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  • Sat, 13:13: Have just asked a right-wing, US-based mass emailer to remove me from his list. Let's see what happens.
  • Sat, 13:14: Obviously, I made logical arguments. I expect it to have the same effect as arguing with Jehovah's Witnesses.

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Cycling with Molière / Begin Again

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When Alex Cox was presenting Moviedrome on BBC2 in the late 80s or early 90s, he once disparagingly mentioned "those French films where people sit and talk for two hours and nothing else happens." Cycling with Molière very much fits that mould, but in the best possible way, with Gauthier, a successful actor trying to persuade his retired friend Serge to join him in staging a production of Molière's The Misanthrope.

Gauthier is handsome and constantly being recognised on the street for his role as a brain surgeon in a television series, while Serge lives an anonymous life on the Île de Ré, having withdrawn in disgust several years earlier from the acting world, which he sees as full of backstabbers and false friends. Gauthier assumes he will be taking the lead role, Alceste, but eventually is forced to compromise and agrees that the two will alternate, something that has never been tried before. Serge revels in bringing Gauthier down a peg or two - the sequence where pair watch Gauthier as Dr Morange is a well of backhanded compliments - but as the film goes on, the roles reverse, and it's difficult to tell who is the misanthrope and who is Alceste's foil, Philinte. Things are further complicated by Francesca, an Italian divorcee who Serge initially despises but becomes romantically interested in as the pair get to know her, as well as a young woman who hopes to pick up acting tips from the pair for her work in adult films.

It's a great film, and the interactions between the two leads are frequently hilarious, with a few slapstick moments to help out too - well worth seeing. It made me wish I knew The Misanthrope too, so I could spot more of the parallels in the plot. (It was also fun to notice the rhyming in the play text, which didn't really come across in the subtitles.)

I also really enjoyed Begin Again, with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo plays Dan, a music producer down on his luck, in a complicated relationship with his not-quite-ex-wife and 14-year old daughter. Knightley is Gretta, who arrives in New York with her boyfriend Dave, a successful pop star. The two of them have been writing songs together, but as Dave's career takes off, she is left in his wake and it is no real surprise when they break up. Dan drunkenly stumbles into an open mic night one evening where Gretta has been reluctantly dragged up to the stage to play, and rapidly conceives the idea of recording an album with her.

It's a really sweet story, with some great chemistry between Knightley and Ruffalo, which is the real strength of the film. Dan really wants to make Gretta a star, but she has no interest in being famous or changing her appearance to increase her sex appeal, and gives as good as she gets in their arguments. James Corden is excellent as Gretta's New York-based busker friend, while Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld provide great support as Dan's wife and daughter. The main characters are all very likable, while you can tell straight away that Dave is a wrong 'un - he almost immediately grows a ridiculous Freddie Mercury-esque moustache, and his facial hair only becomes worse as the film goes on. There's also a level of realism to the relationships in the film, with only Gretta's immediate befriending of Dan's teenage daughter Violet sticking out as somewhat unlikely - I can't say much more without getting into spoilers, but it's nice to see a film that appears to have been written by adults.

It's also worth hanging around through the end credits, which actually enhance the film, rather than that terrible thing that all the bloody Marvel films do, where you sit through fifteen minutes of white text scrolling very slowly against a black background just to catch two minutes of Thor sitting on the toilet, only to find that he can't flush his gigantic Asgardian dump down a puny Earthling crapper (I may possibly have seen a different version of that film from you).

In short then, two films well worth your time!

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  • Thu, 16:00: The mind boggles at the person searching for a Windows 7 laptop on Freegle. They've been asking for months.

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Devoured by a sofa

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Among the writing exercises we did at Smut By The Sea the other week was a free-writing session during KD Grace's workshop. The stuff I wrote was partly inspired by one of the responses to the first exercise (to write a sex scene without using any of the usual nouns), which left me staring at my pad for most of the ten minutes before scribbling something illegible, but led one of the other people in the room to read a luscious descriptive passage that didn't actually describe sex but more a food-oriented foreplay (if I'm remembering correctly - my memory is terrible at the best of times). This caught my imagination, and casting my eyes around the room, I settled on the comfortable chairs on the stage. This inspired the following (with minor editing):



The sofa dominated the room. It was large, leather, and looked ancient, inherited from some dead relative or other.

She bade him sit while she went to fill the kettle. They both knew where this was going, she was just building tension, delaying gratification.

He sank into the cushions, probably stuffed with horsehair or something similarly archaic. He felt enveloped, drawn in. He tried sitting forward but the sofa would not let him go, so he relaxed back into the seat. He rested his arm on the edge, but it was awkward, about three inches too high for comfort. He shuffled, shifted, jaffled his backside, twisted, and then it happened.

The sofa swallowed him.

All he could feel was darkness. He was surrounded by the smell of rodent droppings and long-lost coins. Somewhere in the distance, muffled, he heard Karen say, "Won't be long."



And that was that. I'm not sure where this would go from here, but I see a few options:

  • Being British, he doesn't draw attention to his discomfort and stays very quiet. Karen assumes he's left while she was making the coffee.

  • As above, but Karen realizes what has happened, and releases him from his upholstered coffin.

  • As above, Karen realizes what has happened but sits on the sofa anyway. He finds he enjoys this. They go on to have a long and mutually satisfying relationship.

  • The sofa is actually the gateway to another dimension. There are mystical creatures and adventures to be had. Karen is swiftly forgotten. Swordplay is involved.

  • The sofa paralyses him, and slowly consumes his body. Years later, while digging for lost change, Karen finds his thigh bone.

Any suggestions?

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Getting smutty in Scarborough

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A week or so ago, Jacqui and I headed up to Smut by the Sea, an erotica conference in Scarborough. We took the Humber Bridge route, mainly because I'd never seen it and wanted to, largely without realizing that it's a bugger to get to and it's narrow B-roads all the way. Still, it is an impressive feat of engineering, and well worth seeing. Scarborough itself was less tacky than I had been led to believe (once you've been on Brighton Pier all levels of tackiness need to be adjusted), though it was a bit of a challenge to find a decent pub - we ended up in The Alma, which was friendly and had decent beer.

I didn't really know what to expect on the day, so was in full "go with the flow" mode, but somewhere in my mind I imagined we would push our way into the venue through crowds of street urchins chanting "boners boners boners, tits, bums, fannies!". Of course, it wasn't like that at all, and we ran into KD Grace and her husband before we'd even left the hotel. The conference itself was being held upstairs in the town library, with a morning programme of workshops, followed by an afternoon reading slam. Between times, there was networking, erotic tombola and books and toys for sale.

As a non-writer, the workshops were interesting and a little daunting. All three had us scribbling away in notepads - Victoria Blisse challenging us to be inspired by seaside memorabilia, KD Grace pushing the limits of my comfort zone with erotic writing exercises, and Lucy Felthouse getting us to come up with erotic scenarios within pre-defined themes (my "lesbian shooting party" may be interesting, I suspect, especially when told from the perspective of a clay pigeon, but I'm not sure if all those well-oiled, twin-barreled shotguns, glinting in the light of a winter's morning would be too phallic). I didn't write anything I was spectacularly proud of, but may post the stuff I wrote during KD's "write anything you like for five minutes" session.

The reading slam was a lot of fun, with Kay Jaybee watching the clock and administering a spanking to anyone who went over their alloted time. Jacqui got everybody feeling hungry again after lunch with her luscious description of the perfect eclair and its consumption, while Charlie Forrest stripped off and threw a shoe across the room. Photos were taken, and the best ended up on Flickr.

Afterwards, in true British style, we headed to the pub, where there was some atrocious karaoke, football was on the TV, and there was lots of interesting conversation, although we ended up in two groups due to the numbers so there was some necessary shufflage.

All in all, it was a fun weekend - the next day, we headed to the castle before taking the quick route home - and I had a great time, having gone in with no real idea what to expect. The other attendees seemed like a nice bunch of people, although it was a bit disconcerting seeing someone who reminded me of my mum saying the C-word, and the pub afterwards was a good laugh. While I didn't particularly expect Published Authors and well-known sex bloggers to act like rock star prima donnas, it's always nice to be proven correct!

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