Yesterday I proposed to a woman I do not yet know intimately, but with whom I wish to share the next chapter of my life. She accepted.

It will be an unconventional marriage, to say the least, but I am confident we will make each other very happy. I hope you will join me in celebrating soon.

I know I’m going to regret this…

… but I’ve signed my grandmother up to Twitter. She’s @NanaPetra.

I’ve filled out her bio (I am @Nero‘s grandmother. I’m here to keep an eye on him. Former model, now a house-bound invalid) and uploaded the picture but the tweets are all hers.

It’s official: Sarah Palin is not running for President

I am inconsolable. That is all.

An Insight into the Criminal Mind

My briefcase was stolen last week. I wasn’t holding out much hope of ever seeing it again, but somehow the intrepid officers of the Met Police recovered it, along with some of the contents – including, thankfully, my laptop. Here’s a selection from what appeared in my browser’s internet history between the bag being taken and its recovery.

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Why I’ll probably never be a parent

I know no one rash – or arrogant – enough to claim they know the answer to the nature vs. nurture question, nor the proportional effect each has on a child’s sexual development. But the thought that I might influence my child towards a lifestyle choice guaranteed to bring them pain and unhappiness – however remote that chance may be – is horrifying to me. That’s why, quite simply, I wouldn’t bring a child up in a gay household and, if by some chance I were to end up having a child with a woman, I would seek to insulate that child from inappropriate situations and influences until they were old enough to understand the principles, ramifications and, yes, the mechanics surrounding such an enormous decision.

I’d describe myself as 90-95% gay. I would never have chosen to be this way. No one would choose it. You’d have to be mad. Yet there’s a view, promulgated by the mostly socially liberal media, that almost any lifestyle choice is alright these days. It chimes with, and to some degree emerges from, that vacuous milieu of bien pensant chat show psychology that says everything’s OK, as long as you’re OK with it. “Live your best life,” says Oprah Winfrey. “It’s OK, if it’s OK for you.”

But everything isn’t OK. Read more

Eye, Robot.

It’s not every day you wake up and discover you’re disabled. And to tell the truth I didn’t really either, because my eye has been getting worse for a while.

When I was about seven, I had corrective surgery. Nothing too serious. A little snip to a muscle on one side, aimed at correcting my wandering left eye. It’s fucking grotesque when you have eyes that cross: you look like something from a cartoon or a horror film. Luckily my mother noticed the first signs of it and I got it fixed.

But, as is the case for about 20% of patients, it’s coming back – and with nasty complications. I won’t bore you with too much detail. But, essentially, when I put on my glasses and look into the distance, my left eye goes nuts, shooting over to the right, because my eye can’t readjust normally and symmetrically like it ought to. This causes intolerable headaches and double vision. That, and I look a spastic. (Calm down. We’re allowed to use ‘spastic’ now. I checked.)

Close friends may have noticed me squinting a little recently when I look at them from a distance. I’ve become very self-conscious when on panels and giving talks, constantly taking my glasses off and putting them back on again. It’s become like a nervous tic, further complicated by the paranoia that I’m somehow exacerbating or accelerating the problem. Read more

Review: Paul Carr, The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of Life Without Reservations

In some circles it’s considered bad form to review books in which you appear. Fortunately for you, I don’t move in those circles. Because as one of this volume’s (admittedly minor) characters, I’m better placed than most to verify what might otherwise appear a wildly implausible series of ludicrous drunken adventures.

The Icelandic rock stars. The near-death experience with Spanish drug dealers. The hairdressers’ convention. The 6,000 mile booty call. In short: yes, it’s all true.

Paul Carr has forged a surprisingly stable career out of his alcohol-fuelled antics, failed relationships, friendship with infamous London entrepreneur, networker and mischief-maker Robert Loch and his opinions about the latest internet technology. But despite weighing in provocatively on privacy, copyright and media issues in his TechCrunch column, his forte has always been writing about himself, which is the singular subject of both of his books to date. Even more surprisingly, he manages to be fresh and entertaining without slipping into limp Hunter S. Thompson burlesque.

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Oprah: America’s most powerful religious leader

This review originally appeared in The Catholic Herald.

Oprah: Gospel of an Icon
By Kathryn Lofton
University of California Press, £15.95

Kathryn Lofton is an assistant professor of American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale and her first book represents a perfect fusion of those two disciplines. The American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, she says, provides a brilliant and telling picture of what religion looks like in 21st century America. Her thesis is simple: Oprah has become a cultural phenomenon because she has fused religious idiom, consumerism and celebrity obsession to forge a terrifyingly potent global brand, one that is as much a religion as it is a corporate entity.

Yes, it’s the sort of thesis that has you reaching for your pistol. And yes, in places the book’s language recalls the worst excesses of pop culture studies. More than once, it reminded me of Slayage, the hilarious – and apparently peer-reviewed – “journal of Buffology” (that’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer Studies to you and me).

But here’s the thing: it’s actually really difficult to know what, in 50 or 100 years, will be considered culturally significant. The history books are full of artists we now consider geniuses who were shunned, ignored or ridiculed in their own time – or not even recognised as artists at all. So we ought to try to judge books like this on their own terms.

Who’s to say whether Oprah will acquire an added resonance due to some future event we can’t yet know? She’s certainly widely admired for the media empire she has erected around herself. And isn’t there something odd about the rabidness of her fans? Something more akin to an evangelical preacher’s flock than a daytime chat show host’s audience? So perhaps we shouldn’t be too quick to mock this new bit of, dare I say it, scholarship about one of America’s greatest cultural figures.

Of course, if Lofton is right – if Oprah and the products of her empire “offer a description of religion in modern society” – we have cause for serious concern. Surely what drives the hysterical suburban moms wild about Oprah is greed, enabled by lack of intelligence and spiritual integrity.

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