World of Chig   

Hard Times?

Given current financial circumstances, no one would have been surprised if Children In Need hadn't reached a new record amount of money tonight. I didn't think it would continue the year-on-year climb, but it has! Last year's record total of £19.1M, which rose to £37M when everything was in, has been surpassed. Tonight's total is an incredible £20,991,216. Recession? What recession?

This takes the total amount of money raised by Children In Need since 1980 over the £500,000,000 mark.

With Jason Donovan, Take That, Girls Aloud, Will Young, Sugababes, Russell Watson, McFly, Stereophonics, Alesha Dixon, scenes from Oliver!, Michael Ball in drag and the BBC newsreaders doing Mamma Mia highlights, it certainly catered to some of my musical and aesthetic tastes. Well done to all concerned.

PS. If you happened to watch the Children In Need version of QI, you won't be surprised to know that Stephen Fry was right and Wogan was wrong. It was 1974.

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Doin' it for the kids

It's Children In Need day. Please give generously. With any luck, the BBC will raise enough money to rescue vulnerable children by taking over Haringey Social Services.

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Dullsville USA

I'm watching The X Factor. As I expected, this is the dullest one ever. Who ever thought that nine or ten Mariah bloody Carey songs would be interesting?


LATER: So, once again it's the early performers in the bottom two, and everyone is pretending to be surprised. (I'm watching The Xtra Factor on ITV2 now.) As I wrote last week (below), they keep skirting around the issue, being shocked that it was Ruth (performing second) and Laura (performing third) in the bottom two. Why are they surprised? Eoghan was on first and is clearly attracting the girly vote as he's the only young lad left. With Scott and Austin both gone, he has a better chance of hoovering up the votes, so he has escaped the curse of being on first, leaving Ruth and Laura to face the judges and now another of the favourites has gone.

Rachel was horribly out of tune tonight with her version of Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now). She wasn't brilliant last week either. It's about time she went.

Louis Walsh was talking crap at the end, once again. He said he had to vote someone off, but it wasn't true. He could have chosen Ruth to go and left the result in the hands of the public by taking it to deadlock. He didn't, so he must be enjoying the power trip. Don't feel sorry for him having to make a decision; he didn't have to do it. He evicted Laura because she was a threat to his group, JLS.

I hope we never, ever have to endure so many Mariah Carey songs in a row ever again. I love watching The X Factor, but this was the most yawn-inducing show they've ever had. Here's an idea. Spare us from theme weeks, determined by whoever's releasing an album in the Autumn schedules (cf. Britney, on The X Factor very soon) and just let the contestants sing songs in the styles that suit them. Then they'll feel more comfortable and produce better performances. They'll also be able to establish their own identities and we'll really get to know whether they have a future, like Leona Lewis, or whether they'll be a pointless winner who's going to be dropped after one number 4 album, like Leon Jackson.

I'm going out now, to see Austin Drage at the Nightingale, take a few photos of him and commiserate with him over being kicked out last week. It's the least I can do.


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What a night! What a great result. I retired to bed with the portable TV and managed to keep watching until about 6:30am. Thank you America, and welcome back to the real world.


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Making History

A black American has been elected President. Congratulations then to Kym Mazelle, who achieved that feat on Celebrity Scissorhands today. (I’ve seen those voluminous breasts of hers in the flesh, but that’s another story, for another day.)

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have a historic victory for a man born of a black father and a white mother, after a two year campaign which he started very much as the inexperienced underdog, fighting against older and more experienced opposition, as well as overt racism.

So well done to Lewis Hamilton on becoming world Formula 1 champion. But will we be able to repeat that sentence in a few hours’ time, with reference to Barack Obama? Fingers crossed, even though I would still have preferred it to be Hillary Clinton for a President with substance, rather than style. Much as I’ll be glad to see a President Obama, if it happens, I still haven’t a clue where he stands, policy-wise, on almost anything, despite having followed this long campaign as closely as any other Five Live listener and TV news viewer. My English literature teacher once described my sixth form essays as “all style and no content” (which was hardly surprising as I was writing about books I hadn’t yet read). It was a criticism I wore with pride, but every time I have heard Barack Obama’s speeches, I have been reminded of my teacher’s comment. Obama is rousing and inspiring, using all the right buzzwords, but says very little, which is partly why McCain has been unable to get his teeth into him and why the candidates’ three televised debates were all so deathly dull. If Obama wins, it will be a victory for psychology and neuro-linguistic programming.

I’m staying up for the results – I’ve taken the day off work tomorrow for that very reason. I remember going to bed four years ago thinking that John Kerry had probably won and waking up to the bad dream of Bush – again! – the next morning. I’m taking nothing for granted. People lie in the opinion polls and the prospect of Obama winning in some unlikely states may have lured out the Republican vote in those areas, enough for McCain to hold them. The high turnout just about everywhere seems to be encouraging for Obama though. It has been inspiring to see people’s determination to vote, especially in bad weather, for six hours or more. If only we ever saw the same enthusiasm here in the UK, where even the last general election saw only 56% turnout and I think I was the only person out of ten in my workplace who voted.

Whoever wins, something new and historic will be happening later. We’ll either have the first black US president or the oldest first-term president, with the first woman vice-president. Sarah Palin seems to have given up on the latter option though. She has just given a speech to camera which was quite astonishing, in that she seemed to be talking about her plans for the distant future. It was obvious she doesn’t expect to be hovering around the White House from January, making sudden noises around John McCain in the hope that she can step into his shoes. She clearly thinks that McCain has had his chips. (Sorry, I had to get that line in somewhere.)

My biggest fear if Obama wins is that he will, sooner or later, be assassinated. It’s a sobering counterpoint to any excitement we may be feeling later, and victory for him is bound to be tinged with sadness anyway after the untimely death of his grandmother yesterday; a sad twist which wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a novel. She had voted already by post (for him, we assume), but she won’t get to see the end of her grandson’s campaign, which is terribly sad.

The nightmare scenario tonight is that Obama wins the popular vote but doesn’t win the presidency, which could happen. He could get more people voting for him across the country, but not win the electoral college votes needed, in which case I’ll be expecting a revolution from the American people.

The other nightmare scenario is that the queues at polling stations mean that they stay open for so long that we get no meaningful result tonight and it won’t be worth staying up. (In the states, if you’re in the queue to vote, you’re entitled to vote, no matter how long it takes.)

David Dimbleby is on BBC One. Jeremy Vine is standing by his video wall. We’re off! It’s going to be a long night. I recommend reading this excellent blog post, I Didn’t Vote For Obama Today, if you have nothing better to do.

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X Factor - the great unspoken

So it's farewell to Austin Drage and my potential cash cow. Yes, he's the X Factor contestant who I've photographed on two occasions in 2004, when he was with a boyband called either 5 Boyz or 5 Guyz. (Either way, it was a terrible name.) I took the picture of him above at Cardiff Mardi Gras 2004. I also have photos of him performing with the band at Route, a gay pub in Birmingham. Our paths nearly crossed a third time, at 2005's Oxford Pride, but one of the 5 Boyz was missing that day. (If they'd had a different name, it wouldn't have been so obvious that one was absent.) As you can see from my photo on the left, the missing one was Austin, unfortunately.

I've watched all four X Factor and Xtra Factor programmes tonight and no one has mentioned that the bottom two acts, both this week and last week, were the first two acts to perform. This leads me to conclude that, although the evicted acts had been justified for the first three weeks, Rachel and Austin were just unlucky tonight. Neither of them should have gone, but people who vote don't seem to be watching the start of the show. The X Factor's vocal coach said tonight that Austin is one of the best singers that the show has ever had. I think it's obvious that she's right and it's a real shame he's gone. Still, it's the Nightingale's gain. All the evicted acts this year are appearing at Birmingham's Nightingale club the week after. I haven't rushed out to see Scott Bruton tonight, or Girlband and Bad Lashes on the previous two Saturdays, but I think I may be there next week for Austin.

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