Saturday, September 26, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #364] Oops

video
And now the video!

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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[The Life of Shaun #363] Belfast

Saw the separation barrier, blah, blah, blah, but this couldn't wait to be shared... the drag queen is not the focus, it's the 300 pound lesbian singing "I'm Too Sexy".  I will always rue today as I didn't get it on camera when she grabbed herself for "I'm too sexy for my pussy...".

Belfast is a lot like Middlesbrough; I love it.

Back out we go!

Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #361] I'm #2! (and 1, 3 and 5...)

I am sharing this article as many of you may be interested in it, but also because I am proud to have lived in numbers one, two, three and five (Chicago), and been to all the rest except Tokyo; obviously I need to get it on my travel agenda soon.

I generally agree with this list; however, a fifth home of mine, San Francisco, is strangely absent.  Though fans of Berlin define the root of the word, the city is rather innocuous on the world stage, and Istanbul is but a regional gem, despite being centre stage of EU debate currently.  Certainly the City by the Bay must edge past them. I can see why Chicago's there in this Obamanic world, and that's good - it's been hidden in New York's shadow for too long.
 
Cheers from the penalpha,
Shaun



Times Online Logo 222 x 25

From Times Online
September 7, 2009

Time Out's Top Ten cities in the world

A panel of judges selected their top 10 for Time Out: The World's Greatest Cities. Here the editor explains their choices

Jessica Cargill Thompson


The book Time Out: The World's Greatest Cities is available now priced £25, and contains pages full of information on each of the top 75 world cities chosen by the panel

In arriving at Time Out's greatest cities, we were not looking for great holiday destinations but living, working cities.

This meant looking at all aspects of urban life, not just those one encounters on a weekend break, and what everyday life is like for people who actually live there.

Resident writers were asked to rate their cities in terms of key criteria that make up a successful city: architecture/cityscape; arts & culture; buzz; food & drink; quality of life; and world status.

Marks were then given to a panel of extraordinarily well-traveled experts, drawn form Time Out's Guides, International and Travel divisions who applied a global perspective, debating controversial areas and making comparisons between the cities. Scores were adjusted local cynicism or over-enthusiasm, and a hierarchy emerged, with the following ten scoring highest.

1 New York, USA

This was always the one to beat. New York regularly tops best-city polls and has come to symbolise the very essence of what a city should be, almost to the point of caricature. When we deliberated, in April 2009, the pillars of the old establishment tottering amid the financial crisis, there was a feeling that the Western old guard might cede its dominance to Asia and another city come up on the rails to steal New York's crown. However, when assessed in each of our headline categories – architecture, arts & culture, buzz, food & drink, quality of life, and world status – New York still proves hard to fault in any.

Its weakness is quality of life. Part of this is down to the poor public healthcare, but the rest simply the urban problems besetting any large city: high cost of living, crime (albeit falling), housing pressure, a struggling transport system. Quality of life and buzz, it seems, are to a degree naturally opposed.

2 London, England

Though its citizens may have lost some of their pre-recession swagger, culturally London is still holding the world's attention – its theatre, dance, art, heritage, literature, music, fashion and even what's left of the film industry command international respect and continue to delight audiences.

Its street styles and subcultures are still places where eccentricity and creativity thrive. Food and drink, which not so long ago would have received nul points, have surprised everyone; London now has some of the best chefs exploring new culinary avenues, and a richness of international cuisines that goes unrivalled.

Predictably London is brought down by its everyday stresses – in particular its frequently dysfunctional transport system, the bane of the Londoner's life, inadequate housing stock, and uneven educational opportunities. But the hardest-argued category was architecture, for which it was lucky to scrape a seven out of ten, compared to New York's nine. For every landmark building and elegant terrace, there's a piece of poor planning legislation or a lack of vision that has allowed mediocre architecture to flourish in and beyond the icon-studded centre.

3 Paris, France

Paris basks in the illusion of being the perfect city, but how much of this stands up to examination and how much is romantic fantasy?

Though once a city of global cultural importance – at various times leading the way in art, food, cinema, fashion, philosophy, and revolutionary tendency – contemporary Paris lacks the sense of urgency and vitality that previously meant you just had to be there. Its food and fashion are still international benchmarks of excellence, the black music scene has been vibrant, and Mitterrand's Grands Projets of the 80s and 90s did much to reestablish the city's reputation for architectural sophistication. However the racial tensions and social problems of the banlieues suggest that quality of life is not of the same high standard for all its citizens. Recent public projects such as the Vélib bike hire scheme, new arts centres and free summer activities on the Paris Plage are inspiring other cities. Paris is in the ascendant.

4 Berlin, Germany

Though it entered the millennium still reeling from a turbulent century, Berlin has rebuilt and rebranded itself as a confident new capital that is going places. The arts have been reestablished to the point where bold museums are opening alongside independent galleries with international art critics a twitter. The city hosts a prestigious annual film festival, and it is home to one of the world's best symphony orchestras.

Superficially, Berlin's flat sprawl does not have the beauty of a Paris or a Rome, but the rebuilding programme has included many new architectural landmarks. As for the imposing concrete throwbacks of East Berlin – you either love them or you hate them.

Despite Berlin's rising importance in the global political and economic arenas, it is still a relatively relaxed place to live, negotiable by bicycle, fastidious about recycling, efficient with its public services, offering a good supply of spacious apartments, creative with its public spaces, and enlivened by an eclectic streetlife.

Where it fell down? The cuisine, the local delicacy being sausage seasoned with warm ketchup and curry powder.

5= Barcelona

Architecturally it is both stunning and sophisticated, complementing the ornate Catalan modernista buildings and Antoni Gaudi's outrageous confections with some classy additions that came with its Olympics-inspired, post-Franco reinvention.

There is a work-hard, play hard attitude to Barcelona, remarkably marrying good living under the Mediterranean sun, urban beaches, vibrant street life and plentiful supplies of good food and cava with impressive modern art museums, cool bars, engaging public spaces and one of the world's most influential chefs in Ferran Adriá. Design is taken very seriously indeed, with furniture and graphic designers leading a world-class industry and helping create a distinctive 'look'. The football team dominates Europe and the atmosphere after a home win is electric.

Though it is much loved by the many who visit, and is at the heart of a fierce Catalan identity, it is hard to argue that Barcelona's global influence extends much beyond design, football and experimental cooking.

(Timesonline Travel note: but what about the state of La Rambla?! It's causing huge debate on our site)

5= Chicago, USA

Perhaps one of the more surprising entries in the Top Ten, and not always an easy city to live in. Winters are bitter, some communities still quite segregated and some areas fairly rough. In spite of the city's reputation as populated by uncultured sports nuts, Time Out editors who live in or regularly visit the city rave about its distinctive neighbourhoods and charismatic cultural scene. Where it really makes up ground on other cities is in its architecture – inventing the skyscraper and precipitating the modernist tendencies that would define 20th century urban architecture. It also gave America its first black president, may well be the next Olympic city and is generally feeling pretty pleased with itself.

5= Tokyo, Japan

The ultimate urban experience of bright lights, frenetic pace, conspicuous consumption, futuristic technology, a powerful stock exchange, street style and subcultures, tall buildings, millions of people and a relentless mass that stretches on for miles and miles. This place certainly has buzz.

But it also, when examined at a slower pace, has a respected music industry, top fashion designers, revered manga artists, innovative modern architects, and Oscar-winning film animators. It respects ancient traditions but is often first with new fads and youth obsessions.

If it is let down by a quality of life that involves high stress, impossible commutes and hardly any space, it takes pride in the fact that it has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world (more than Paris and London combined) and as such is the only city we awarded a gastronomic 10 out of 10.

8 Istanbul, Turkey

A big, business-like city, with a palpable energy found in the bazaars and coffee houses, rooftop bars and commuter ferries, Istanbul's celebrated beauty comes from a combination of geography (built on hills straddling the Bosphorus) and ancient heritage – a sea of domes and minarets, as well as the worlds most famous mosque and the greatest collection of Byzantine frescoes. Sunset, our resident experts tell us, is sublime.

Although points were lost on quality of life partly due to Turkey's questionable human rights record, a long and influential history and position on a key trade route at the juncture of Europe and Asia ensures Istanbul will always be a global player; consequently it presents an international confidence without actually being a capital.

9= Rome, Italy

From the Colosseum to Zaha Hadid's MAXXI museum, Rome has never been afraid of making a statement. Though much of the city's power and appeal comes from activities two thousand years ago, the juxtaposition of ancient and modern has its own frisson. A daily theatre of chic showmanship and pride in the pizza, is rehearsed against a backdrop of crumbling Corinthian columns, formal gardens, seminal paintings and Renaissance palazzi, set out over the undulating landscape of Rome's famous seven hills. Though pushy modern Romans thrive on the buzz, the everyday inefficiencies of an ancient city and its crazy traffic give cause for much grumbling.

For the purposed of our cities poll, Time Out included Vatican City as part of Rome – although a separate city state, its presence is inescapable for the city that surrounds it. This brings into play St Peter's Cathedral and the Sistine Chapel, its arts and culture trump cards.

9= Sydney

Sydney wins points for being a good-time multi-cultural city with a healthy outdoors lifestyle, whose citizens enjoy early morning surfing, world-renowned beaches, good housing, excellent food and a café society. Its nightlife is colourful, if verging on the tacky, but a well-established gay community, exuberant Mardi Gras procession, and spectacular New Year fireworks displays are to be envied. For quality of life it had to be a ten out of ten.

Though it has the requisite big cultural institutions, and has exported many successful curators, actors and media moguls, Sydney's inevitably isolated arts scene, when compared with those of New York, London, Paris, or Berlin, cannot compete.

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #360] My first Baltic

I made it to my first ex-Soviet republic over the weekend: Estonia (more specifically, to its capital, Tallinn). I remember when the Baltics were demonstrating for independence and the USSR taking actions against them such as cutting off their fuel supplies, and they have formed a distinct trifecta in my myriad of fascinations with The East ever since.

I didn't have much idea what to expect, though I had only heard good things about the city, so I knew this was not going to be Sofia North. But even with that expectation calibration, I was really quite taken aback by the place. Growing up in America, I kind of had this image in my mind of what a European city would look like. We all know Paris, as its icons are as omnipresent as New York's, and Prague is a fairytale idyll, but growing up in America I always had this quaint picture in my mind about what an average European city would look like (of course, that dream was dashed as soon as I travelled here, but hey ho), and Tallinn was pretty much built to that blueprint. It's small, cobbled, pretty, well-maintained, unexciting; perfect. How it escaped a life in concrete with 45 years of Russian rule is beyond me, but I guess it's just lucky it's not on the direct warpath from Berlin to Moscow. Each and every street was hemmed in by attractive buildings and led to a handsome view. Really, quite an enamouring city.

Then, just to seal the deal, in addition with escaping Eastern architecture, you are freed from the pierogis and cabbage endemic of life behind the Iron Curtain. We had Estonian, Russian, Tex-Mex, (fantastic) African and (really fantastic) Indian in our 48 hours within the old walls. This was totally unexpected and caused my and my three companions' estimation of Tallinn to soar.

Gay life and Estonian men: small, but acceptable.

Definitely a city on the thumbs-up list; I encourage you to go before the teeming hoards of stags and hens discover it. I'll have to get the other Baltics under my belt down the road to see if they've pulled off liberation as well.

Cheers,
Shaun


Prolific pictures at
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=4101467&l=524a2c5a7e&id=713081334

Sample below.


EasyJet are happy to share the jet fuel with you for only £3.50/bottle.


Old Town from our balcony.


Me and Lottie in the main square.


Typical Tallinn street-scape.


And another...


Me and Kimb'uh walking out to an overlook out to the Baltic.


I want a strap-on faggot!


So... much... food.


Kimb'uh, Garret, me and Lottie in a great wine bar where you are encouraged to "secrete with your partner".

Awesome building.


Town centre.


OK, they have their tack, too! But it's all safely outside the Old Town walls.


As Garrett said, the "Yes We Can" can.


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #359] Random London, a Prom and the Gherkin

Just some random pics from the past few weeks:


01. DSC00001 - Cloudy day from my window


02. DSC00006 - Britain loves The Gays!


03. DSC00008 - Approaching Royal Albert Hall


04. DSC00009 - Behind the choir for Beethoven's 9th


05. DSC00015 - Canary Wharf Station (where I alight for my daily wage slavery...)


06. DSC00018 - The point. Of the Gherkin.


07. DSC00019 - The East End (including my building) and Canary Wharf from the Gherkin


08. DSC00021 - Another...


09. DSC00024 - The BT Tower at sunset


10. DSC00025 - The bar. In the point. Of the Gherkin.


11. DSC00026 - Point again


12. DSC00027 - And bar again


13. DSC00028 - Our table! In the bar. In the point. Of the Gherkin. The empty seat is where I sat.


14. DSC00029 - The Thomas/John/Fred/Isaac/José/Timothy/etc. Neale, my local pub at the bottom of Watney Market. Those who haven't been in a while, please take note of the gentrification at hand; not only has the duct tape covering the holes in the cushions been replaced with patches, now the plastic tables and chairs have been replaced with wood!


15. DSC00030 - DLR sign @ Tower Gateway


16. DSC00031 - Londonistas will see the error in this...


17. DSC00033 - It's kind of hard to tell, but look at the top left of the Eye - one of the pods is missing!


18. DSC00033 - Same pic, blown up...


If you'd like to see the whole set, I've posted them here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=154122&id=713081334&l=be2be784f0

Todd's in town for the weekend and I am appropriately hung over; round two begins in 90 minutes. Wish me luck!

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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