - A) More mainstream, putting obvious stars on its cover, B) more obscure, writing about things that nobody could possibly have heard of, and C) upping the high fashion. The brands were getting bigger and bigger while my personal finances were non-existent. And was I imagining it or had gay content been all but entirely axed?

So I stopped buying Dazed in 2008, partly because I needed desperately to hold onto money too if I was to make a secure move down to London. And when you're saving money glossy magazines are first out of that Tesco Expressco shopping basket.

By the time my financial situation picked up I had moved onto bonafide gay magazines and fully immersed myself into gay culture. I was a much more binary person. I wanted my porn to be porn and my shopping to be shopping. I'd found fulltime employment in digital media and publicity so when I came home I wanted a departure from it - chiefly wine, hot baths and men who talked about coastal erosion.

But then comes the full circle. I think I'm ready to read Dazed again. It's still monthly while its strongest rivals have turned bi-monthly or slipped off the mag rack completely, it has a stronger emphasis on digital and has evolved in other ways since I first picked it up eight years ago.

Now that a gay media personality has joined the Dazed team permanently and Owen is running the music side, perhaps this is a good time for someone like me - a thoroughbred block-colour homosexual, to give the mag a second blast.

Roll on the Galliano Jedward shoot.



- - - - - - - - - -

My other tribulation with Dazed:

In 2008, I wrote an angry letter to Tim Noakes at Dazed after seeing his underwhelmed review of Kelis' Greatest Hits collection.

I was a student at Leeds at the time and spent most of the day spinning in a wheelie chair in the student newspaper office, trying to source free pizza in exchange for quarter-page advertising and trying to strike a balance between filling my section with the best writers (these two fantastically intelligent girls) while giving away my +1s to hot eager fresher boys. It was a moral dilemma and one that taught me a valuable lesson - there will always be more boys, whereas good copy and writers who respect deadlines must be clung to like parachute instructors.

So one day I was in a camp, gushy, acidic mood. I wrote a letter to Walkers Crisps complaining that Walkers Sensations hadn't given me any kind of sensation (I received a £2 voucher), and then I wrote an angry letter to Tim Noakes, deputy editor of Dazed.

To humiliate my 19-year-old self forever, he published the letter on his blog here:
http://www.socialstereotype.com/_/Blog/Entries/2008/3/26_Fan_mail.html

Tim was kind enough to reply to my letter though.

I remember the exciting morning that I came into the student newspaper office to find a metallic bubble-wrap jiffy bag with a retail price of at least £1.49 in Paperchase. Inside was a letter from Tim, somewhat baffled but kind all the same, explaining that he actually liked Kelis and his review was one of disappointment as a result of her potential, not because he felt she was an incompetent popstar.

He included too a back issue of Dazed with Kelis on the cover, one that I wasn't aware of since it had come out when years before when I was still a subscriber to White Dwarf.


The most embarrassing part of my annoying girlish letter to Tim has to be my dollish signature at the end. But it's fantastic that Tim took the time to write back to me. When you're a student little pieces of contact like that with real people in the media make a real difference.

I remember emailing Hadley Freeman as a teenager too, telling her how much I liked her writing style and asking her why the Guardian had listed her as deputy-fashion editor the previous weekend, had she been promoted? I then went a step further and asked for work experience with her (!?!!!?!)

Hadley kindly emailed back saying "Work experience? You mean following me between the bedroom and the coffee machine? And jeez - I thought only my mum paid attention to bylines!" But even a short coquettish reply like that gave me some insight into life as a writer: 1) You work alone, 2) Your parents won't go away, and 3) Peaders don't care about title and position, they just want to be either educated, enlightened or (my section) mildly entertained.

Anyway, I've forgotten what I'm writing about. Here's a song by Kelis:



@jackcullenuk


"NO HOMO": Is the homophobic slur word a subconscious admission from closet-gays?




Have you seen this online project called No Homophobes? It's a piece of software that tallies the usage of Faggot, Dyke, No Homo and So Gay on Twitter:


It also reports a live feed of the tweets just below the tally. (So there's me on the left seconds after posting a tweet that contained the words "No Homo")
If you can't be bothered to read this blog post (basically it looks into the homophobic phrase "No Homo" ) then there's a brilliant video embedded at the end, so make sure to scroll down to that before you head off.

Many of the tweets clocked by the No Homophobes robot are actually posted by gay teenagers on Twitter who have re-possessed (perhaps consciously, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps somewhere inbetween) the pieces of homophobic phraseology in question.

Evidently quite a few lesbians use the word dyke and are happy with using it. (London has a lesbian group on the website Meet-Up called Dykes On Bikes). Meanwhile "so gay" is used in conversation by tonnes of gay people and for all manner of purposes. (There's even a gay opinion website called So So Gay )

I'm culpable of it too. My friends throw "so gay" around my lounge like a packet of menthol cigarettes. More recently I've adopted the Level 2 version of "so gay" which is "supagay" (Level 3 is "Megagay", Level 4 is "Ubergay", Level 5 is "Gayocity", Nintendo are brining Level 6 out in February)

I'm going to write a blog post about faggot (don't click) at some stage in the future, but for now let's focus on this:

NO HOMO:

The fourth phrase tracked by the No Homophobe project No Homo is the one that interested me most because I'd never come across the phrase No Homo, so I gave it a Google. Turns out the phrase No Homo is "a slang term that parenthetically asserts that the speaker does not have any homosexual intent, usually given after an utterance that may have led to that impression"

For example a straight boy might say to his male friend who has just got changed for a night out "You're looking hot, no homo", or a straight boy might say "Ronaldo is a fucking God! No homo."

It's more of an American thing and its origins lie in the early 1990s rap scene. (Which doesn't surprise me because rappers and urban musical artists are the biggest bunch of high-fashion show-stopping closet cases after the football industry. They love to wax lyrical about how un-gay they are in order to keep selling records to a mainstream fanbase. But believe me, behind those baggy trousers and advertising contract baseball caps are talented gay musicians who are sadly prelonging the pain of the closet and pushing hatred onto their juniors purely for their own pecuniary advance. But you knew that already).

The phrase No Homo is an interesting one because is it:

A) Homophobia repackaged? Suggestive of a belief that being gay is horrible and undesirable
B) Lightly affectionate? As if to say "I don't mind gay people man, it's just I'm not one of them so don't come kissing me boy"
C) A closet-case confession? A way of following up a vaguely homoerotic statement with a verbal indicator towards homosexuality - consequently making the phrase a gay one and bringing a homosexual oppurtunity into the mind.
D) Just catchy? Rhythmic and easy to rhyme with things so has become a popular mouth-hold for the less imaginative lyricist. "No-Ho-Mo", it's a catchy repetitive vowel sound etc.



Even though it's an American phrase, the boys of my glorious middle-class upbringing in rural England had effective counterparts to No Homo, such as "Mate, I'm not gay but..", and "I would be gay for him" (said as a joke to connote hero worship or admiration, albeit a thinly disiguised Freudian feast)

Then I found this FANTASTIC parody song on YouTube called "No Homo" by the The Lonely Island. It basically de-mystifies and rips the shit out of the phrase No Homo. The lyrics become increasingly homosexual throughout the song and each line is followed with the chant of "No Homo". I found it very amusing and think you'll like it too:





You've been reading Jack of Hearts, the personal blog of Jack Cullen. On Twitter: @jackcullenuk

J.K.Rowling's The Casual Vacancy - Looks a bit like a Caramac bar doesn't it.


I'm very much looking forward to reading J.K.Rowling's first non-Potter book The Casual Vacancy.

In the meantime, has anyone else noticed that it strongly resembles a Caramac bar?


I'd like to point out that I did not take this photograph and that my kitchen has much lovelier surfaces than those above. This photograph is in fact the official Caramac portrait from Caramac's Wikipedia page.

That'll be all.



ALPHABEAT: New album "Express Non-Stop": Track-by-track preview, review, and yeah, everything. Great.




Loopy Danish quintet Alphabeat return with a third album “Express Non Stop”, and yes – the title's a health warning.

They've made something so relentlessly happy that by track three you want to stuff your mouth with nails and chuck petrol around your bedroom in an attempt to restore your cheeriness threshold. Their other albums are macho in comparison, in fact 'Boyfriend' seems like Alphabeat’s heavy metal phase now upon reflection.

I was hoping the success of Danish TV series The Killing would have inspired the band to create a refreshingly harrowing record. But no, they just keep on out-camping themselves like Louis Tomlinson in violet jock-strap selling candyfloss on roller skates with Cliff Richard booming out of ghettoblaster on his shoulder, or possibly just Cliff Richards on his shoulders.

So. The cover shows Anders SG looking his cute dashing self in a lavender suit while Stine (that's the woman) strikes a pose in what looks like a Dorothy Perkins tea dress, like Debbie Harry at the end of a cruise. Her aquamarine head tie matches his buttoned-up shirt as the pair stand amidst a shower of confetti (Alphabeat Rule Number 1: Confetti Shower) and also their, er, their, what I suppose you could call "the other people in Alphabeat"? What do the other people in Alphabeat do?

Anyway, here’s a YouTube preview of the album. If you're a quick reader you can read my comments on each track while listening, if not then you'll have to get all clicky on the pause symbol:
 


And here’s a Jack of Hearts track-by-track guide:

The Beat Don’t Stop

Express Non-Stop kicks off like a pair of polka dot plimsolls in a primary school dance class with The Beat Don’t Stop, sounding like Janet Jackson in a paralell universe in which she works as a kids party entertainer, balancing balancing the karma from her late brother's less formidable contributions to, er, children. Wait - what are we talking about. Oh yeah Alphabeat. So it’s a very Alphabeat song: 1980s-inspired fizzy pop, la la la, you know the drill (I’m so ready for a noughties comeback - Grimmy needs to get Shanks & Bigfoot in the live lounge). Anyway, back to the song - Yeah, far too sickly to play in any kindo of bar or club. So, coming to a stereo-on-a-window-sill-next-to-a-plastic-beaker-of-weak-lemon-squash-in-a-windowless-parish-hall NEAR YOU (Aw, an additive hyphen joke, the ironically long hashtag of the noughties). Or failing that, the Royal Vauxhal Tavern.

Love Sea

“1, 2, 3 – you’re in love with me” go the lyrics to this near-death-experience cover of Whitney Houston’s 'How Will I Know?' And the magic Alphabeat buzzword word “imagination” pops up on this track too. 'Love Sea' is a single apparently so has its own music video. Wait a sec. Here it is:
 
I wouldn’t want to bitch about an Alphabeat music video, I’m not a complete bully, but let’s just say it’s not directed by Sophie Muller and leave it at that. (Yes I know there's a an umlat on Muller).

Since I Met You

A glimmer of Tamla Motown, rinsed under a cold tap and glazed in icing sugar. Again, impossibly upbeat and cheerful, somehow even more so than the last two tracks. The album desperately needs some crusty baguette to mop up the syrup. A bass guitar perhaps, or a deep synth? A castanet? A few microwave pings? Anything.

This song should come with its own gif of the jumping bunnies and flying birds at the end of Sonic levels, you know the ones that are free from Dr. Eggman’s metal capsule by jumping on it? Just a thought.

Younger Than Yesterday

Anders sings on this track and it’s possibly an autobiography in song form - He looked fourteen when Alphabeat first banded, twelve on the second album and approximately seven or eight this time round. Stop anti-ageing Anders! And how come Googling "Is Anders SG gay?" brings me absolutely nothing. Nor does he have a Wikipedia page which is insane. Even contributors to the Independent have Wikipedia pages. Is there a Danish Wikipedia?

Mad About You

Anders again. He sings some quite hot images actually like “When I wake up... I want you to shake me and move me”. Imagine waking up after Heaven on Sunday morning and having Anders there on the next pillow saying that, possibly flicking his nipple with a purple glittery plectrum.
 
This one is totally nursery rhymey and  channels Deacon Blue, the obscure 80s Scottish band that seem to have possessed Alphabeat since day one. We're five tracks into the new Alphabeat album guys,! Time for another double espresso.

Express Non-Stop

Well this song didn’t take long to write did it?
 
I’m holding out for a music video in which Anders plays a checkout boy in Tesco Express and Stine comes in to buy herself some new razor heads for her Venus. The rest of the band could perhaps just be photographs on cereal boxes or something.

Vacation

This one was a single back in March. What, you didn't know that? Well you evidently you don’t follow enough youth-complex gays on Twitter. All you need to know is - 'Vacation' sounds just like their biggest ever hit 'Imagination 'but isn’t quite as good. BUT – it’s  songs like this that are successfully turning boys gay everywhere. Five a day.

Brand New Day

More Anders SG camping away. Him and Mika need to do lunch sometime. They could discuss their passion for low-carb pop music and things like how Vera Wang Princess stands up against Lacoste Touch Of Pink.
 
I'm starting to wonder who thought an Alphabeat album demo would be a good idea, it just reinforces how honeyfied, annoying and samey their sound is. Does anyone need a whole album of Alphabeat? Cadbury's Creme eggs aren't rugby ball size for the same reason.

Show Me What Love Is

Just when I was about to give up, I quite like this one. 'Show Me What Love Is'. The melody sound like a southern hemisphere Mario Kart level, one of the beachy ones. Yeah, I'm totally into this one - Madonna Holiday meets Nintendo.

Love On The Line

Alphabeat are just inattentively filling up the album now, like a late-night Beth Ditto going round ASDA with a trolley. Not unlike my approach to this blog post.

Oh, and we've reached the end. Hurrah - a third album from Alphabeat.
Fab.
Ten out of ten.
A million out of a million.
A unicorn out of a rainbow.
Can’t wait for the fourth album!
Can you?
Cool.

Do we want LGBT Big Brother winners?


I didn’t get a chance to watch much Big Brother this summer and was abroad when Luke Anderson won the latest series on Channel 5 (that’s the yellow right-hand column in your mum’s TV guide). So on Saturday (well, Sunday morning) when Paris Lees took me to Adam Kelly’s party (that would be the former LA gang member who came second in the series!) I had no idea that Luke was born female-bodied.

Paris introduced me to Luke (pictured above with Paris) and his wife Becki (who was glistening away in an LBD topped with some serious diamonté) at the swank party venue 5 Cavendish Square (I’ve never heard so much Russian in a smoking area). While Paris was dancing on furniture and asking hot bar boys how many calories there were in soda water, I was left alone for a while with Luke and his crew. I remember thinking “Ok, I’m in the company of a straight bloke wearing a suit, I’ve had a lot to drink, just keep the camp dance moves under control, he likes Paris but she’s a hot girl, he doesn’t necessarily like gay people”. Of course these fears were dispelled immediately because Luke is a lovely down-to-earth chef from Wales!  But it wasn’t until several hours later speeding across London in a taxi that someone mentioned Luke is trans.

I took the photo above of Luke and Paris at that party, and yes Paris may be wielding a two-litre bottle of Belvedere vodka like it’s just come out of a man’s flies, but this photo pleases me so much because it shows how far London (and Great Britain’s) trans community have come. This is a photograph of two people who have found themselves. They’ve made that journey, it wasn’t easy, but now they’ve arrived and it’s time to have fun.

Some critics have said that it’s bad to have trans celebrities who make a big song and dance out of being trans. Luke and Paris don’t do that though. It’s not like Candy Darling (as much as I love my Andy Warhol stars!) No – you can catch Paris talking about being trans in magazines and across the British media week-in week-out, but when she’s at a party she’s just Paris – a pretty girl having a lot of fun (OK admitedly, she’ll still put people in their place if it needs doing – Paris the trans media warrior never completely switches off!) But even if trans stars did want to wave their status around – why the fuck not? They’ve been on an incredible journey and it’s their choice if they want to flaunt it. Notable gay figures had to do that for decades and some still do.

Do we want LGBT Big Brother winners? Of course! We can have it all - Man Booker Prizes, Olympic gold medals, X Factor contests and reality TV shows. LGBT people have a role to play in all parts of the rich tapestry. Be it in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the Royal Opera House or a family of five watching telly in a council flat, there are LGBT people in every type of audience.

But Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his LGBT status, nor did Julian Clary win Celebrity Big Brother because of his. They won because they’re popular and likeable individuals. Although the broadcasting industry and tabloids dealt Julian Clary a life-bludgeoning blow after his controversial comments at the 1993 Comedy Awards, effectively axing his fast-growing career, the public never left his side and have always enjoyed his delicious puns and knowing glances. Meanwhile Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his past but because of his present. The fact that he was born female-bodied kept the papers interested initially, sure, but if he wasn’t such a lovely guy then he never would have won viewers’ votes.

As for Paris, people say her popularity comes from having her head screwed on, but I personally think it has more to do with how good her legs are.
Also, if Adam Kelly's friend Debbie is reading this - you're an AMAZING DANCER!
Paris is on Twitter @ParisLees. Follow Luke Anderson @LukeA_bb Find Adam Kelly on Twitter @adam_kellybb. And then I'm on Twitter too @jackcullenuk.



Above: Candy Darling

POPTRONIK - SITGES CRIME ALERT!



Many of you are going to Poptronik festival in Sitges this weekend. Having lost two iPhones and one camera in Sitges over the last four summers I want to quickly warn you about the escalating crime there and offer you these tips. It used to just be party bimbos like me who got jacked, but now it’s everyone and anyone:

How do thieves in Sitges operate?
 
I absolutely love Sitges, it's an incredible little place - BUT - it has always been a bit shifty. Of course this comes hand-in-hand with a liberal counter-culture and everything that makes the resort such spectacular fun for a gay holiday. Traditionally theft would happen in dark rooms (notoriously the first floor of XXL bar) and on the beach at night. A classic Sitges scenario is for an exotic boy to pose against the beach wall at night poking his bum out while his comrade scoops the pockets of the men who de-bag themselves to enjoy said exotic bum.
 
Things have gone up a level though and even you bed-before-midnight types are at risk. I was horrified when I met two lovely guys in Sitges last week who worked for Harvey Nichols and were robbed before my eyes without any of us noticing. We were walking back to our hotels when a stranger asked us is we knew the way to the something-something bar. We said we hadn't heard of it, sorry. One minute later both lads realised their iPhones had vanished. We knew for sure the iPhones were there two minutes prior when one of the boys checked Google maps.
 
Only a few of the bars have doormen and their chief concern is controlling drug abuse, they don't care so much about your boyfriend's iPhone which has photos of your new twin nieces and yada yada yada - so you need to look after yourselves. The best policy is to leave it all in the hotel room, take nothing out with you but a pair of cute swimmers and some mascara, and have a fun night.
 
Why the sudden increase in theft?
 
The recession has hit Spain really bad. Desperation and poverty has led to an escalation in crime but Sitges specifically has become a popular target resort for gangs. Because of its swank bars and gorgeous villas thieves can count on Sitges to provide them with a steady flow of affluent gay couples who are kitted out with iPhones, top-end cameras and Euro-stuffed wallets. What's more the police presence can be low some nights in Sitges, possibly turning a blind eye due to the town being a massive gay fest, but also due to mainstream Spanish resorts further along the coast requiring a stronger police presence (lads-on-tour violence, stag weekends, missing kids, local teenagers raving on the roof of Seats etc.) I don't want to scare you. Like I said, Sitges is beautiful and a favourite among Spain's elite. These "gangs" aren't like Bugsy Malone, they're almost unnoticeable drifts of ghostlike figures, they can smell iPhones but that is all.
 
How can I pick out a pickpocket?
 
Generally the pickpockets talk to you in a vague and distant manner, they're not switched on in the friendly way that tourists are and they shuffle about slowly like they're lost. But if you leave your iPhone in the hotel then you're totally foolproof. Last week this guy asked me if I had a lighter and then wondered off not waiting for it - his partner in crime must have detected my wet beach shorts only had one prize in them and it wasn't the one they were looking for.
 
TOP TIPS:
 
1. If you REALLY need a phone at night then go to Tesco and buy a shit one. Prices start at £10 with a pay-as-you-go SIM. Put your holiday pals' numbers in it. Job done.
 
2. You don’t need ID or a passport to enter any gay bar in Sitges, or Spain for that matter. You just rock on in. So don’t risk taking your passport out with you – UK passports are highly valuable on the black market, quite pricey to replace and a fucking pain to reapply for.
 
3. You don't need photos as much as you think you do, but if you insist then go on a photo mission. Walk around with a friend for an hour taking photos, then drop the camera back at the hotel before the incredibly strong drinks settle in.
 
4. If you find you've lost something then go straight to the police station (beyond the railway station) and give a statement. You never know, they might find your bag ditched over a wall with sentimental items still in it - Also, the more statements the police acquire the more chance there is of the Spanish police sorting this theft epidemic out.
 
5. Be careful not to mention your hotel room number too loudly. That way if you lose your key card you can be safe knowing the thief can't locate the room. Our hotel number was 521 this summer so we made a nickname for it "Forever Twenty One". That's how sad we are.
 
6. Buy swimming shorts with velcro pockets to stuff a few Euros into for your night out. Or if you have gift with a needle then sow your own inside pockets into your shorts.
 
7. If you make a friend on a night out then look out for them too. Just because you've taken precautions doesn't mean they will have and the last thing you want is to find yourself a hot man for the night then spend it sitting in the police station recalling your best GCSE Spanish with him.
 
FINALLY:
 
Have a really fun time at Poptronik festival, enjoy the sunshine, make new friends and get wrecked on the beach!
 
For my Gay Times guide on where to go out in Sitges see here:
 
And for my advice on how to get into the Sitges swing of things, like eating dinner at 10.30pm and cruising the beach at 5.30am, see here: