Ten Favourite Christmas Albums

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A festive entry in my little series of “ten favourite” posts.  This time I turn my attention to music and Christmas albums.  So, in no particular order…

White Christmas with Nat & Dean (LP version)

Back in the 1970s, Music for Pleasure released a lovely 12 track LP alternating songs by Nat King Cole and Dean Martin.  It was a favourite in our house while I was growing up, and featured some fine performances and, rather strangely, the split album idea worked very well.  What’s more, it was one of the few places to find Dean Martin’s “The Christmas Blues” at the time.  It all went to pieces on the CD issue though.  Extra tracks were added, but only from Nat King Cole, thus upsetting the balance and the magic was gone.   The original album is superb though, and worth grabbing just to hear Nat King Cole tell us that he’s the “Happiest Christmas Tree” (Ho ho ho, he he he).

Seasons Greetings from Perry Como

This is Como’s Christmas album from 1958 and is one of the warmest Christmas albums you will ever find.  The first side features secular festive favourites, while the second side features Como singing carols, leading to the concluding lengthy track in which he narrates the story of the first Christmas, with his narrative interspersed by snatches of carols (this was something he started doing on TV in the early 1950s).  Como’s version of “Home for the Holidays” and “Oh Holy Night” make this a must – and the final track makes it a great one for the kids. 

Ella Fitzgerald’s Christmas

If ever there was an unjustly neglected Christmas album, this might be it.  Ella forgets jazz for thirty-five minutes as she leads a choir through a series of Christmas hymns and carols.  A very different affair from her Christmas album for Verve, this was her second release for Capitol in 1967, and was either ignored by critics or ravaged by them.  In reality, Ella is probably in the best voice of her career and her warmth and sincerity oozes out of every groove.

A Dave Brubeck Christmas

Jazz Christmas albums are a little hit and miss, but this one is both delightful and unusual in that it finds Dave Brubeck playing solo piano rather than as part of a trio or quartet.   This is great stuff, with Brubeck still in great form despite being in his late seventies when it was recorded.  He might be best known for his  cool/bop jazz recordings, but perhaps the most enjoyable track here is “Winter Wonderland”, which finds him playing good old-fashioned stride piano. 

Michael Buble’s Christmas

It’s not very often a modern Christmas album becomes an instant favourite, but this one seems to be the exception.  Buble presents us with an album of mostly traditional Christmas fare, but a number of tracks have a twist – such as the wonderful Dixieland take on “Blue Christmas” – and others are just so well sung and arranged that it’s hard not to fall in love with the album.

Elvis’ Christmas Album

No, not the original 1957 version, but the 1970 issue which ditches the gospel material and adds “If Every Day Was Like Christmas” (a single from 1966) and the non-festive “Mama Liked the Roses”.  The 1966 track oddly fits snugly amongst the raw sounds of those recorded nearly a decade earlier in which songs range from the dirty innuendo-ridden blues of “Santa Claus is Back in Town” (Hang up your stockings/Turn down the lights/Santa Claus is coming down your chimney tonight) to the reverent take on “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”.   Elvis went on to record a second Christmas album in 1971, one which finds him in poor voice and singing a batch of mostly depressing, uninspired new songs.  It has to rank as one of the most disappointing sequels in history.

Harry Connick Jr: Harry for the Holidays

Harry Connick Jr’s Christmas albums are a mixed bag.  The first one, “When My Heart Finds Christmas” was so awful that ever after in our household he was known as “Harry Chronic”.   “Harry for the Holidays” is much better, and catches Harry during one of his better periods, following hot on the heels of his great “Come By Me”,“30” and “Songs I Heard” albums.  So this album features slightly left-field, whacky big band arrangements of mostly well-known Christmas songs.  “Frosty the Snowman”, which opens the album is typical of this, given a noisy makeover that makes it sound like something out of a New Orleans Mardi Gras.  It all runs a little out of steam by the end of the 65 minute album, but “Silent Night”, which closes the album, is given a lovely arrangement, mixing traditional jazz and gospel sounds. 

The Sinatra Family Wishes You a Merry Christmas

I wrote about this one a few days back in a separate post, but this is a fun album featuring Sinatra and his three kids.  Nancy Sinatra never sounded better.

Christmas with Chet Atkins

This is a lovely warm album of instrumentals from country-styled guitarist Chet Atkins, and features fourteen tracks and is ideal for non-obtrusive music while hanging up those decorations.  The original CD issue was rather botched for some reason, but it’s now available under the title “Songs for Christmas” in better sound – it couldn’t be worse than Mum and Dad’s copy of the album, though, which was bought in 1961 and regularly got stuck as the needle tried to avoid the scratches!

The Andy Williams Christmas Album

The BBC recently showed a couple of clip shows from the Andy Williams Show that ran from the early 1960s until the mid-70s (shame on the BBC for cropping the picture!).  Watching it reminds us of how talented Williams was in his prime, with vocal performances that saw him singing jazz with Ella Fitzgerald and folk with Simon and Garfunkel.   His Christmas album was released in 1963 and contains a relatively predictable set of festive favourites.   If the vocals are sometimes just a little too laid back at times, and the arrangements a little saccharine, there are still gorgeous performances of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, “Happy Holidays” and “The Little Drummer Boy”.

This is my last post before Christmas, so have a great Christmas and we’ll gather here again in that strange lull between Christmas and New Year!

 

 

Breaking Point and Breaking Down

 

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The sudden spate of publicity about “Breaking Point” over the last week or so has made me revisit the idea of a follow-up book.  The following is a personal piece about the writing of the novel and the motivations behind it.  It was useful to write to put my own thoughts in order but, also, I thought it might be useful to read for those who might be encouraged to read the book in the coming weeks thanks to the recent publicity on Twitter.  If this little essay comes over as a vanity project, it’s not the intention.  It’s more like a private journal entry being made public, a stream-of-consciousness in which I attempt to put some thoughts and ideas in order. 

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Life has a strange way of surprising us when we least expect it.  I published Breaking Point as an e-book back in 2011, and sold around six copies over the space of eighteen months.  This wasn’t devastating, but instead totally expected.  After all, Breaking Point is a novel that centres on the subject of homophobic bullying in schools.  It’s hardly bestseller material.  What’s more, it sits in a kind of no-man’s–land between a young adult book and an adult book.  Sure,  for the most part it revolves around a group of sixteen year olds, but they act and speak in a way us adults try to forget they are capable of.

In order to have a bit of a break from writing my PhD thesis, I revised Breaking Point in late 2012 and reissued it in February 2013.  I found that the world was very different in 2013 than in 2011.  Twitter had suddenly become a great marketing tool, a way to reach out and tell people about the book.  In the space of eleven months, seven thousand copies of Breaking Point have now been downloaded.  I’ll admit, many of these were during free promotions etc, but nobody writes a first novel for it to make money, but in the hope that it will be read.  By someone.

A few weeks back, I was able to self-publish Breaking Point in paperback.  I knew then that very few copies would shift – most people who wanted to read it had already done so through the e-book.  But at least the paperback allows the book to reach school libraries, for example – and I hope that is what happens.   Around the same time, things took an unexpected turn when I was contacted by Amanda Taylor from the University of Central Lancashire who wanted to talk to me about the book in relation to the Social Work Book Club – this, too, has resulted in publicity of the book through Twitter and elsewhere.

The comments about the book, and the reviews on Amazon, have often been touching and moving.  I have received private messages on Twitter from people who have read the book, and received emails too.   I’m still partly in shock about this, despite the fact that the book is only doing what it set out to do in the first place.

What is that, exactly?

Well, I guess the aims were twofold.  Firstly I wanted to write a gay-themed work that didn’t resort to long passages of sex to try and get the reader to part with their cash or their time.  As a gay man, I find it really quite offensive that filmmakers and many authors think we only want to read gay-themed stories if they contain an abundance of nudity and sex – that these directors and writers are mostly gay men themselves only compounds the problem, making it appear that the LGBTs of this world are interested in one thing only.  I don’t believe that’s true.   I have been into Waterstone’s book shop and asked where the LGBT fiction can be found, and been told “it’s under ‘erotica’”.   What the bloody hell is it doing under “erotica?”  Well, part of the reason, I guess, is that most of the gay fiction out there today does have a substantial erotic element.   Fifty Shades of Grey wouldn’t raise eyebrows amongst LGBTs, such subject matter is par for the course for gay fiction.  Even today, the act of sex seems to define who and what a gay man (or woman) is.  I find that scary and sad in equal measure.

I think most of us would be just as happy finding mirrors of ourselves on the silver screen.  And I don’t mean mirrors of who society thinks we are, but mirrors of who we really are.  There is no place for a stereotype in 2013.  We are, after all, individuals.  For all the talk of the “LGBT community”, we are still not clones of each other, or definitely going to like and admire each other just because we are sexually attracted to a particular gender.  It’s lunacy.  We wouldn’t expect all heterosexuals to be the same and like the same things and people just because they are all attracted to the opposite sex.

So, I wanted to write a book that didn’t rely on cheap thrills to get an audience. And I wanted to write a book where the gay characters didn’t live in a separate world to straight characters – again, this seems to be something that only happens in the world of gay-themed independent (American) filmmaking.   But the second major thing I wanted to do was to give a certain group of people a voice.

I wrote earlier about how we perceive fifteen and sixteen year olds, and how they really act and talk.  The bullying in Breaking Point centre on a type that is not talked about in the press or on TV, and concentrates very much on embarrassment and humiliation.  The reason we don’t hear about this as much is because the victims don’t want to talk about it.  While the incidents within the book didn’t happen to me, they are nearly all inspired by personal stories people have written on the web or from the very few newspaper articles that mention this type of behaviour.  The victims don’t want to talk about it – and understandably so, and so Breaking Point was intended to give those victims a voice, and to bring these issues out into the open.  I never intended to provide answers or resolutions to the problems.  That’s not my job, and neither am I qualified to do such a thing.  I don’t think there are solutions, certainly not blanket ones that work in every case.  If there were, we wouldn’t still be having this problem.

The reason for me writing this blog post is because I am trying to get my thoughts in order as to where to go next.  For me, the answer is an obvious one.  In order to finish what I have started, the rest of the story has to be told.  Bullying doesn’t end with the last day of school – either for the victims or the bullies.  The repercussions are there for a long time, in some cases throughout the person’s life.   The victim doesn’t walk out of the school gates on that last day, start smiling, and float through the next few years unaffected by what has happened.  I was diagnosed with depression two years after leaving school, and with bipolar ten years after that – which I still have, albeit nicely under control.  These kind of after effects are what I want to use as the backbone for “Breaking Down”, the tentative title of the follow-up to Breaking Point. 

I wrote a blogpost earlier in the year about cinematic depictions of mental health issues, and I face the same quandary as the films I discuss there:  how do you make the depiction of depression realistic and sympathetic, but also make it entertaining?  A novel has to be entertaining, after all.  Well, unless it’s written by Henry James, but let’s not go there.  And this is where I am falling down at the moment.  I know how the plot needs to unfold, I know how I want to depict the issues it raises, but I still need to find a way to do that in an entertaining way that makes people want to read the next page.   And that’s not going to be easy.

Will Breaking Down ever get finished?  I hope so, not least because I like the few chapters that have already been written.  But for it to be successful in any way, it has to concentrate on the individual experience, and not resort to the stereotypes that have plagued gay and lesbian film and books, and depictions of mental illness, for so many years.

For those that have read Breaking Point, or helped to spread the word, I shout out a huge “thank you” – the idea of seven thousand people owning  a copy of my book would have been laughable just a year ago.  So, thank you for making 2013 a memorable and very special year.

The Sinatra Family Wish You A Merry Christmas (1968 LP)

 

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Well, that’s might decent of them, I must say.

Actually this an obscure Sinatra album from 1968, which really deserves to be better known.  Despite my love of Sinatra and his music, I’m often left cold by his Christmas and sacred material, but this album is rather good, even if it does have its moments of banality.  Sinatra and his kids present us with ten Christmas songs, most of which are relatively unknown.  Anyone looking at the cover might be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a hippyfest along the lines of Sinatra’s single release with Nancy, “Life’s a Trippy Thing”.  Thankfully this is much better than that.  Like Elvis Presley’s 1971 Christmas offering, this is a mix of brand new songs and more traditional material but, unlike Elvis’s effort, doesn’t lead to the slitting of any wrists by the end of the running time.

The album opens with the upbeat “I Wouldn’t Trade Christmas”.  Written by Sinatra stalwarts Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, this is hardly top drawer or highly original material, but it works great as an ensemble number for the four singers, The Jimmy Joyce Singers and the orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle.

Next up is a song I’ve written about elsewhere, “Its Such  a Lonely Time of Year”.  This lengthy number (nearly five minutes) is a beautiful ballad sung by Nancy Sinatra in what might just be her best recorded performance.  Yes, the song is morose, but also moving and touching and, perhaps best of all, the lyrics don’t tell us whether the missed loved one is the result of a broken relationship or someone passing away.

Frank Jr is up next in the pleasant but unremarkable “Some Children See Him”, and then Tina and Nancy duet on “O Bambino”.  The first side is rounded out by The Bells of Christmas, credited to “the family”, but Sinatra Sr takes centre stage.  This is set to the tune of Greensleeves, and is adapted by Cahn and Heusen.  Considering the title, the arrangement is rather morose but, considering the reflective nature of some of the songs here, it is fitting.

Frank Sr finally gets a song to himself at the beginning of side two with “Whatever Happened to Christmas” by Jimmy Webb, whose songs he was championing at the time.   It’s the only song not arranged by Riddle, and Don Costa really does a lovely job here making fine use of his trademark lush strings.

Tina then gets wheeled in to bombard us with Santa Claus is Coming to Town, sung with the gusto of an X Factor auditionee, but sadly also as out of tune in places.  It’s no coincidence Tina only gets the one solo, folks.  Nancy returns to give us the lovely “Kids”, a song credited to Scott Davis, but was actually Mac Davis, composer of In The Ghetto.  It’s another lovely song (Nancy really did get the best songs here), demonstrating how all the family are kids at Christmas.  Yes, it’s sentimental, but it’s not mawkish and is arranged and performed to perfection.

“The Christmas Waltz” is a song I’ve never much liked, but this second recording by Frank Sinatra is actually really quite stunning, with a much better arrangement than that used on his Capitol Christmas album from a decade earlier.  Sinatra was in really fine voice in the late 1960s and, while his albums might not have been selling by the truckload at this point, there is something to recommend each and every one of them.

The album concludes with the obligatory 12 days of Christmas sung by the whole family, with new lyrics that are syrupy enough to make your want to puke (“I gave my loving Dad”) and stupid enough to make you wonder what they were thinking of when they recorded it.   The fact that his kids wanted to buy Frank “five ivory combs” when his hair was thinning and ivory was already being frowned upon is just bizarre.  Even more bonkers is that they want to give him nine games of Scrabble.  Was he running a tournament?  Must have been a ball in the Sinatra home that Christmas.

It’s a rocky 35 minutes, with many ups and downs, but overall it’s an album that doesn’t deserve to be as obscure as it is.  It seems to have slipped out unnoticed in 1968, and never gained a following.  The 2010 reissue on CD sounds gorgeous, with a lovely warm element to the remastering and is recommended for fans of traditional Christmas albums.

Child’s Play (1972)

 

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James Mason and Robert Preston chew up the scenary in this bizarre, forgotten thriller from 1972, directed by Sidney Lumet, that Netflix happened to recommend to me this evening.  It tells the story of two warring teachers at a Catholic all-boys school, with one (Mason) accusing the other (Preston) of trying to drive him out by tormenting his ill mother with sick phone calls, sending him pornography, and turning the boys and the other teachers against him.  Into this mayhem comes Beau Bridges, playing one of Preston’s former students, who returns to the school as a teacher and slowly but surely tries to decipher the truth from the lies.  Meanwhile, the audience is left wondering quite what this has to do with the pupils of the school turning against each other in ever more serious incidents of physical violence.

Historically, it fits within a decade-long cycle of films with similar themes such as If; Unwin, Wittering and ZigoThe Devil’s Playground; and Absolution.  Absolution is the worst of that bunch (although worth seeing for having Richard Burton starring alongside Billy Connolly!), but it at least remains a diverting and entertaining thriller.  The same can’t be said for Child’s Play.  For all Lumet’s credentials, and the starry cast, this is a leaden mess of a film which, while intriguing, is also ridiculously dull for long stretches.  It’s simply not as shocking, mysterious, thrilling or chilling as it could and should be – and ends up as a cross between Village of the Damned and a poison pen mystery with Miss Marple.

Much of the problem here seems to lie in the film’s stage origins.  I happen to know the play quite well, having thought about mounting an amateur production at one point, and it has to be said that it works much better as a stage play.  Lumet simply fails to pull apart the long sequences with one setting to make it more filmic, and the violence that might be shocking on stage simply isn’t when translated to film.  The violent set-pieces amongst the pupils could have been unnerving, perverse, hallucinatory experiences, but they simply aren’t. Ultimately, the film fails most in its conclusion – unanswered questions seem more fitting for a stage play, but here there are just too many loose ends that don’t add up.

Robert Preston overacts like hell from start to finish, although Mason does his best with the material and the direction he has(n’t) been given.   In the end, it’s an interesting failure, that it’s nice to see being made available again – but it also makes one yearn for a DVD of the superb Unwin, Wittering and Zigo to show just how good this kind of narrative can actually be.

Mad Love (1935)

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about Mad Love was that I’ve nearly reached my 40th birthday without ever getting around to seeing it – despite the fact it has sat on my shelf for at least three years, staring at me and shouting “watch me”.  I finally gave in a few nights back.

My first thoughts were surprise at how some parts of it managed to escape the censors.  The film does open, after all, with a shot of a hanging body (albeit a wax one), which helps to unnerve the viewer even more than the rather ingenious credit sequence.   It is an unsettling film, especially during the first half of its running time.  Obviously, many people coming to the film for the first time today already know the story in advance.  That wouldn’t have necessarily been true for most audiences in 1935, despite the fact that this was a remake of a German expressionist classic from a decade earlier. 

As with The Mummy (1933), Karl Freund’s direction is often very eerie and adds a genuine chill to the whole proceedings.  However, the film also seems to borrow lots from other films of the period.  The “kindly” Dr Gogol seems to be reminiscent of Dr Mirakle from Murders of the Rue Morgue (1932).  And Peter Lorre, with his bald head, heavy eye-lids and protruding ears, often seems to glide towards the camera resembling a well-nourished version of Count Orlok from Nosferatu (1922).  Eerie waxwork models had already been utilized in The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933), and the journalist in Mad Love has a similar role to the journalists in that film – but is simply more annoying.

Peter Lorre is superb in this, his American film debut, and Francis Drake is also very good in the role of Yvonne Orlac – although there are times when she seems more manly than Lorre.  Sadly, the same can’t be said for Colin Clive.  Just 35 at the time the film was released, there are moments when he looks twenty years older than that.  His performance is rather one-dimensional, and at times he appears to be channeling Dr Frankenstein so much one expects him to start yelling “they’re alive!” when he sees his hands again after the operation. 

The first half of the film works extremely well – it is an eerie experience and the story unfolds at a relatively leisurely pace, building up atmosphere as it rolls along.   I thought the second half was less successful, however – as is the case with so many horror films even today.  Lorre’s character goes from “a little creepy” to “raving maniac” rather abruptly and, more importantly, there are far too many gaping plot holes at the end to make the whole enterprise satisfactory – it’s all too full of coincidences and the fantastical to make it work in the “normal world”, but doesn’t take this far enough to make the film “supernatural”. 

I confess that I enjoyed the film, as I do most horror movies from the period, but I expected more given the film’s reputation.    By this point in 1935, the first horror cycle was coming to an end, and Mad Love shows signs of that tiredness.  Lorre is great, and it’s worth watching just for his performance, but the rest of the movie fails to make it A-grade 30s horror. 

The film can be purchased in the Hollywood’s Legends of Horror boxed set of six classic horror movies – which is currently less than half price over at Amazon.com.

Robbie Williams: One Night at the London Palladium (BBC1) Review

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So, yesterday around this time I was sitting here glowing after passing my PhD.  Today, I sit here after having a tooth extracted, with my mouth as swollen as George Osborne’s bosom when he tells us with pride he is only four years behind his target for getting the country’s finances sorted.   What a difference a day makes.  Somebody on Facebook mentioned the Robbie Williams swing show on BBC1, which I had forgotten about, but with the wonders of modern technology I can rewind back to the beginning and watch while I treat myself to a meal of mashed potato and…mashed potato.  It’s an exciting day.

Robbie Williams in his swing mode is both wonderful and remarkably infuriating for those of us who really love our swing music.  Williams is a man who clearly adores this music.  And I really mean adores.  But then we have to wonder why the American accent – and whyc can’t he take it a bit more seriously at times.  After a cheesy, but entertaining, rendition of Puttin on the Ritz we had a performance of Mr Bojangles that is ruined with silly jokes and comments, and just thrown away like Elvis singing Teddy Bear in his 70s concerts.    Such moments are Williams at his most annoying, but also his most humble.  It’s almost as if he just hasn’t got the self-confidence to think he can pull such a great song off, and so makes light of it.  It’s a shame, as he can pull it off.

Such criticisms aside, this was a much better show (or half-show, the rest is on the DVD) than the one at the Albert Hall from a decade or so ago.  Love Williams or hate him, he is in the best voice of his career and seemed to be having an absolute ball on stage.  The same couldn’t be said for Lily Allen and Rufus Wainwright – neither of which have I ever seen the appeal in, and both looked wildly uncomfortable beside the man of the moment.  Minnie the Moocher  and I Wanna Be Like You were two highlights that suit Robbie Williams down to the ground – these are songs for people that can work a crowd and, despite them being given a tasteful but modern reworking, looked and sounded great and were delivered with panache.  Also given a reworking was Supreme, Robbie Williams’ hit from…a while back.  This was so good that one could wish that the new swing album was actually a big band reworking of a dozen of his hits of the past.  Now that would have been really interesting.

The highlight of the evening, though, was Williams at his most serious, sitting on a chair delivering a ballad rendition of If I Only Had Brain.  He has written that this version is based on the one found of Harry Connick Jr’s album 20, but it clearly means more to Williams.  That lack of self-confidence shone through once again, but this time in the best way possible. 

The performance of this song from The Wizard of Oz showed that he hasn’t changed that much since his first solo album Life Thru a Lens, the bonus track on which was a poem to a schoolteacher who had told him he’d make nothing of himself and never achieve his goals of being an entertainer.  The poem was bitter and ended with a metaphorical “up yours” (and who can blame him for that), but the naked, subdued version of If I Only Had a Brain showed clearly that the words of the teacher still resonate and still get dwelled upon by Williams, despite the fact they were spoken to him nearly 25 years ago.   

My Return, Tom Daley, Breaking Point and Merry Christmas

It’s been a while folks, and for that I apologise.  I also hope you don’t mind this rather unorthodox blog post that has virtually nothing to do with Film or TV and contains a number of bits and pieces I wanted to talk about, shoved together under one heading.

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It seems half of the country is reacting to the news of Tom Daley’s YouTube video with the words “that was pretty obvious” and the other half is reacting with the words “well done” or “that was brave”.  Some are using the term “congratulations”, which just seems weird to me.  He hasn’t just passed his driving test.  Some are wondering why it is even making the news, while others are saying it is a huge breakthrough.  But a breakthrough for who or for what?

Over the last seven years or so Tom Daley has found himself the country’s adopted (grand)son.  We have followed him from a child to a man, through personal tragedy, through professional triumphs and disappointments.  He was the poster boy for the 2012 Olympics.  Other than perhaps David Beckham, his is perhaps the most recognisable sporting name in the UK at the moment and he’s not even a footballer.  And this morning he admitted in a You Tube video that he was having a relationship with a man.

If Daley was a singer or an actor, nobody would give a damn – we have all gotten over the importance of sexuality within those contexts.  But Daley is a sportsman, and for that reason alone this announcement was ultimately an important one not just for him (no doubt pulling the rug out from the newspapers waiting to break the story at the first opportunity) but also for the LGBT and sporting communities.

I’m no sports fan, but it seems that the sporting world is decades behind the rest of society.   In the 2012 Olympics, just 21 out of 10,000 athletes were openly LGBT – the real figure was probably between 500 and 1000.  Footballers are being subjected to racist chants on the pitch, and Daley is the first sporting household name ever to “come out” in this country.  Yes, there was Justin Fashanu and Gareth Thomas before him, but neither were anywhere near as well known as Daley, especially prior to their coming out.   The sporting world is so far behind the rest of society on this issue that the IOC’s response to the ongoing situation in Russia ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics can only be described as pathetic, inadequate and even vaguely insulting.

Sadly, if sport in the UK was ever going to move forward on this issue, it was going to require a huge name to admit their sexuality and therefore give the confidence to others that they can do the same.   And that is exactly what Daley did in his under-stated and eloquent video today – and that is one of the reasons why it is considerably more important than a singer or actor declaring their sexual preference, which seems to happen on a weekly basis.

And yet, despite stating clearly in his video that he did not want to be misquoted, he has been misquoted all day on the media.  He never said anywhere that he was gay, or that he was bisexual.  He is simply in a relationship with a man.  This in itself is important – a high profile figure has refused to enter the world of pigeonholing their sexuality.   Youngsters will see the video and know that someone like them are confused or not sure or simply don’t care what they are and are just going with the flow.    And that’s OK too, right?  Not everything in our lives is black and white; we don’t have to fit in with everybody else; we are all individuals – and that is something to be celebrated, not something to be twisted so that your words fit in with the limited understanding of sexuality that society is willing to allow and accept.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual and other terms are rigid boxes and we’re not all made to fit into a box.   This also applies to the “that was pretty obvious” crowd – it clearly wasn’t obvious to the person in question.  Not everyone with a particular tone of voice is gay, and not every butch bricklayer is straight.

While it’s easy to praise Daley’s bravery (if that’s the right word), let’s also not forget that there is a likelihood that he ultimately had little choice in the matter.  Our press would eventually have got the evidence they required and would have printed the story with or without Daley’s co-operation.  As much as I applaud his “coming out” (and I continue to use that term loosely) considering his chosen profession, I applaud even more the fact he did it on his own terms and in a video that was seemingly unedited and unrehearsed.  It’s also a video that is as awkward and uncomfortable as every coming out experience and is, perhaps, the closest approximation anyone will see or feel of the coming out experience that so many have to endure, not just once, but with every new friend we make after that first bumbling announcement…just without the crying parents who (hopefully) will tell you they still love you and you’re still their son (or daughter).

Daley’s coming out will, hopefully, have a double effect.  The fact that the country has watched him come of age on their TV screens will hopefully make the remaining doubters realise that the son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild  you have seen grow up in front of you does not change when such an announcement is made.  Secondly, here’s hoping that it does have a mammoth effect within the sporting world, and that there is a seismic shift over the next few years in acceptance of people within sport and sports fans (at least in the UK) no matter what their sexuality, colour or religion.  That’s not going to happen overnight – and it needs to happen at every level, from the IOC to the local amateur football club changing room.  Daley is right in saying his announcement should not be important or newsworthy, and yet it is probably more significant than he could possibly understand.

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 In other news, many of you that follow my postings here will know that I released a novel on Kindle back in February entitled Breaking Point.  It deals with the subject of homophobia in schools and tells the story of not just the victims, but also the bullies and the teachers.   Six thousand people have downloaded Breaking Point on to their Kindle, a figure of which I am very proud.   The reviews on Amazon have been positive (and no, I didn’t pay them!).  My plan with the book was to not just deal with homophobic bullying in general, but to talk about the types of bullying that do not get talked about or reported.  For that reason, I confess it’s not exactly a light read, and I certainly never endeavoured within it to try to give easy answers to the issues.  My aim was simply to give a voice to those that are bullied in this way and who feel unable to report it.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Breaking Point is now out in paperback.  While I don’t expect it to shift in numbers like the Kindle version, I feel the additional format will allow libraries and, in particular, school libraries to stock the book – which I think would be a substantial step forward.  The stage play of the same story will be made available in paperback in due course.

I’m sorry, folks, but a plug for a book isn’t complete without the link from which you can buy it.  And so….

http://www.amazon.co.uk/breaking-point-Mr-Shane-Brown/dp/149423629X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386030271&sr=8-1&keywords=breaking+point+shane+brown

or, if you’re in the USA…

http://www.amazon.com/breaking-point-Mr-Shane-Brown/dp/149423629X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1386030334&sr=8-2&keywords=breaking+point+shane+brown

The various issues with the text found in the Kindle version have been corrected for this edition, and the Kindle edition has been updated.

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And that’s about it.  I will get back to blog post writing on a regular basis as soon as I can.  My absence has been due to a flare up of bipolar, and so other things have taken priority, but things are pretty much back to “normality” now, and so the words will be flowing again soon about films you have never heard of!

I know the numbers reading these posts has increased drastically in recent months, and I thank my regulars very much.  So, if we don’t have a little chat again before the big day, I hope you all have a great Christmas.