Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Living Up to One's Reputation

My faithful readers (if there is such thing) may remember that I lost my wallet (unless it was picked off my pocket, which is more likely) back in December. In the wallet, I was carrying my ID card and my driving licence; both documents I don't usually need in this country. I going back to France next month for a week and will be requiring my driving licence as I intend to drive once there. I am told that the ... errr... best way to get a new copy of my licence is to go through the French Consulat. I don't want to think of what the not so good ways can be like!

My previous, and thankfully limited experience with this outpost of the dreaded French Administration taught me that they are not very efficient, not really bothered with helping anyone and that going to see them, means getting up early to queue for most of the morning. I also know that all sorts of unexpected documents will be asked from me for my request to be met.

To try and find out more about the ....errr... best way to proceed, I first visited their website. Not a word about driving licences there and all the information seems to be directed to French tourists not the people living in this country. Thanks! The site looks rather shite and there is no way to get in touch with them electronically.

They give out a phone number however, which I have just tried. I ended up in the loops of an infuriating answering system which goes on for ever, delivering irrelevant information. When I finally got to an option vaguely corresponding to what I was looking for I was told that the option is not available!!!!

This means I am going to have to take half a day off and go and queue... Vive la France! No, Really!


Friday, 18 March 2005

Typical!

The plan for today was to go to the gym. You will be pleased to hear that I did this morning. Quite literally. I went and came back.
Their computer system is down today and, since I lost my membership card with my wallet in December, they could not look me up on the system. This is a council run gym. They have several and I actually joined at a different one from the one I went to this morning. When I asked if they could ring the other one, they told me the system was down there too but that I should go there where they could do a manual search (am not sure they actually can), which could obviously not be done over the phone!!!!
Perhaps in another six months...
Update - 11am.
I have now rung the "original gym" (the one I registered to) who told me their system is back on again and that I could go and train at the gym I went to this morning but that if I wanted a replacement card, I would have to go to the "original" one and pay £3.50 (!) for a new card!

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Postcard From Home

With the end of the (financial) year coming up it was time for me take my remaining leave so here I am with a week and half off and not much planned to fill it. The idea is to get up at the same time as for work and not waste too much time on the net. Yesterday was the first day of this regime.

I eventually managed to switch off the bloody computer and get out of doors at 4pm! I went to WH Smith on Oxford Street to redeem a voucher I had been given. For sometime I have been hearing reports on Radio4 that this, one of the oldest brands the UK, is having financial difficulties due to poor sales. Well, no wonder they are going under. A friend of mine tells me that this is because they do not really know what sort of shop they are (bookshop, music shop, news agent, none of the above?) but I do not think this is the problem; after all Boots are similarly trying to confuse their customers with a mish mash of food, medications, beauty products and photo lab and are reasonably successful. No WH Smith is just a horrible place!!! Dreary, lackluster, uninspiring and so creepily parochial!!! They have nothing of any interest for sale. Not even the latest releases of commercial brain washing so-called culture. The brand is old and so is its stock. I eventually managed to find Nick Cave's Best of and the soundtrack for Amelie (not really my first choices but marginally better than the rest)...

I then decided sooth my erked sense of harmony by a trip to a museum. Wednesday means late opening at the National Gallery, so I went to see the new John Virtue exhibition. His paintings are monumental landscape of the Central London river banks in black and white. He biggest inspirations are Turner and Constable. The Turner references are quite obvious. I am not sure I liked what I saw. I am certainly attracted by his style and there are lovely little vignettes within some of the paintings but on the whole I don't think the paintings work (apart from one perhaps which really draw you in). The film attached to the exhibition is reasonably interesting.

Today I was planning on (finally) going back to the gym (the last time I went was in June last year!!!). Early. But I fell asleep late last night and did not make it. Tomorrow perhaps... The plan today is to go to the Cumming Museum this afternoon. is me local....

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

A Poem

A poem I found in On Queer Street: A Social History of British Homosexuality, 1895-1995, by Hugh David which I thought I would share with you.

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;
And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?
Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbour to their will,
And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?
I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong.
And since, my sould, we cannot fly
To Saturn not to Mercury,
Keep we must, if keep we can,
There foreign laws of God and man.

A. E. Houseman, Last Poems, XII.
circa 1900.

Tropical Malady - A Review

I went to see Tropical Malady (Sud Pralad) at the ICA last night and I still don't really know what to think of this film to be honest. I seem to undestand that it tells the story of two young men, one of them, a soldier, falling in love with the other (a villager) who, while he enjoys the attention, does not seem that interested. Suddenly, halfway through the film, we find ourselves in a second film (new credits are shown after the screen goes blank for a while, making you wonder it the reel broke or something) retelling of the legend of a Shaman (the villager) who can turn himself into animals and the hunter (our soldier) who is after him. While it was indeed possible to follow the narrative (or what there is of it), it felt like we were watching the rushes of another story; the bits that are left out in a normal narrative. Little moments that don't really make sense out of context.

The "love" story is very strangely told too. As far as I know Thailand is not particularly tolerant of homosexuality, yet in the film the fact that these two guys are obviously very close and touching and all doesn't seem to worry anybody witnessing this. At the same time, the "relationship" doesn't seem to go much further than very light petting (we don't even see them kiss).

The whole thing was very slow and the production values not very high. I felt like I was watching an early silent movie at times, not only because of the very scarce amount of dialogue and the fact that the second part of the film (the most striking part with the ever-present, obsessive sound of the forest as a soundtrack) tells you the story with inlaid text, but because of the way it was filmed, with certain static shots lasting that tiny bit too long and the actors becoming a bit wooden as a result.

I am still not sure what the message of the film is. It opens with a quote to the effect that we all should learn to tame the animal in us, which is I suppose, taken up in the second part. The original Thai title means "Beast" or "Monster" in English. I did get a vague sense that the second part might be some sort of metaphor for the first but the clues are far too elusive to be able to tell for sure.
All in all it is very disconcerting and while I can't say I did not like it, I can not really see what is its point. But perhaps that is its point.


Sud pralad (2004)
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Jury Prize of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.


Monday, 14 March 2005

Links of the Day

Necrophilia among ducks ruffles research feathers
The strange case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck pushed out the boundaries of knowledge in a rather improbable way when it was recorded by Dutch researcher Kees Moeliker.

Costs Keeping Lesbians From Health Care
(Rochester, New York) A new national survey shows that health care costs and the lack of adequate health insurance are the most common reasons why lesbians don't have health care.

Saudis Behead Gay Couple
(Riyadh) A gay couple was beaded in a public execution Sunday in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing a blackmailer. If they had been exposed as gay they could have been executed anyway.

IRA Turning To Attacks On Gays
(Londonderry, Northern Ireland) Terrorists from the Irish Republican Army are reportedly targeting gays now that they have abandoned their war against the British government.
Man flees home over anti-gay 'IRA' attacks
A gay student has been forced to leave his Londonderry home, after receiving anti-gay threats from men claiming to be members of the IRA.

Bishop rejected over gay row
A senior Bishop has been excluded from communion and religious celebrations by a group of clergy within his diocese, because of his apparent support for sexual diversity within the Anglican Church.

Czech Parliament says 'No' to same-sex partnerships
For the fourth time the Chamber of Deputies, the Lower House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, has dismissed the idea of adopting a Registered Partnership Act for same-sex couples.

Dutch gay couples may soon adopt abroad
A majority coalition of lawmakers in the Netherlands submitted legislation Wednesday that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children from other countries.


Is That Good or Bad?

An interesting email sent on my Chorus' mailing list by one of the members (see below). Being French I have had an ID Card since my early teens I think (it was made for the occasion of a school day trip to a themed park in Germany. I have been carrying it all the time with me ever since (until I lost my wallet last year, that is when I did not bother to get a new one). When I am asked for ID in this country I am always a bit confused as to what I should show. An ID card just makes things easier I think.

After rushing around at the last minute as usual, I arrived at Gatwick for a flight home to Belfast. Standing in the queue to check in, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to bring my passport. (Not legally required of course but merely as an identity check.) All I had with me was my London Gay Men's Chorus membership card which I proudly presented to the flybe.com girl on the desk. She looked at it carefully and then carried on with the check in.

Last year my LGMC card gained me entry to a private gentlemans club in Florida while others were being turned away for not having correct ID with them.

While I am in favour of National ID Cards, I take great comfort in the fact that my LGMC card has not failed me yet and shall continue to use it until the National Cards are introduced!

Iain
(Identified as a Second Tenor)


Saturday, 12 March 2005

LGBT and Ethnicity

Something I had planned to post during LGBT History Month but did not get round to.... Here it is now.

Whether, you go to a bookshop or look on the net, the ethnic stereotype for gay people is the same as for the rest of the population. Everyone is GWM. Gay White Male. You tend to hear about other ethnic minorities only in negative context. And here too it is the same with the gay "community".

The topic that hogged the gay headline this year here in London was the campaign against murder music. And there were the murders of two gay activists: FannyAnn Eddy and Brian Williamson. I took part in the vigiles for both and black people were hard to find. More understandably perhaps, none turned up during a demonstration outside a venue where Buju Banton was going to perform. Considering the level of petty and ignorant hatred we experience there from the punters who might possibly have recognised people who would not want to be.

As for positive coverage....

Trying to tip the balance slighly, I had a google around:

Black, Muslim and Gay

UK Black Out

Big UP

Gays and Lesbians in the Arab World

Out and Muslim in the UK

Imaan, Muslim support group in London


Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Links of the Week - 2

Done!

Juvenile Welfare Board Member: PFLAG Promotes Pedophilia
(Tampa, Florida) Parents and Friends of Gays and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network are threatening to sue a member of the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board for alleging the two groups promote pedophilia.

Profile: Openly Gay Legislators
(Richmond, Virginia) Surrounded by kindergarten classmates chanting "Nixon! Nixon!" on Election Day 1968, 4-year-old Adam Ebbin began shouting something else: "Humphrey! Humphrey!"

Canadian Politician Equates Gay Marriage With Mad Cow Disease, Accuses PM Of Racism
(Ottawa) The federal Liberals are taking a Conservative MP to task for an Internet article that argues same-sex marriage is not a rights issue, and refers to the prime minister as a hairy knuckled Paul Martin Luther King.

Nicola Calipari, the Italian secret service agent recently killed in Iraq by the american forces, was the instigator of the Roman police's anti-homophobic helpline in 1994.

Brazil next for gay marriage?
Brazil could be the next country to legalise gay marriage, despite its strong religious background, according to one of the country's leading prosecutors.

Archbishop admits Anglican "fractures" as gay groups hit back
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has admitted to 'fractures' existing in the global Anglican communion over the issue of sexual diversity, as gay groups hit back at the decision to force the US and Canadian churches into temporary seclusion.

Oscars: Robin Williams hits out at 'gay' cartoon row
The Academy may have feared host's Chris Rock previous potty mouth experience, but it was comedian Robin Williams who was the most outspoken star at last night's Oscar ceremony.

Nation of Islam leader encourages gays to march
Controversial Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan wants gay people to march in the 10th anniversary commemoration of the Million Man March in the US this October.

US bill aims to repeal 'don't ask' military gay ban
US Democrat Congressman Marty Meehan introduced the Military Readiness Enhancement Act yesterday, in a bid to repeal the Pentagon's controversial -and reportedly costly - "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Minister hints at new laws to further protect gays
The government's Equality Minister Jacqui Smith has hinted that new laws to protect lesbian and gay people from discrimination will be introduced in the near future.



Links of the Week

Catching up... *pants*

India Lesbians Wed
(New Delhi) Winter is India's wedding season, a time of gold jewelry, dancing and loud music.

AIDS In The Closet
(Dakar) Tears trickle down Serigne's scarred face as he recounts what it's like to be gay in his Muslim west African homeland of Senegal.

Gays 'Threaten Society' Islamic Leader Says
(Hong Kong, China) One of the world's leading Islamic scholars has angered gay rights advocates in Asia and Europe after declaring that granting gay rights is a threat to society and should not be tolerated.

Recognize Gay Families Greece Told
(Athens) A quasi Government agency has told the Greek government to create a civil unions registry.

Gays Win Romania Airline Case
(Bucharest) Authorities on Tuesday found that Romania's state-owned airline illegally excluded gays from a Valentine's Day sale for couples, and ordered the company to pay a $180 fine.

Topeka: Yes To Gay Rights No To Phelps Clan
(Topeka, Kansas) The virulent anti-gay Fred Phelps clan was dealt a double blow in the group's hometown Tuesday.

Helmsley Too Old To Sue For Gay Bias
(New York City) Hotel billionaire Leona Helmsley is too old to be sued for making alleged death threats against a gay former employee a New York City judge has ruled.

Move To Repeal Gay Military Ban Gains Support From Retired Brass
(Washington) Legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military's ban on gays in the military was introduced in Congress on Wednesday.

Call For Independent Investigation Into Anti-Gay Practices Of Bush Appointee
(Washington) Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed Special Counsel, is in trouble again over the way he runs his office, and this time it has resulted in a call for an independent investigation.

Hungary To Recognize Gay Partners
(Budapest) The Hungarian government has announced plans to create a civil unions registry for the nation's same-sex couples.

UK Introduces Bill To Protect Gays
(London) The British government Thursday released details of new legislation to protect the rights of gays and other minorities.

Lutheran Scholars Oppose Gay Proposal
(New York City) Seventeen scholars from 12 campuses have released a strong statement against a proposal that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America officially maintain its stance against same-sex ceremonies and gay clergy while tolerating dissent from that policy.

Study Profiles Gay Hispanic Couples
(Miami, Florida A new study of same-sex Hispanic couples in Florida demonstrates they have many of the same stable, pro-family characteristics as non-gay Hispanics despite having fewer family rights.

A Good Night for Williams & Collette
Robin Williams is set and Toni Collette has started final negotiations to star in the Hart Sharp Entertainment adaptation of Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener.

Legislation Would Protect Gay Fetuses
Augusta, Maine) State Rep. Brian Duprey has filed a bill that would forbid women from ending a pregnancy based on the projected sexual orientation of a fetus.

The Today Programme is looking for three BBC Radio 4 listeners to write a weblog during the General Election. In 100 words or less say why YOU should write a weblog for Today throughout the election period. Apply here.


Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Mea Maxima Culpa

I know I have been bad. Haven't blogged for over a week now. That is because I was off work and did not find the time to blog. I guess I didn't found anything to blog about otherwise I would probably have done it. I know also have a week worth of headlines to go through... More to come I guess...

Come to think of it this is all rather strange: as I look back to the past week when prompted by someone's question, and try to sum up what I have been doing, I can only come up with "not much". Ok, I have been to see the new Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery and I have seen 5X2, followed by a Q&A with Francois Ozon, the director. I also saw Head On with the scrumptious Alex Dimitriades. I have spent two days in "studio" recording the last bits of the Christmas CD with the chorus and we almost did get a white Christmas (albeit in March)! I finally redesigned my CV with the much appreciated help of my friend who appeared in previous posts (I guess he will have to be called My Friend) and I got my first crack at Quark Xpress.

But mostly, when I look back on this week, it seems I went to bed late (or early depends on how you look at it), didn't read much and generally wasted a lot of time. I read something recently (I think it was in Memoires D'outre-tombe by Chateaubriand) about how time seems to go very slowly when you are a kid and how things speed up as you get older. Judging but how fast the week went, I must be about 150!!!



Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Why a History Month?

Click here for more detailsCelebrating LGBT History Month


While surfing the net the other day, I came across a chatroom for a gay youth support group. The members were writing about LGBT History Month; what they felt about it taking place and what they thought the benefits would be, if any. A comment that stuck in my mind was to the effect that poeple in the writer's school thought that gays had been invented in the 80's.

While this view of things is obvisouly wrong and does not stand investigation, I am afraid it is probably quite widely held in the straight population. My own aunt, who is now in her 70's, would not believe me a few years ago when I told her that greek society had not only tolerated homosexual relationships but actually actively promoted them (between older men and teenagers) as pedagogic device (the influence of the older, wiser man being given more strength by the close bond existing between the teacher and his pupil). On the same day (I think), she actually asked me if I was a faggot, saying that if I was she would slap me.... what sort of answer did she expect after that?

On the same chatroom, someone was making the point that history is a continuous thing, which should not be subdivided into categories like black or gay history. Everything was percieved to be relevant to everyone and therefore a history month was redundant and actually potentially alienating and divisive.

I do agree with this view to a certain point, History should be everyone's history. However, this is not currently the case; History is mostly straight and white (and Christian) at the moment. History Months are here to tip the balance back to equilibrium. They are a means to show people that every group can contribute possitively to society, no matter what they are.

I have now attended several LGBT History Month events; mostly with people talking about their experience of being gay in the "dark times", when homosexuality was a sin for most and illegal for all. It was very inspiring to see how people could muddle through and managed to find some sort of happiness and developped a positive perception of themselves (of course not everyone was able to do this: when you are continually told that a good homosexual is a dead one, some will end up believing it). On leaving these events, I always feel strangely elated too. Although the experiences that were described to me, are very much remote from my own (quite troubleless) experience, it always feels like these people are talking about me as well as about themselves. This is something a gay child growing up in an "heterosexist" environment will almost never experience. This is why History Months are important and will remain so until a none-heterosexual outlook becomes easily available for whoever needs it.

All this fantastic burst of energy created by the Month should not be put to sleep once the month is finished however. It is a long task to gather and transmit our history (any history) and it should be undertaken all year long. Knowing our past is what allows us to understand the present and possibly change the future or at least avoid repeating our mistakes.