What are these Black and White Pixelated Squares?

An introduction to QR Codes: Real Life Hyperlinks
What do these scary black and white squares mean? They've started popping up everywhere in my life, hiding on the back of Flash domestic wipes, hovering around spookily in TV adverts, chilling out on the sides of printer cartridges, and even in high-brow Missoni adverts. Are they a secret code? An Alien invasion? An eccentric billionaire's treasure hunt? Or maybe just some interns in a design company pissing about? I swear if you squint at them you can make out an image of two fish about to eat something off a seabed? Ok, maybe that's the Blossom Hill talking.
Well anyway, after some hardcore Googling I've discovered that these demonic chessboards have a name: "QR Codes" (Although now that I've coined the phrase 'demonic chessboards' I'm secretly hoping that will take off)
"QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or on just about any object about which users might need information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone's browser."
So they're a type of inverted commas 'hardlink', or double inverted commas "physical world hyperlink". In a sense they are an alien invasion, they are an eccentric treasure hunt, and they are from some design company who felt like pissing about, so you see - my instincts were right, they just didn't have the jargon du jour. The jury's still out on the depiction of killer fish though.
With trademark speediness The Guardian wrote about QR codes way back in 2008, in relation to a Pepsi campaign. According to their article QR codes have been used on tombs in Japan, so that people can find out about that person's life! The modern day equivalent of nailing a leaflet rack to your grave.
QR codes evidently haven't taken off in Britain yet, and give us strength when they do. Just imagine a world where celebrities can QR code their foreheads with downloadable messages and photo albums. If only they could put a QR code badge on James Corden so those who wanted his opinions could download them, and everyone else could enjoy television once more. Coming to a pair of Jordan's breasts near you. You read it on The Jack of Hearts first.
Further reading: Wikipedia - QR Code ; Calvin Klein's PR Code campaign ; QR Code on the front of Las Vegas Daily ; Richard Wray in The Guardian on QR Codes

Above: Kelis, a drawing of someone kissing a dog, and a QR Code on a Missoni advert. All in one issue of W mag!

Are These Really Joe McElderry's Ambitions?

Whereas Donkeyboy's video to Ambitions was quite good, Joe McElderry's video looks like a cross between Billie Piper's 'Because We Want To' and Coronation Street: The Musical

I was disappointed to find Joe McElderry’s new single is just a mushy microwave meal cover of Donkeyboy’s song ‘Ambitions’. Inevitably nowhere near as good as Donkeyboy’s original soft-pop hit debut last year, it lacks creative engagement, sexiness, and like so much manufactured and soon-to-be-forgotten crap, it fails to convey a sense of ownership between artist and song.
Giving Joe a lyric like “If it’s me that was going to take it, then I know that it wouldn’t be straight” is a bit clumsy too given his recent outing in the red tops aged 19.
You’d think Simon Cowell would have pop-writing mega talent on speed dial, what with the likes of Mark Ronson, Calvin Harris, Tom Chaplin, Miranda Cooper and other members of Britain’s shit-hot pop powerhouse all just a cab ride away, so why on earth have they flogged poor Joe off with a damp wafer of a first single? Evidently he's far down on their priority list.

The original 'Ambitions' video, directed by Brett Sullivan, is much sexier and works much better with the song’s story. Linnea Dale’s guest appearance makes it a more dynamic effort too, adding the much-needed female touch that the song needs. Joe McElderry’s video looks like a cross between Billie Piper’s Because We Want To and Coronation Street: The Musical.

Take a look at Joe’s behind-the-scenes video, at parts it comes across like a satire, I hope Catherine Tate is watching:

Let’s hope Joe’s cover at least brings some attention to Donkeyboy, and more importantly to Norwegian pop music which is an increasingly talent-packed affair. Let’s also hope for Joe’s sake that he starts taking the reins of his career before he becomes just another nobody on the back of an old Now CD.
Here’s Patrick Wolf’s video to 'Vulture'. Now that’s what I call a proper gay popstar.

Jack's Gay Times Road Trip

Above: Sitges at 4am, photographed from Hotel Calipolis, one of the best located hotels in Sitges, hot men stay there, the bathrooms are gorgeous and the shuttle bus to the nudist beach stops right outside!

Below: The path leading down to Dead Man's Beach.

In a moment of nostalgia brought about by this freezing, boring, Papal weekend in Britain, I've compiled a cute Jack of Hearts collection of my sensational and sexed-up gay road trip articles from July/August. It was a six-piece serialisation for Gay Times.

I toured France, Spain and a bit of Sweden in a blacked-out VW with two shoe boxes worth of amazing CDs ("I heard a rumour..."), and basically let my hair down for almost 1000 hours. During lapsed moments of reflecton (and recovery) I put my rugby socks on, wrapped myself up in my Carebears duvet at the back of the van and typed up these accounts of my findings. I then used the free internet from McDonalds car parks to ping them over to Bob at Gay Times.

Have a read:







Let me know what you think. Maybe you've been to some of these places yourself?

Can't be bothered to walk to your local (and kind of nasty) newsagent to discover that they might not even stock Britain's chief gay magazine? Well why not just SUBSCRIBE TO GT HERE and receive it in a discrete and no-fuss opaque packet through your door! (I used to get mine sent to school).

Above: Me rocking some designer stubble in a graffiti'd shelter on Ile d'Oleron.

Cathwalk Trends: What to Wear for a Papal Visit

"The major feat of the Papal Visit Store has to be their range of rosaries. Not only are these items holier than Philip Green’s fake plastic beads, but they’re better quality and cheaper. From wooden to imitation blue glass - there’s something appropriate for every kind of sinner "
In preparation for The Pope's visit, Jack has trailed through pages of Catholic Merchandise to give you a lowdown on the season's best Cath Fash:
Fashionistas are always talking about creativity, vision, and inspirations. When they’re not obsessing over what’s next, they’re busy bickering about who copied who. What came first - The meat or the dress? Some actually talk with lurid empty-stomach breath about Karl Lagerfeld as if he is God.
Well if fashion is all about creation, looking forwards, looking down, and so on, then surely it makes a lot of sense for the Catholic Church to have their own fashion range? They’re higher than high street, they were passing judgement on people way before the chain-festish sinner Gok Wan and they really do give the concept of the word designer a run for its money.
Benjamin O'Brien De Clare, theologian, World of Warcraft veteran, Catholic sympathiser and sinner told The Jack of Hearts: "We're talking the first great designer, and with a charity slant. Their early stuff is the staple {or steeple? - Jack} in ecclessiastical design" Although supply teachers, social workers and television historians take their fashion inspiration from Methodists, everybody would agree that The Catholic Church are the most fashion-conscious religion going. Sinner Briony Fleming, a horse-riding charity worker and world authority on bracelets told The Jack of Hearts: "Jesus was the first official fashion muse." Noah being the first technically, but unaccredited by the fashion industry due to poor taste in sandals and later-on loathed.
So today we’re shopping in the Papal Visit Store, and I’ve been marvelling at several pieces. Firstly there’s a gorgeous Beatification Tee (pictured above).
Written across a bang-on-trend monogram of this season’s saint-to-be John Newman are the Latin words Cor Ad Loqvitvr , which means “Hearts Speaks Unto Heart”. Evidently the sinner Henry Holland needs to start dishing out catwalk slogans in Latin if he’s to stay at the head of his game.
According to The Jack of Hearts' resident Latinist, papal fashion enthusiast and sinner Zoe Wells-Cole, sinner Henry Holland's iconic t-shirt "I'll Show You Who's Boss Kate Moss" translates as "Kate Moss: Demonstrabo Tibi Quisnam Est Dominum". (Kato Mossum, optional)
The next piece that I adore, and no doubt coming to a member of The Saturdays (all sinners) near you, is this heavy-metal-chic Pope Benedict XVI tee - popally rocking and another jewel in the collection’s mitre. It would look perfect at one of the weekend's papal events with some animal-print jeggings, killer heels and a trilby hat.
But the major feat of the Papal Visit Store has to be their range of rosaries. Not only are these items holier than Topman-tycoon sinner Philip Green’s fake plastic beads, but they’re better quality and cheaper. From wooden, to glow-in-the-dark, to imitation blue glass (glass!), there’s something appropriate for every kind of sinner in here.
For bling lovers the PV store offers some fetching medallions and plain black “Heart Speaks Unto Heart” caps, but don’t take the bling too far or risk being condemned like Wales’ biggest fan of Cath-fash the notorious sinner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who the Vatican City awarded a lifelong membership to hell back in 2002.
For nu-ravers the pope-ular look to go for is ‘Flashing Candles’ as a take on the traditional wanky glow-stick and white silicone wristbands, plus they do a handy-little Pope tote bag to pop your pseudo-sunnies, Red Bull and spare pants in.
“Heart Speaks Unto Heart” may sound like an M.I.A lyric or a new sinful J-Lo song but it is actually the life motto of John Newman. I always thought it was good to let the heart speak out, but it seems keeping the feelings of one’s heart to one’s self is a more recommendable path to Catholics these days.
So, New York – London – Paris – Vatican City. It’s time to get hip-hopping and ship-shopping in the official Papal Visit Store. Don’t forget your Papal Flags (another song that M.I.A. never got round to making).
I won't be attending The Pope's speeches, but if I was I'd so be rocking a Cath-fash get-up with some of this great pap tat.
An abridged version of this blog post appeared on The Guardian on Sept 16th 2010:

Inception A.K.A “Ocean’s Five”: Not Exactly The Stuff of Dreams

There is an incredibly annoying twenty minute “planning” sequence in which facetious semi-soliloquies occur around a flip chart whilst anxious violinists scratch away at the audience’s ears. I was half expecting a secretary to appear and announce “Sir Alan is ready to see you now.”

Inception begins with a tide lapping into the semi-conscious face of Leonardo DiCaprio. Minutes later we follow him as he commando rolls and dives around what looks like a militarised version of the Japanese-themed hotel in Disney World. As lanterns drop and smash dramatically from great heights and chaos flourishes, Marian Cottilard is phased by none of this as she calmly parades around a wood-panelled room in a black designer dress, ignoring the tidal waves that are smashing against all sides of the building. Ahh, she’s not real, we’re in a dreamscape. Silly us.

Attempting to combine Matrix-style concepts with the black tie elegance and action of a James Bond, Inception sets itself a tall order and, well, fails. The film lays itself a deadly trap in that it needs to feast on quite intellectual material but cannot afford to bite-off anything a mainstream American audience won’t be able to chew.

Ellen Page gives the only strong performance but her character is sadly flawed without a background or a motive. Ariadne is overly-reminiscent of Thora Birch’s Jane in American Beauty and Jena Malone’s Gretchen in Donnie Darko. Her lines alternate bizarrely between whiny questions and profound statements of scientific understanding. Ariadne has nowhere to go and the last we see of her she’s looking both gormless and meaningful, slouched in a first class airplane seat.

Cillian Murphy’s talent is tragically wasted in this film. His first six scenes could have been made using a Madame Tussauds waxwork, and although he looks quite sexy in his white-on-white designer skiwear, his alpine Action Man scene is quite bland and whoever dreamt up the scenery seems to have borrowed heavily from the graphics on the N64's Golden Eye. Only at the billionaire father’s deathbed do Inception’s makers get a bit of their money’s worth out of Cillian.

Leo’s looking old these days. He was great in The Departed and Blood Diamond, proving his succesful transition from teen twink to mature actor. In Inception, he looks more like a door-to-door salesman, he’s good at being chased by evil nondescript Asian gangsters, but not so good at building up atmospheric tension. The music score therefore has to work overtime, but is still a missed opportunity with very little memorable material. A bit of a Jack Dawson esque heart-shaped curtain flops across Leo's forehead during the romantic moments, a forehead which, quite fittingly for this film, is starting to look like a maze.

Inception wants to be six successful movies at once and so fails to shape its own identity. It has a weak script which darts between being painfully patronising and unintentionally funny. The actors take themselves too seriously, which has undoubtedly woven a breeding ground for future parodies (French & Saunders are probably filming as I type this). Tom Hardy is unbearable in this film as his character attempts to make light of what is essentially the ugly over-simplification of a complex concept.

And so Inception ends up being riddled with nonsense and mindless hysteria. The dream landscapes themselves are very bureaucratic, almost positively boring, and seem to be modelled on waiting rooms, corporate atriums, hotels and the Mavis Beacon typing school. Perhaps the film should have been called Reception?

A second viewing on DVD might offer better insights into the storyline, but the script doesn’t give the actors much to work with. Consequently he characters are two-dimensional apart from Leonardo DiCaprio who is given a Hollywood family (two angelic little blonde children, one boy and one girl of course). It is naff, wet and lazy how Inception uses Leonardo’s reunification with these two annoying holographic kids as the emotional lynch-pin and driving force behind an entire film.

Inception wants to be a lot of things that it isn’t. So what is it? It’s corporate, it’s Hollywood and it’s an okay movie. All of the actors have given much stronger performances in much better films in recent years, and so it is sad to see these big screen A-listers all lost in a kind of “Ocean’s Five” movie. So much happens and yet nothing much happens.


(If the credits were accompanied by Lee Mead singing ‘Any Dream Will Do’, then I might have written a different review)

John Frieda Has Gone Missing!

I don’t like the Garnier Fructis range, it makes my hair feel like it’s been jizzed in by an entire football team, and Toni & Guy’s “Rapid Response” Leave-In Conditioner leaves my hair looking like the result of a violent beer throwing contest in Wetherspoons.

Please forgive me but The Jack of Hearts is about to have a blonde moment. I’ll keep it too less than 300 words:

I can’t find this product from the John Frieda Collection anywhere in Sainsbury’s or Boots. It’s called Gleam Crème Instant Silkener, part of their Sheer Blonde range. It used to be stocked in both Boots and Sainsbury’s alongside the other dozen John Frieda products. It still appears on the John Frieda website but they don’t have an online shop.

Do you think it’s possible that Boots have removed it from the shelves before it jeopardises the sales of their other products? Or do you think the John Frieda team have realised how good it is, so they’ve taken it away, to bring it back again but smaller and more expensive?

Because Gleam Crème really is that good. You just rub a pea-sized amount between your hands to create a thin film, then you rake your hands through the under sections of your hair, and bingo. The result is shiny, silky and smooth looking hair, even on me – and my hair is currently a morbid stack of urine-blond hay, having bleached it to the grave in and then lived in swimming pools and cesspit situations all summer.

John Frieda’s magnus opus when it comes to his hair products range has to be his Colour Renew shampoo*. It’s the purple one that all hairdressers recommend to bleachies like me and it’s bloody brilliant. But his conditioners and other products are rendered useless if, like me, you then have to blow-dry and straighten your bleached hair. This is why Gleam Crème was so good, because you apply it afterwards and leave it in all day.

Style brands declare various reasons for removing products from their ranges, and sometimes it’s connected to decisions made by the stockists. However, I don’t believe Gleam Crème was selling badly. Like Calvin Klein’s Crave, or certain hair serums like Goop, occasionally a product emerges that is too good, and not only makes its sister products redundant, but it threatens that feeling of slight dissatisfaction that consumerist-culture needs to impose on every one of us in order to self-perpetuate itself.

There must be another good leave-in cream out there. Any recommendations? I don’t like the Garnier Fructis range, it makes my hair feel like it’s been jizzed in by an entire football team, and Toni & Guy’s “Rapid Response” Leave-In Conditioner leaves my hair looking like the result of a violent beer throwing contest in Wetherspoons.

*To be precise: Sheer Blonde (New Formula) Colour Renew Tone-Refreshing “Ravive Votre Couleur” Shampoo with Lavender & Optical Brightener (They must have some serious nomenclature consultant over a John Frieda).

Okay, 439 words. But you do understand, this is a crisis.

New Madonna Track ANIMAL - YouTube Leak

There may have been a distressing Tube strike this morning, but everyone's Number 1 Tube Service, YouTube, has an exciting compensation gift from the world's Number 1 popstar Madonna -

First thoughts: Lady Gaga's raised the pop benchmark, and while artists like Kylie can afford to push out samey quintissential material, and underground 'main-ternative' artists like Uffie and Peaches can afford to talk their way through a track or just gargle gin into a microphone, Madonna unfortunarely has to deliver. She can say the word Animal as much as she likes but it doesn't make her contemporary sound any livelier. Perhaps if she'd called this song Cannibal it would have offered more scope to steal her crown back off Gaga?
'Animal' sounds a bit like 'Dance2Night' from her Hard Candy album, it has a pretty boring beat suggesting this track is still in production, although will probably never get released now (à la Britney's best ever song 'Kiss You All Over') because its thunder has disappated into the ocean of YouTube too soon. It's going to take some lyrics from Pharrell or JT again to make this one a reasonable chart entry.