Tuesday, 31 January 2006

February is...

LGBT History Month 2006

...the second edition of LGBT History Month UK. To know what events are being organised in your area (if you live in the UK of course), click on the picture and follow the links to the calendar of events.

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Monday, 30 January 2006

The BNP Again

I recently blogged on how Christian Voice was trying to distance itself from the BNP who were apparently supporting their planned demonstration of rightuousness against Jerry Springer, the Opera. in that post, I drew a parallele between this and some Texan religious group fighting back the advances of the Klu Klux Klan on the subject of gay marriage.

It seems that the parallele with the United States is becoming increasingly relevant where racism is not a valid political standpoint while the religious right is seemingly ever more powerful and vocal.

The BNP is now calling for its adherents to show their opposition to LGBT History Month (due to take place in throughout February) Which they call an “indoctrination of our children” and an "unwholesome 'alternative life-style' propaganda”. At the same time, they advocate a "return to the teaching of traditional and time proven Christian standards of morality in our schools”.

Although they did already attack the Month last year, it doesn't seem to me that the BNP has ever been very loudspoken against homosexuality, perferring to exert their energy on the subjects of race and immigration. In the same respect, their message as never been very strongly coloured with religious arguments.

It is therefore interesting to notice this refocusing of the BNP's discourse on homosexuality while they are clearly trying to operate a rapprochement with fundamentalist religious groups.

The recent example of Northern Ireland teaches us that when the main bone of contension between two groups disappears or at the very least looses its edge, the negative energies of hate find themselves redirected against one of the last, if not the last, minority it is still remotely acceptable to reject, hate and attack. Since some sort of resolution is in sight for the inter-community feud, the number of homophobic attacks have risen considerably in the province.

Could it be that, having observed the successes of the American religious right, the BNP has decided that the evangelical tidal wave is soon to hit those shores and is positioning itself to catch it and ride it when it comes? Racism, on which the BNP has been trading for years is not longer the sexy magnet that it used to be. The whole political class has now learned not to pander to those lower feelings (The Conservatives learned it the hard way during the last general election by focusing their campaign mistakenly on immigration).

The point that all these people seem to be missing however, is that hatered is not a Christian value. If they actually took the time to go and read the New Testament (the only really Christian part of the bible, they would that that Jesus teaches the love on one's neighbour.

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Doggy Style

Those of you, temerous enough, who wenture on the Other Side will know that Slightly was introduced to one of his readers from the Chorus during the award ceremony referred to below. He and AD (A Name check in two exceptional blogs in as many days, this is fame at last for you! just remember where it all started dear Ad!) seemed to get on well.

After those auspicous beginnings, I arrange for an MSN threesome on Sunday morning and we quickly arranged to meet up in the after. AD and myself would go and see Where the Truth Lies and Slightly would pick us up at the end of the film.

The film was quite good. A sort of who-done-it with a twist set in 1970's LA. I particularly enjoyed the look of the film and how it was directed. Strangely enough, although the characters in the film are fairly despicable, the viewer doesn't really manage to dislike them. I am not sure if this had to do with the fact that Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth, the two leads, are usually perceived positively. I had never heard of Atom Egoyan, the director, before but I would certainly like to see more of his stuff. The memorable scene of the film is, of course, the one where Colin Firth tries to mount Kevin Bacon while he is having sex with a woman.

After the film, as planned, we met up with Slightly and wandered off, trying to hack our way through the crowds in China Town. After a hot drink, we decided it was time for dinner and gave AD the choice between three of our favourite haunts: Wong Key, Lorelei and Nandos. The first choice was of course Wong Key as a fitting way to mark the Chinese New Year which was celebrated in the street of the West End last night. The new year, is the year of the Dog. There was a queue outside the restaurant so we opted for Lorelei which was unfortunately closed. Nandos, situated next door offered us shelter, warmth and fodder; not to forget a few nice specimen of the male form to feast our eyes upon.

We were having a nice and friendly exchange when suddenly, a girl from the table next to ours, rushed towards us and deposited a napkin on our table. There was a message on the napkin which read something like: "Our friend who is gay fancies one of you, please call him", followed by a mobile number.

We were both perplexed and amused. We made all sorts of conjectures and finally AD wrote on the napkin: "What makes you think we are gay?". Slightly delivered the message. After a while a response was brought to us saying that they thought one of us (we still did not know which) had checked the gay friend out. Since this little scene, we had indeed done our best to try and check out what that guy looked like; not an easy task as he was now trying to his best to hide under the table probably out of embarrasement. We managed however to make out some pimply teenager, complete with puppy fat. Nothing either of us would have looked at twice. We left it at that and carried on with our conversation. Soon the group left with the young pup actually running outside the restaurant. While the episode seemed sort of cute, this desperate flight seemed a little much.

The evening finished with me being placed on the grill by my two companions about my lack of success in and my giving up on finding a new job. We separated on Old Compton Street and I walked home, mildly ruminating over the last segment of the conversation. Mildly depressed like the night before and today.

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Chorus Awards

Each year, for I think the past 9 years, the London Gay Men's Chorus hosts a party for its members, usually around Christmas time. Because we had been rather busy for Christmas, this year's party on took place last night at the Black Cap in Camden Town. The evening, which finished with the doors being to the general public at 10, usually consists of a cabaret/entertainment part followed by the now infamous award ceremony.

There are a few serious awards but mostly this is an occasion for fun, sillyness and a healthy dose of back-stabbing. In addition to the list of official awards (Performer of the Year, Slapper of the year (aka choir slut), best web presence (read Gaydar profile) and so on), people can make up there own. Nominations are anonymous to ensure maximum bitchiness.

Gone are the heady days of my first ceremonies (a few years ago now) when I won the "Rear of the Year" and the "Most Fanciable Member" awards; things have started to sag (so to speak). Last night I only got nominations and not quite flattering ones at that:

Winner of (made up award):
* The George Galloway award for most uninspiring hustings speech (that speech).

Runner up of ("official" awards):
* The ‘Typing so hard my fingers bleed’ award for biggest abuser of the Chorus email lists (That award was created for me last year, I believe and was much more deserved at the time than it is now).
* Most Tactless Comment award for being overheard at Brighton Dome, with disgust in his voice, ‘Surely we’re not sharing a dressing room with the Baritones?’.

on a side note; another of the people involved nominated "my new friend" in the Most Outrageous Behaviour of the year category for this story (scroll down a bit).

Perhaps because I was tired, or perhaps because Slighlty had come with me this year and therefore put in sharp relief my lack of connection with other members of the Chorus, I felt quite invisible (like my being there or not didn't make much of a difference for anyone) and I didn't get into the swing of things as I did the previous years. Rather than staying on to dirty dance with our choreographer, something which seems to have become a tradition for us everytime the Chorus is having a party, I left fairly early and in a rather sombre mood to go and have a hot drink with Slightly in that Cafe on Charing Cross Road. We then walked back to my place for a long serious chat. Miserable gits that we are!

And I was right about those checkered shirts... I wasn't to know however of the clashes of parterns which can occur in a gay bar (haven't been in one for too long it seems). I went cross-eyed and slightly queasy when I found myself in the vicinity of a paisley shirt, a flower shirt and a third shirt with geometrical motifs on. Who said gay men have a fashion sense?

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Sunday, 29 January 2006

Big Brother Gig - The Aftermath

Background to this post:
Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me
Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me - Update 1
Big Brother and Other Madness

I promised this post earlier this week but I have had so much to blog about in the past few days that I thought I would save it for a quiter time.

I was expected to be lynched at Monday's rehearsal after the week-end's events (see links above). As usual with the Chorus, the tempest had retreated as quickly as it had come and hit. I even had the guy who sent the first salvo come and basically apologise for being so irate about it all.

After almost a year as an elected officer of the Chorus, I am started to get used to being critised more or less out of the blue and mostly by people who are not otherwise involved and giving of their time and energies. My skin has thickened and bit and I am learning not to take things too personally. I have to say, however, that I was rather surprised by the reactions in the particulare case, which seemed surprisingly irrational, biased and visceral, coming from people I had fathomed as quite reasonable and measured. Their were even allegations of corruption when, if those people really knew me, they would know I don't do politics (I couldn't even if I wanted to, I think).

The whole furore was about the use of the Small Group, which several people in the Chorus seem to feel threatened by. While I recognise that we should be careful not to let the Group take too much importance, I think the problem is that people see the relation between the Chorus and the Small Group as "us against them". My point of view is that we are all in it for the same reasons and with the same aims. The Small Group is part of the Chorus as much the rest. All this was, I think, compounded by that fact that several people found that the Small Group had been used too much during our Christmas show and were stealing the limelights from the Chorus.

Of course their is also the question that no-one really wants to raise for fear of an even bigger clash; that of quality and quality control. The members of the Small Group, while not necessarily better, are certainly more rehearsed. Also as they have been auditioned (something members of the Chorus do not otherwise go through), the musical team know what they are dealing with. Let's face it, not everyone in the Chorus is a potential opera soloist and this is fine. Most of the time. There are however circumstances where the Chorus needs to show its best profile. I think the Big Brother gig was one of them. Since I have been in the Chorus, we have had some incredible opportunities to perform in places where professional singers might not achieve in a lifetime. I think that the Small Group could be a tool to create even greater opportunities for the Chorus; opening doors which might otherwise remained closed.

In retrospect, in light of the controversy and the argument I have already exposed in the provious post, I thing we should have asked the Small Group to do that gig from the start, even if, yes it would have been nice to let the main group have a go. The Small Group has been brought together as a rapid response team (and a fundraising tool) after all.

But once again the use of the Small Group should be carefully monitored. We are about to launch a review of how the group functions. This should be interested.

Going back on to the present reaction, once again, I notice that it is the people standing outside who are the most virulent in there criticism; people who are not in possession of all the information. Has that simply got to do with giving in to knee-jerk reactions (made all the more easy by the use of emails) or is that a commend on a lack of perspective from the people who are involved?

I tend to think it is the former as shown by the fact that only a couple of people actually complained and that I received several (private) messages of support. I might just be flattering myself there, though.

In any case, that particular storm is gone; I am blocking the windows and securing the roof tile for the next (as ever unexpected) unslaught.

Paying for Sex - A Debate (Updated)

It looks like I have started a debate of some sort with my previous post on the difference in paying for sex between straight and gay people. Two people left comments on that posts which I invite you to check out.

Thanks to both of them for commenting. I have left a short comment myself on MrHâf's post on the subject.

Before I answer to her comment, here is the Guardian article Marie is referring to: Secrets and lies (incidentally, I agree with what Max says in the article about the Oaten couple (and all other couple in a similar situation) being the victim of social pressures).

Marie, I am not sure if it is less problematic, or what you mean by problematic. Is it the fact that gay men pay for sex in general or is it the idea of paying for sex for gay men that should thus labelled or not?

I think again this all comes down to the different attitude towards sex between men and women. Most women can not dissociate sex from feelings of some sort for their partner (you illustrate that in your comment by linking having sex to being in a relationship) while most men can be much more selfish in their approach (to put it nicely). The woman in the article you refer to, puts it very well: "Men are more able to separate the emotional from the physical and are turned on by the idea of sex [...]" This means they won't care so much about the contingencies of the act as long as it takes place. And I think that there is indeed a difference between the relief gained from one's right hand and that gained from another body (and not just physically but also psychologically; this would be too long to get into details though).

Further more, I think that sex website, gay saunas, chat lines and probably rent boys and escorts too provide something for people who have something to hide: i.e. a quick and easy solution when for whatever reason (response to social pressures, lack of time, need for secrecy), a man decides to give in to his urges. I am not saying this is right, I am only stating the facts, I think.

While I have never paid anyone for sex, I have been to gay saunas and I am pretty sure that most of the men going there, even if they are not married, are in the closet still or at least non-scene. This is the only place they can feel secure enough to be themselves sexually. The same goes for escorts and rent boys I would imagine; again because it is easy and quick.

At the end of the day, men will be men and, while there might be cases of male prostitutes who are forced into these activities, my gut feeling (totally usubstanciated, I grant you), is that most men involved in the trade do it voluntarily and I think some of the them actually enjoy it, as it gives them an opportunity to join business and pleasure, so to speak.

I think the fact that people (gay or straight, male or female) are paying for sex is problematic because it is often a symptom of a problem within their lives or within society in general. Either, they are in a relationship they are no longer happy in (for whatever reason) but can not get out of or they are responding to social pressures telling them that sex is bad and should be hidden. As usual, human relationships (of any kind) are a mess.

I feel I am now rambling (it is the name of this blog for a reason) without making much of a point. I will end there... for now. Feel free to join in the debate.

Check out the comments below for more.

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Saturday, 28 January 2006

Pierre Seel - A Gay Survivor

Pierre Seel

Two posts below, I mentioned that 27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day. In the same post, I highlighted the fact that for many years, the sheer number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, probably combined with a good dose of prejudice, prevented other minorities to be recognised as having been victims of the Nazis. I also mentioned the death in November last year of Pierre Seel, the only French person to actually come out and tell their story as a homosexual victim of the camps. He then went on to fight for the official recognition by the French state of homosexual victims.

Pierre SeelAs one can expect, there is not much available on the net to celebrate and publicise this man's ordeals and struggles. As of tonight, there is a little more however. I have spent my evening compiling and publishing a page dedicated to Pierre Seel on the excellent Wikipedia. You can read it by clicking on the pictures.

I hope you find this of interest.

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Friday, 27 January 2006

Paying for Sex

There has been much comment on the blogosphere on the recent revelations of gay sex within the Lib Dems party. I have, of course, commented myself. Among others, I came across this post, expanding the debate slightly, and I left the following comment:

I hate to start my commenting on this blog with a negative note but it seems to me that you are making an erronous amalgam in this post.

While Oaten probably did pay for sex (although I am not sure how one can have a "relationship", as the business has been described, with someone one pays), Hughes does not seem to have paid for sex and as far as we know the sex he got was conscensual.

As for using chat lines, that is what they are: phone lines allowing men to hook up for sex: the forebears of Gaydar if you like. Again no money has changed hands between the parties involved (although the operators of the lines do get some money).

I think their is a big difference in this between the straight and gay world. Straight men, to find relief, have it much harder the gay men. They have to "deal with" women who are generally not ready for a quick rump. Gay men, because the "deal with" other men, find themselves on a more level field as both parties are more or less looking for the same thing. The criteria for an encounter to happen are then reduced to looks and probably age.

I have a feeling the gay guys involved in the sex trade do it much more out of choice than their female counter part. There is, to a certain extent, a glamourisation of sex on the gay scene and there not as much stigmatisation as their is in the straight world. Escorts (as we call them) generally also operate on their own and do not work with a pimp as women tend to do, I believe.

Comment: So what if Hughes and Oaten are gay or bisexual?

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Today is...

... the anniversary of Mozart's birth. I am sure everybody who isn't living under a rock will have heard of that; even Google are celebrating this in their logo.

More importantly, however, today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

Nothing as interesting as moving and powerful as last year for me today, unfortunately.

Spare a thought for ALL the victims of the Nazis but also of the other genocides which have taken place since then and are still taking place now. People tend to tag these "events" as inhuman. I contend that they are indeed all too human. Xenophobia and intolerance are at their root and both spring, I think, mostly from ignorance and religous sytems taken to extremes.

For many years, the plight of homosexuals (and of other minorities; one thinks of the Roma people) in the camp have been eclipsed by the huge amount of Jewish victims, when not simply negated. Sometimes it still is. Lest we forget; lest it happens again:

The Germans are on the case.

Pierre Seel, one of the last French survivors, died in November last year.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Gay Holocaust Memorial Site

Gay Holocaust Memorial

Pink Triangle

Pink Triangle Coalition

Homosexuals and the Holocaust, an essaie by Ben S. Austin

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Thursday, 26 January 2006

Eye Candy

My blogchild is launching a new blog, appealing to two of the higher instincts of mankind in general and gay men in particular: their stomach and their libido.

The blog, the concept of which I claim full responsibility for, will be dedicated to recipes and pictures of hunky men. I figured out from various observations that this would probably be the surest way to gain high traffic very quickly.

Consider this blog an experiment.

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Behind Brokeback Mountain

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Simon Hughes Finally Comes Out (updated)

Of course for those in the know (and there were probably quite a few of us), this is hardly news but after denying twice in the past few days that he was gay, Simon Hughes, president of the Liberal Democrat party and contender for leadership of his party finally came out today in the Sun.

I suppose technically, and if he really had both heterosexual and homosexual relationships, that indeed doesn't make him gay but rather bisexual. He could probably also argue that, even if he is attracted by men, he does not identify as gay (which can be seen as refering to a very specific lifestyle). In any case, this business is quite different to what recently emerged about another contender for the leadership of the Lib Dem party. While he indeed kept his private life a secret and some can argue lied about it by denying it or some of it, Hughes is not married and doesn't have children; he did not try either to pass himself as a family man.

I think these stories, take us back to some of the themes explored in Brokeback Mountain. The fact that, because of social pressures some people feel the need to live the lie of a heterosexual life when it is not who they are, wrecking in the process not only their own lives but that of their family too. I think there is however a need for understanding. Yes, it is probably not the right way to proceed but if the right wingers did not insist on imposing their views and ways of life on the rest of society by stigmatising gay relationships, there would be no need for people to hide.

I agree with Simon Hughes that "someone's sexual orientation should not be a barrier to public life in modern Britain" and that "that people should have a right to personal privacy". However, in a world where being is still being represented as something negative, out, positive role models are still needed. Being gay in a way makes us political and gives us a duty to stand out and be visible while trying to retain what privacy we can. This is a difficult balance to strike for the most public figures but one which is essential to build a more open and accepting society.

I extend all my support to Mr Hughes, congratulate him his decision and sincerly hope that today's revelations will have no adverse effect on his career, though the press might think otherwise.

Simon Hughes: “I’m bisexual” - Pinknews.co.uk

BBC news website spoof

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Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Bigotted But Not Racist

The tour of Jerry Springer, the Opera is about to open and Christian Voice and their local friends (Action Group Springer) are about to start demonstrating against the show in Plymouth. It seems however that there is an unexpected and unwanted guest to the party: the BNP.

Stephen Green (director of Christian Voice) and his friends are not happy that Graham Green (local BNP man) and his friends should want to join in the fun and help handing out leaflets:
Action Group Springer's leader, the Reverend John Hollins, said he was "horrified" by the BNP's claims.

"I would be appalled to think any of our leaflet distributors were members of the BNP," he said. "They are purveyors of hate and we are purveyors of love. We're Christians.

"I don't go around asking our leaflet people what their political persuasion is.

"They claim they've been supporting us and maybe they hold the same view on this issue but we would repudiate their involvement with us absolutely."
[emphasis added for comic effect]

Of course this is not the first time that “good Christians” have to lie in the bed they have made and are failing to find the bride to their taste. In October last year, members of the Texan anti-same-sex marriage group Texas Restoration Project found that the Klu Klux Klan shared their views and wanted to come and lend support to the demonstration they were organising. Again, a swift ballet of dissociation took place.

I have to say however, that while we might be slightly sceptical in the Texan episode, I tend to believe Christian Voice et al when they say they have nothing to do with the BNP. The proof I will bring to support this, it the picture below. It was taken in January 2005 outside BBC Television Centre at the time when Christian Voice were spearheading the protest against the broadcast of Jerry Springer on BBC2. If the kind reader will take the pain to examine the picture closely, he will no doubt notice that, apart from Stephen Green, the protesters featured in the picture all seem to be members of the black and minority ethnic social group.

I had found this point of interest when I first came across the picture but it now makes obvious the Christian Voice would not want to be seen to be associated with a group notoriously rigid in its views on immigration and ethnic minority (some would say that it is racist). While we don’t know how many members Christian Voice have (they refuse to say), it is, I think, fair to deduce from this picture that a large number of them are of BME origins. They simply cannot afford to alienate them.

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Thames Whale Post-mortem

A (not always in good taste) spoof of the BBC News webpage.

In the latest twist to what was already a fairly ridiculous situation, the results of the post-mortem carried out on the whale spotted in the Thames last firday, tell us that the animal died of...erm... dehydration!

For some reason I can not begin to fathom, the tidbit of worthless news took the imaginations to the extent that hundreds of people gathered to watch the animal being dragged back to the sea. Bloggers, some of them, usually dealing with specific (and totally unrelated) themes blogged about it and I watched, amased as the whale story cropped up in the most unlikely locations of me feed gatherer. The Evening Standard (not exactly renowned for the high standard of its journalism, I have to admit) even published "picture souvenirs" of the event. I, myself find myself blogging about it now.

Call my cynical and cold-hearted (which Slightly would probably (rightly) say I am) but as I said, I don't get what the fuss is all about. There are hundreds if not thousands of whales that get killed every year. Even though this is a protected species, Japan actually hunts them, going against international treaties. No public outcry there, no multitudes demonstrationg. No multitudes either rushing to protest against the ENTIRE SPECIES that get wiped off the face of the planet each year.

It is a sad comment on our media driven society that a story picked up by journalists on a slow day for news should be given such a prominent place while so many other more worthwhile stories don't see the light of day.

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Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Flashing Helmet

On Sunday evening, as ever in the company of Slightly, I was shamelessly patronising that evil posh cafe on Charing Cross Road that replaced a bookshop about a year ago.

Our eyes and minds were slowly glazing over with Sunday evening boredom when suddenly my companion nudged me and pointed at the street just outside the window: "Flashing Helmet," he said excitedly.

In front of us, a man on his (I think white) bicycle, wearing a white helmet and a crown of red flashing lights rushed past. At the back of the bike was some sort of blue plastic crate full of what looked like small, similar looking, plastic bags stanging upright.

We watched in awe. Was it really one of the Prophets?

More on him: here, here and here.

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Elephant subways to be removed

I have said it before: "If I mention to someone that I live near Elephant and Castle, they usually wrinkle their nose and mumble something about a pink shopping centre. The area, after being the victim of the Blitz, had to suffer under the assaults of the developers and still hasn't recovered." Well, they are at it again.

Apart from its depressing visual qualities, the area owes its bad reputation to apparent high levels of crime. I must say that in the three odd years I have lived there, I have never been witness to any crime (touch wood) although I have indeed seen police signs appealing for witnesses after shoot outs and such things.

One of the main features of the Elephant is its subway system which allows people to go from one side of this constent flow of traffic to another. I gather that this is where most of the crimes take place. I have a firm believe that as long as one remains away from those subway passages (especially at night), there is little risks involved in being in the area. There are always so many people around that it seem difficult for persons will dark intensions to go about realising them undisturbed.

Today comes the news, that by May next year, those infamous subway passages will have disappeared. The article informs us that they will be "replaced with pedestrian crossings, allowing people to cross the road at street level for the first time in decades" (the news that people can not cross at street level is a bit of a shock for me as I (and other people I have seen) do it quite often, but never mind).

There also plans to remove the round-abouts (at least the southern one) and to "improve" the local bit of greenery (St Mary’s Churchyard) with a children play area.

These are the first visible stpes of the huge regeneration programme currently led by Southwark Council which will culminate in 2010 with the demolition of the world famous shopping center. The whole project should be finished by 2014.

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Currently Reading - The Master

The Master - Colm Tóibín
The Master by Colm Tóibín

A fictionalised biography of Henry James, shortlisted for the 2004 Man Booker Prize.

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Monday, 23 January 2006

Big Brother and Other Madness

Background to this post:
Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me
Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me - Update 1

I was feeling a bit (and quite stupidly) smug on Friday evening riding the 171 bus on my way home when I got another call from a forth BBLB researcher, surrounded by those people who were probably fans of the show. This call however mark the start of a rather stressful twenty-four hours. It was to confirm that they wanted us on Sunday to sing six or seven ten second segments during Rula's interview.

From there I had to liase with the musical director to sort out the details, including repertoire. There was also an issue with who would take part in the gig. Because BBLB is shot in a small studio, they could not accomodate more than ten people. For quality reason, Charlie (our Musical Director) had said that he wanted to have eight singers (that's two per voice part or section). When we asked for volunteers during the week, we got about ten people responded to the call. Unfortunately most of the were from the lowere sections. This meant a problem of balance. By the time we were on on sunday, I was the only tenor left out of the four there should have been in the group. Charlie and I decided to then ask the Chorus' Small Group to step in and do the gig. Most of the original volunteers were part of the Small Group anyway.

The Small Group is a selection of Chorus members who have been auditioned (the Chorus is an open access organisation and members are only voices tested when they join) and have extra rehearsals to be able to do gigs at the last minute (as a "rapid response task force") but also to do paid fundraising gigs for the Chorus.

After liasing with several people during the whole of Saturday, leaving messages and generally trying to get responses from people who didn't seem to want to respond, I made my way to a performance the Chorus was taking part in with the Pink Singers and Rainbow Voices at the Royal Academy of Music. The RAM should, of course, not be mixed up with the Royal College of Music: different organisations, different purposes and, crucially, different locations. Something I did not quite realised at the time; I ended up in the wrong place, not sure where the other one was or how to get there.

After some walking, waiting for a bus, more walking, a descent in entrails of the tube system (something I only do in cases of emergency these days: I find buses much cheaper and roughly as fast) and some walking again, I ended up where I should have gone in the first place about an hour late. I had by then missed warm up and rehearsal as well as the will to go on stage. I was a bit flustered to be honest, what with kicking myself for being so stupid, making two phone calls regarding the BBLB business on the way and trying to be as quick as possible. I must have looked the part too: Charlie, who only really knows me by sight, actually gave me a hug, saying that I looked like I needed one!

While the show started (with Rainbow Voices), I had a quick meeting with Charlie and Simon (our accompanist) to decide on a possible repertoire before reporting to the researcher. Charlie and Simon had just left the green room when the researcher rang me back, saying the producers of the show felt it was now too late and they would not be able to clear the rights for the song we had suggested. That was it for us. Rula and her agent had ealier agreed enthusiastically as ever to her performing Mad About the Boy with us.

I joined the Chorus where they were waiting to go on stage and broke the news to Simon and then Charlie, who in turn broke it (rather cheerfully) to the chorines.

After that, I felt I had not much else to do or contribute and since (this is my guilty secret) I don't particularly like listening to choral music, I decided to leave. I texted Slightly who informed me his plans for the evening had fallen through too. We decided to meet and the rest is (almost) history.

The decision to use the Small Group sparked some reactions from some of the volunteers. More on this in a later post...


Rula's Secret (aluded to in the previews post) was that she managed to smuggle a phone in the house (apparently in her shoes). If you thought she was spending an inordinate amount of time under her duvet, this is because she was spending that time texting...

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Friday, 20 January 2006

Currently Reading - Talk to the Hand

Talk to the Hand - Lynne Truss
Talk to the Hand, The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life (or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door)
by Lynne Truss

This book was Slightly's present for Christmas... Errr thanks! At least I gave something he wanted!

Is he trying to tell me something there? I wonder.

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Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me - Update 1

Those of you who read yesterday's post and watched BBLB this morning already know that I had a full night sleep instead of being whisked across London in the wee hours.

The researcher from the show rang me again yesterday and explained that because they had to invite an egal number of supporters for each potential evictee, we could not come and plea for Rula to stay in as was originally planned. However, we are still on for an appearance either on the Sunday edition of the show if she gets evicted tonight or later next week, again for the interview with Dermot O after her eviction.

I was told a little secret about Rula in the House last night by someone who has remained in touch with her after the show. I can't say anything though (not until she is out of the House anyway). Sorry.

Watch this space...

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Thursday, 19 January 2006

Big Brother, Rula Lenska and Me

I usually keep my mobile switched off during weekdays; only switching it on after work and at week-ends. Last night when I turned the think on, I had a voice mail from Big Brother. Well from one of the researchers on Celebrity Big Brother's Little Brother (BBLB) anyway.

The 'mad polish countess', Rula LenskaAs some of my readers will be aware, Rula Lenska was hosting the Christmas show of the London Gay Men's Chorus in December. This apparently is the reason why she then got invited to enter the Big Brother House. She was very enthusiastic about our show (she was taking pictures of us backstage with her disposable camera) and she actually joined in the fun; singing and dancing with us. This very much engraciated her with the boys and when she got in the House, there were calls in the Chorus to get out there when she is evicted to support her. As the person in charge of marketing for the Chorus, I contacted the producers of the show to offer the Chorus. Someone from the Chorus managed to find contacts. They passes us on to BBLB and it looks now that we will be on air tomorrow morning (Friday) at 8am as Rula got nominated for eviction last night. I am waiting for another phone call for confirmation of this.

If this goes ahead, we will probably need to be at the studio for 6am, in time for a rehearsal before facing the cameras and the lovely Dermot O'Leary (who, knowledgeable rumour has it, is one of us...) at 8am. Thankfully, because the studio is somewhere in the sticks, we will be chauffeured there (how the other half lives!). The bonus to all this, of course, is some exposure on national TV for the Chorus: not to be sniffed at.

More to come soon, I expect...

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Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Friday, 13 January 2006


Don't worry I can't pronounce that word either. It is the technical term to designate the fear of Friday 13th. No doubt, the witch on the other side would have plenty of interesting things to tell us about this.

As it happens, today is Friday 13th; hence this post. I do not suffer myself of thingummyphobia. I am not generally superstitious. Being superstitious brings bad luck anyway! If I must choose, I prefer to the other superstition (which they have in France alongside that one) that Friday 13th is actually a lucky day. Don't anyone I know come to me and tell me I am a pessimist after that.

I therefore started the day with no particular preconception or expectation. It was just going to be another boring day at the mill. Had I read the first page of this article however, I would have known better! As I was about halfway to work, my bus suddenly made a left instead of going straight on as it should and took us on a scenic and busy route in the general direction of where we were all expecting to go. At some point the bus stopped for quite a while, the traffic not moving. As I was by then fairly close to work I decided to finish my trip on foot. When I got to work (about 30 min later the usual), I was told that a lorry had apparently overturned on the road my bus should have followed.

Appart from that, the day so far, has been a series of small crises, including, 10 min ago, a grown up woman (late 40's) starting to cry in my office before expressing her gratitude to me. The day is still young and there is time for some real excitement yet! Not that am looking forward to it... I am shattered already.

(can you tell I am low on things to blog about at the moment?)

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Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Laying the Blame

Slightly on the other side has been posting in the last few days on a road accident in Wales where four cyclist got killed by a car. The circumstances of the event are not terribly clear but it seems from what I have read on Slightly's blog entries on the subject that no one is truely responsible except perhaps the bad weather. The posts have however apparently started a discussion on blame and responsibility in the comments. I just joined the fray and since my comment was so long that it had turned into a post in itself, I have decided to post it here (I have made a few changes from what I originally posted in Slightly's comments):
I know that you are a keen cyclist and that you have had problems with inconsiderate drivers in the past, however, I do not think you are being very fair here. Your post (and your point of view in general) is, I think, clearly biased towards cyclists and against drivers.

You assume that the driver involved in what happened had no truely justifiable reason to be in his car in that place at the time. Something you don't know if it is true.

But even if that was true, you forget another point just as important.

I am very much aware that we are living in a society where pleasure and instant gratification are increasingly touted as paramount to anyone's well being. However, if we follow the reasoning you are applying to the car driver, the fact that cycling "in bad weather is fun" doesn't not seem to constitute a much better reason to be on the road for the cyclists than getting "some milk" would be for the driver.

What happened IS terrible but I am afraid accidents do happen and it is not always possible to prevent them even by being as highly (and I would contend, as unrealistically) reasonable as you are here requesting people to be. I don't think laying the blame will help in anyway either.

As far as I can see (and I admit that I have only got your posts on the subject to base my opinion), the situation which led to those deaths did not arise from any particularly dangerous or irresponsible behaviour from any of the parties involved. I am also pretty sure that similar situations can be found all over the world on a daily basis without the same terrible results.

I am not saying either that there are no irresponsible drivers. I just don't think that this particular event is the right one to vent your anger against them.

I simply think that what happened is, as they say in France, bad luck's fault.

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Friday, 6 January 2006

The LGBT-est Big Brother Ever

The latest edition of Celebrity Big Brother started last night.

I have for sometime now forsaken the dubuous joys of the small screen, so I did not get to see it but it is, as always, difficult to escape the buzz. When I first arrived in the country, five and a half years ago, I watched the first edition of Big Brother. I did not understand much as my understanding was still limited (I had to watch Eastenders with subtitles) but I rather enjoyed the experience. My feeling is that it has been a long slide downhill since then for the show, as Channel 4 selected more and more brainless people to try and attract the masses.

In its six editions, the show has been quite consistantly gay friendly. The runner up to winning the first was a lesbian, the winner of the second edition was gay and last year's show (I think) saw a transexual entering the house. This year, there were, I think, at least two gay guys in there.

The edition taking place this month, however is quite possibly, the most LGBT friendly however:

* Pete Burns may or may not be gay (he was married) but is certainly transgendered (ie gender bending).
* Michael Barrymore is gay.
* Dennis Rodman likes to indulge in a bit of crossdressing.
* Rula Lenska (although straight) was recently touring with the London Gay Men's Chorus on their Christmas show. If I was a bitch (which, of course, I am not), I would mention here that on the occasion of those concerts, members of the audience were heard refering to Rula as a man in drag...
They even have a boy band member.

It a sad thing however and perhaps a significant comment on the dumbing down Channel 4 has been accused of several times that, after a year where gay people gained the right to "marry", to adopt and protection against discrimination in the provision of services, the selection of LGBT people made by the production team seems more akin to the mostly stereotypical cartoony freaks there to entertain and amuse displayed in the good old days of TV, rather than to a group a visibly well adjusted individuals. Although I suppose it is the name of the game on Big Brother.

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Links to Brokeback

Official website.
Read the short story online.
This is the story as originally published in the New Yorker. It was reworked slighlty by the author for book publication.

Annie Proulx discusses the origins of 'Brokeback Mountain'

“I got juice from the gay love” - Ang Lee on the film.

Three very interesting articles from the Guardian:

Out takes
In this deeply personal essay, gay novelist Adam Mars-Jones asks, has Hollywood finally made a grown-up movie about homosexuality?

Way out west
What's all the outrage about a new gay cowboy movie? The American western has always throbbed with latent homoeroticism, says John Patterson.

Across the great divide
Brokeback Mountain is far more than a gay western. It's a great American love story, writes Rick Moody .

You can read my two review posts here and here.

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Wednesday, 4 January 2006

On the Mountain Again

I know I have already blogged about the film but today, I received an email from the friend who went to see Brokeback Mountain on Friday like me, telling me that he "can't get the romanticism of b/back mountain out of [his] head!".

I have to say that I don't really feel the same. No just a chick flickWhile I still think it is a good film and I find it intellectually very satisfying, perhaps because of its very perfection and utter slickness, I don't seem to be able to actually relate to it emotionally. The two main characters are two rough ranch hands brought up in 1950's middle America and are not expected (neither probably have they been taught) to show their feelings. Indeed the whole film is about how they try to cope with this enormous unexpected thing which has befallen them. Their love for another man. It is therefore quite right for the story to be told from a detached perspective. This however doesn't really allow for identification with the characters' plight, certainly not as much as one could expect from a "weepy".

It is worth pointing out here that, contrary to what extremist Christian groups say about the film in the US, this is not a propaganda film for homosexuality. Rather Ang Lee is exploring the situation, never really taking sides. None of the characters are particularly likeable and all are certainly very humain in their imperfections. One can not help, however, seeing the film to conclude that denying oneself and giving up to social presure against homosexuality will make all people involved suffer (and not just the two men involved). This is perhaps something that could have been dealt with a little more deeply in the film. We are indeed shown the suffering of the wives only superficially. Also, it seems to me that when Ennis' wife (as far as we can tell, a fairly naive young girl, very much of her time and place) stumbles on her husband kissing another man, she would probably not have known what she was looking at and therefore would probably not have reacted the way she does in the film.
You can read more on the moral lessons of the film here

Going back to my point. Yes, you will probably be touched (like I cried) by the sheer force of what you will have witnessed and the effect might stay with you for a while (like with my friend); but the fact is that, however the film is being sold to straight audiences (targetting the "female vote" by modelling the poster on that of Titanic or even creating an alternative, less gay poster which seems to have very little to do with the film), it is by not means a "chick flick". It is a highly complex psychological drama, the layers of which (to take up Ennis' metaphore of the onion) are probably too numerous to be grasped fully. Well worth seeing in any case.

The film is to be released officially in this country on 06/01/06.
Official website.
Read the short story online.
This is the story as originally published in the New Yorker. It was reworked slighlty by the author for book publication.

You can read other posts of mine on the film here and here.

first posted on 03/01/06 - 4.33pm

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