Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Proposition 8 Upheld - A Quick Roundup

The California Supreme Court decided on May 26th to uphold Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage throughout the state.

Only one of the 7 Judges voted against the proposition. His dissent, together with the full decision, can be read here (Daily Kos).

Strangely (and in my view illogically, a viewed shared by a legal commentator in the LA Times here
), the judges agreed unanimously not to annul the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place between July and November 2008.

Thousands of people have been marching in protest against the decision, across the USA and about 200 people (including religious people) have been arrested. Meanwhile, resistance is getting organised. There are talk of submitting a new proposition annulling Proposition 8 at the 2010 Californian elections and the Advocate explains how Proposition 8 is already about to get challenged at the Federal level, here.

Several commentators manage to find the silver lining in today's cloud. Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle, thinks that the enemies of gay marriage have already lost, while Dan Savage, in the Seattle Stranger, thinks that we are winning.

Click on the image above for a History of the History of Gay Marriage Bans in the US.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Blogs and social networking sites for small businesses

A feature article I wrote for Accommodation Know-How, one of VisitBritain's websites providing legal and business advice to B&B owners and self-catering accommodation businesses. This is an overview of blogging and social networking for small tourism businesses wanting to give it a go but not sure where to start.
Facebook and Twitter have seen their success increase dramatically in recent months as new users flock to them in their millions.

It would therefore seem opportune for small businesses to engage with blogging and social networking sites to market themselves and reach new customers while keeping in touch with existing ones. And all this, for often no other expense than time and a little imagination.
Read the full article here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) because, as was demonstrated yesterday, Russia and too many other countries in the world, haven't recieved the memo. Events will happen today in many places.



From more information, visit the following:
- www,idahomophobia.org (the mothership)
- www.idaho.org.uk (in the UK)
- www.homophobiaday.org (in Canada - not the original despite what they seem to be claiming)
- International Day Against Homophobia (Wikipedia)

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Satanist Protest Against Eurovision Broken Up by OMOH Police

Am I getting this right? mmm perhaps not... let us unpack this a bit:

A small group of (mostly Russian) LGBT activists have decided to organise a Pride event in Moscow at the same time as the campfest that is Eurovision to highly the plight of LGBT people in Russia.

The Mayor of Moscow, as is his habit, banned the protest, calling gay people "satanic", while authorising a protest by right-wingers against LGBT people.

Still that did not stop our courageous activists who still gathered this morning and were promptly and roughly manhandled and arrested by the riot police, wearing blue camouflage uniforms with OMOH written in big yellow letters on their backs.

Peter Tatchell, who had been beaten up last year at similar event, was there again this year, and was arrested but rapidly released. The organiser of the protest was also arrested but he does not seem to have been released at the time of writing.

- Gay protest broken up in Moscow, BBC News (includes video footage)
- Moscow police violently break up gay pride rally, AP/The Guardian
- Boycott Eurovision, say Slavic Pride organisers, Aimless Ramblings of Z.

Boycott Eurovision, say Slavic Pride organisers

Reposted from Peter Tatchell's Facebook Group (link)

40 arrested as Moscow anti-riot police use violence to break up Slavic Pride march

Boycott Eurovision, say Pride organisers

Moscow – 16th May

Sources from Moscow have reported that police have used violent and oppressive tactics to break up the peaceful Slavic Pride march in the city.

The march had been outlawed by Moscow city authorities, but permission had been given for counter-demonstrations by far right ultra-nationalists.

Between 35 and 40 Russian LGBT activists have been arrested, including British human rights activist Peter Tatchell and Chicago LGBT activist Andy Thayer. Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev was held down by 5 fully armed riot police and arrested.

European Embassy diplomats witnessed the violence are said to be planning a joint diplomatic action.

Slavic Pride organisers have called on the artists and performers of Eurovision to boycott tonight’s showpiece event in solidarity with the beaten and arrested protesters.

Organiser Nikolai Alekseev said

“I call upon all of the artists who are due to perform at tonight’s Eurovision to boycott tonight’s event and send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable.

“The Russian Government is using this years Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990’s. However, what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights.

“The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching.

“We were defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. We demand the same legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes that none LGBT people enjoy.

“This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world.”


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Homophobia Excludes

A few days before International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the Collectif contre l'homophobie (CCH) (located in Montpellier, France) is releasing a national campaign against homophobia.

The campaign, which comprises two posters, was produced by Frédéric Tubiana, director of an ad agency and father of teenagers. View the "homophobia kills" poster here.


"Jeanne, 18 yo.
Good student, admitted to Uni but excluded from it."

"Bloody Dyke!"

"HOMOPHOBIA EXCLUDES"

Between

"At night, when the pendulum of love swings between always and never [...]"
("Nachts, wenn das Pendal der Liebe schwingt / zwischen Immer und Nie")

Paul Celan, Gesammelte Werke 1:57

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Homophobia Kills

A few days before International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the Collectif contre l'homophobie (CCH) (located in Montpellier, France) is releasing a national campaign against homophobia.

The campaign, which comprises two posters, was produced by Frédéric Tubiana, director of an ad agency and father of teenagers. (the "homophobia excludes" poster can be viewed here)


"Manuel, 19 yo, homosexual. His parents loved him, his friends loved him, everybody loved him. Well, almost everybody."

"To our beloved son
Manuel 1989 - 2008"

"HOMOPHOBIA KILLS"

Monday, 11 May 2009

Angels and Demons - A Review

When, last Tuesday, I got the offer of a free ticket to a "special press preview" of Angels and Demons, the sequel to the Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard, I have to say that I found myself in two minds. Should I keep the moral highground I had been keeping since I first heard of Dan Brown's books or should I gave in to cheapskately whorishness?

I haven't read either of the books and haven't seen the first film, yet everything I had heard about the stories (the reputed lack of literary value, the liberties taken with history and accuracy, the negative effects on real places featured in the film that got swamped by American tourists evangelical in their stupidity) had been another reason to disdain engaging with them. In the end though, I caved in and found myself, that same evening in a fast moving queue outside the main Odeon cinema in Leicester Square.

Before entering the cinema (for the first time) and relinquishing my mobile phone (no recording device was allowed), I had to worry that I might no be allowed in. My ticket had to be printed from the Internet but, having taken the day, I did not have access to a printer. I had taken the precaution to take a picture of the ticket on my phone and the staff at the door was most understanding. Soon I was taking a solitary seat somewhere near the middle of the giant bustling cathedral, press pack in hand.

Soon the film was starting.
Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard religious expert Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing, not even murder, to advance their goals.

When Langdon discovers evidence of the resurgence of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati - the most powerful underground organization in history - he also faces a deadly threat to the existence of the secret organization's most despised enemy: the Catholic Church.

When he learns that the clock is ticking on an Illuminati time bomb, he jets to Rome, where he joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, an Italian scientist from CERN.

Embarking on a hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted churches and even to the heart of the most secretive vault on earth, Langdon and Vetra follow a 400-year-old trail of ancient symbols that mark the Vatican's only hope for survival.
This is where I order and start eating a big slice of humble pie, I suppose. Yes, there were quite a few things that weren't right about the film (more on that later) but I have to be honest and say that the two and half hours that the films lasted were indeed entertaining and that I wasn't bored for a second.

Visually, the film was stunning and both the modeling and the CGI recreations of Roman landmark buildings were quite convincing (apart perhaps from the Pantheon). There was even a very beautiful and poetic, and almost moving, scene towards the end (the one with the helicopter).

That said, one must not forget that Angels and Demons is very much a "leave your brain at the door" sort of film. It is enjoyable as a piece of entertainment but sadly remains without depth.

To start with, the plot is slightly predictable and not particularly original. Even without trying to second guess the story line, the thought of the location of the bomb occurred to me about halfway through the film. It was also no great surprise (read: non at all) when the villain was finally unmasked.

I can understand that the general public might need a few facts about the unfamiliar world the film is about to take them to but there was much clumsiness in the exposition scenes towards the beginning of the film. I found this terribly annoying and another concession to the lowest common denominator.

For example, Robert Langdon is supposed to know everything there is to know about the Vatican and its history, yet he has to be told the difference between the Gendarmarie and the Swiss Guard. Later in the film, he also seems to discover the presence of a massive obelisk in the middle of St Peter's Square!

All in all, it feels as if the writers wanted to cram too much into their allocated slot (they had to stick to the book, I suppose) and as a result, there is no space or time for reflection and for the exploration of the themes and ideas that are alluded to by the very nature of the story.

My understand is the Vatican are looking at the second film of the franchise with a much kinder eye as they did on the first, and it is easy to see why. On the whole, the Catholic Church is portrayed on a rather sympathetic and possibly not completely truthful light.

The central underlying theme of the film however is a very topical one. The rise of creationism (or intelligent design as it has been re-branded) in the US has brought the apparent opposition of religion and science to the fore of the public arena. But as, the baddies in the film, the Illuminati, are thought to believe, are they really contradictory and irreconcilable? Although a few arguments are voiced, the subject is sadly not really explored.

Now that I have been initiated to Dan Brown's creation and since the experience has not been that painful, I will probably take the opportunity to watch the Da Vinci Code, should it present itself to me. I will however not read the books. Despite the deficiencies of the film, it feels like the right medium for such story and I just don't see the appeal of having it in book form.

Don't rush to the cinema to see the film though; a DVD session tucked up at home one cold winter evening would probably make the experience more satisfying.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

New Shoes?!

New Shoes?

£15 from H&M. It was love at first sight (and something so colourful is completely out of character). I had to buy skinny black jeans to go with those. Now I only need an opportunity to wear them before they go completely out of fashion (an eventuality that can't be very far off!)

People's reactions to the pic have been interesting so far. Let's see what happens out and about...

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

You Can’t Allow Discrimination to Stand

"It’s not the way I was raised and it’s not the way that I am,” the governor said in a telephone interview. “But at the same time I have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. That’s my job, and you can’t allow discrimination to stand when it’s raised to your level."

John Baldacci, Governor of the State of Maine, on his decision not to veto the bill allowing same-sex marriage passed by the State Legislature. From this article in the New York Times

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Twittering Various Voices

So the Various Voices 2009 is over and it's back to the cold morning light with only warm memories and a few pictures.

It just occurred to me that having tweeted throughout the week-end, my little SMS insights would soon get lost and disappear in the big nothingness that is my Twitter feed. So I have decided to bring them together in one post on this blog for posterity (and failing memory's sake).

My (almost) unexpurgated oeuvres start the day before the opening of the Festival, with, what else?, a sartorial dilemma:

needs to organise himself to buy a pink top (pink? bleurgh!) for the #variousvoices #vvl performance of Carmina Burana on Sunday (8pm, RFH) 3:05 PM Apr 30th from web

Getting ready for #vvl #variousvoices with the opening ceremony (will only attend but not take part) and our two concerts. busy day. 9:59 AM May 1st from web

Is pleased to be returning to the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, where he made his debut with the London Gay Men's Chorus in 2002 #vvl 10:14 AM May 1st from web

has donned his gay apparel and his making his way to #vvl 11:45 AM May 1st from txt
You'll Never Walk Alone
Waiting to in into warm up and tech rehearsal, listening to jazz in the Clore Ballroom #vvl 1:25 PM May 1st from txt

Tech over. Relaxing before the first concert at 4. #vvl 3:10 PM May 1st from txt

First concert done. Went v well. Standing ovation. Had a quick dinner. Now waiting for next concert. #vvl 7:01 PM May 1st from txt

Outside the stage door of the QEH, about to warm up. Tiniest trace of a rainbow in the sky above. #vv l8:20 PM May 1st from txt

Show over. Went and felt better than the first one. Now for the party... #vvl 9:32 PM May 1st from txt

is getting up for another day at the Southbank. No performance; only rehearsal for Carmina Burana and an editorial meeting for Qindblog #vvl 9:02 AM May 2nd from web
Impromptu
Wooo! RT @digitalreality @LdnGMC were amazing at #vvl tonight. 9:06 AM May 2nd from web

There seems to be am inordinate number of lesbians on my street this morning. #vvl 9:53 AM May 2nd from txt

Rumours of a signer stealing the show yesterday #vvl 10:08 AM May 2nd from txt

Just took part in a sing along on the riverside in support of the Justin Campaign against homophobia in football #vvl 2:15 PM May 2nd from txt
Sing out
Seems i was spotted by an admirerer during last night's concert, friend neb fellow chorine... A jewish mother! #vvl 5:25 PM May 2nd from txt

Watching a German choir in swimming suits and cardboard. In the Clore Ballroom #vvl 6:55 PM May 2nd from txt
German Choir 2 German Choir 1
is listening a recording of Carmina Burana in preparation of tomorrow's concert, With One Voice, at the RFH, Southbank. I just love it! #vvl 11:07 PM May 2nd from web

Another long day at #vvl about to start. Programme is mostly Carmina Burana (rehearsal, tech rehearsal and concert). 3 free hrs in between. 8:37 AM May 3rd from web

Had lunch at Wong Kei, walking back to Southbank for a bit of lounging before tech rehearsal. #vvl 2:27 PM May 3rd from txt

Sitting in the choir stalls in the Royal Festival Hall, ready for debut there. #vvl 4:25 PM May 3rd from txt

Sitting next to @hsienchew. Tweetastic! #vvl 4:46 PM May 3rd from txt

This is sounding amazing with the percussion section. Almost wish I was in the audience tonight. Almost. #vvl 5:08 PM May 3rd from txt
Choir Rehearsal
On stage. Audience filing in. About to start. We are in the second part #vvl 8:01 PM May 3rd from txt

Yay! We nailed the bastard! Woop! Standing ovation and all! #vvl 9:35 PM May 3rd from txt

I still buzzing from Carmina! the soprano and the "counter tenor" were just A-MA-ZING. I am in love with the whole piece! #vvl 10:59 AM May 4th from web

@drawoliver I have no idea if Carmina was recorded... Would be great though. would love a copy myself. hope your flu isn't too oinky! #vvl 11:08 AM May 4th from web in reply to drawoliver

thinks he might gatecrash the closing ceremony and go sing Waterloo Sunset http://www.flickr.com/photos/zefrog/119250052/ with @LdnGMC even tho he isn't signed up #vvl 11:18 AM May 4th from web

@LondonBulgChoir the Gough must have brought memories back of Singing River. Hope you enjoyed our Carmina. #vvl 11:32 AM May 4th from web in reply to LondonBulgChoir

Just spotted: obvious band of (German) #vvl delegates in Covent Garden 1:14 PM May 4th from txt

would love another go at CB. Will have to make do with a rendition of Waterloo Sunset (in that weather?!) at the closing ceremony #vvl #lgmc 5:24 PM May 4th from web

is pondering going to the party at Heaven tonight #vvl 8:21 PM May 4th from web

@drawoliver closing ceremony was mostly people saying thank you to other people with a few songs in-between. Pics coming up to flickr #vvl 8:23 PM May 4th from web in reply to drawoliver
Ciaroscuro
@benpark too much speaking not enough singing, I think. 8:51 PM May 4th from web in reply to benpark

is still humming bits of Carmina Burana: oh, oh, oh, totus floreo, iam amore virginali, totus ardeo, novus novus novus amorest, quo pereo... 8:56 PM May 4th from web

All my 31 (31 is very restrained of me) pictures of #variousvoices can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zefrog/sets/72157617607495524/ #vvl 9:14 PM May 4th from web

is glad he has tomorrow off but will give the club a miss anyway. Heaven shall be snuggling in my bed. #vvl 9:45 PM May 4th from web

@hsienchew @drawoliver R. Dufton told me everything was recorded but for archive only. the VV organisers will get a copy. we could too. 11:40 PM May 4th from web

'Various Voices festival promises to "paint the South Bank pink"' http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/3858 (includes audio clip of opening ceremony) #vvl 10:26 AM May 5th from web

Carmina Burana still going strong in my head... Make the voices stop! #vvl 11:05 AM May 5th from web

The Carmina Burana voices had let up a bit yesterday but are back with a vengeance. It does help a bit with being back at the mill 10:14 AM May 6th from web
Other delegates's tweets can be viewed through the #vvl tag

As mentioned above, my pictures of the week-end can be viewed here.