Thursday, 29 June 2006

The Future is Bright (But Cloudy)

I have to admit I am quite excited by this. Surprisingly so. I am about to be connected to broadband at home. Wireless, 8Mb broadband; no less AND it's free!

Carephone Warephone who opened the ostilities a few months ago. While they seem to be struggling a little under their success, other providers are joining in the fun. Orange, my mobile phone provider, are one of the first to do so.
Orange is now offering ‘free’ 8Mbps broadband to new and existing customers who pay £30 or above for a mobile phone package. The package, which is the previous Wanadoo offering also includes the Livebox wireless modem and free evening and weekend calls to local and national landlines using the Wireless & Talk VoIP service.
Surprisingly, I found myself elegible to the deal and promptly signed up. I received a letter of confirmation yesterday and am now eagerly waiting for the techkie bits to arrive.

Please note that I am not yet giving up on my old dial up!

Earlier this week, I heard a report on the World Tonight, that many people signing up to broadband are finding it rather difficult. BT, Tiscali and Bulldog were cited as particularly noticable offenders. Thankfully, Orange (or Wanadoo, which they have just bought up) were not mentioned.

Not that Orange are perfect. I recently upgraded my mobile at an Orange shop. Following this I was suppose to ring Orange to get my new SIM card registered (or something). I dutifully rang them. More than five times now. I even went back to the shop and rang them from there. Everytime they promise me that the transfer will take place within the next 24 hours. It never does. Thankfully, my old SIM card is still working. I am using it in my new phone and if they want things to be in order, they should not count on my to ring them once againg!

The future is bright... but there might be a few clouds on the way...



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Europride is Go!

As mentioned on the other side (with mistakes; see comments), Europride is on its way. The Festival leading to Pride itself started a week ago but for me things really heated up last night.

I was singing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) with the London Gay Men's Chorus and 5 other choirs (City of Brighton Gay Men's Chorus, Rainbow Chorus, Diversity, Pink Singers and Mannenkoorts from the Hague) as part of EuroPride Sings. It was nice for me to return to the QEH since it was where I took part in my first concert with the Chorus, four years ago to the month.

During the week, I will make an appearance on the construction site of the Southwark LGBT Network float for the Pride Parade before spending most of Saturday walking along the said float as a steward. Again marking a four year involvment; this time with stewarding at the Pride Parade.

Finally, on Sunday, I will be back on stage; at the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) this time to take part in EuroPride 2006: The Show. The Chorus has been invited along with a few big name to celebrate the end of Pride and will, notably, be singing Proud, in duet with Heather Small.

Looks like we will also sing a few lines with Elton John for the finale...

Should be fun!

EuroPride 2006 : The Show

A celebration with a purpose raising funds for Pride London's work throughout the LGBT communities in the company of friends, friendly strangers and familiar stars. Produced by Mig Kimpton and directed by sir Ian McKellen.

Those taking part include:
Avenue Q • Alan Carr • Betty Legs Diamond • Chicago • Elton John • Graham Norton • Heather Small • Ian McKellen • Julian Clary • London Gay Men’s Chorus • Mamma Mia! • Never The Bride • Sandi Toksvig • Stephen Fry • Tina C. • Funnygirls

Sunday 2nd July at Royal Albert Hall
Book online or call box office 020 7589 8212

Originally published on 29 June 2006 at 5pm.


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Friday, 23 June 2006

Confusion

Tony Cameron and David Blair (and their respective friends) are developing increaqsingly similar political discourses. Recently they said the same thing in support of civil servants. This morning, I had to take a double take at my radio, when I heard that the "conservatives" (It is getting difficult to give them that name these days) are proposing to give caretaker gay couples the same sort of tax relief as straight couples...

David Cameron, leader of the U.K. opposition Conservative Party, plans to propose simplified tax relief for childcare, including care by friends and family, seeking to promote his party as family friendly.
In a speech to the National Family and Parenting Institute today, he will also say his party may equalize tax treatment for gay couples in civil partnerships with married couples. Bloomberg




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Thursday, 22 June 2006

Midsummer Madness

Yesterday I enjoyed one of the percs of being self employed. I slept all day and didn't go to work.

As ever it is all Slightly's fault. the night before he dragged me to a solstice bike ride:
Wednesday 21 June: Midsummer Madness - dawn of the longest day


Meet: 2am: Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich 

2.30am: South Needle, London Bridge 

3am: Bar Italia, Frith Street 

4am: top of Primrose Hill 4.43am: sunrise! 

6am: breakfast. The Globe Theatre. Bankside.
Summer solstice sunrise on the longest day on the year.


Cafe Italia on Frith Street, 3.30am
Cafe Italia on Frith Street, 3.30am (starring Slightly)

I got to his place at around midnight, and we watched a bit of TV, drank some mint tea and got ready. We arrived at the meeting point about 40 minutes early. Slowly, people started to arrive and by the time we set off there were about 30 of us. We rode to London Bridge to meet another group of about the same number of people and crossed the river in the direction of the West End for a pit stop at Bar Italia on Frith Street where I witnessed fraternisation between a biker and a cyclist (*shudders*).

The crowd was quite varied, including grannies, young couples (both straight and gay), men of all ages; mostly white people but also black and east asian people.

Frith Street, 3.30am
Frith Street, 3.30am

By the time we got to Primrose Hill were we would wait for the sun to rise, it was about 4.20am and it was starting to be light already. The sky was however quite cloudy and soon it started to drizzle. Slightly and I stoically took out a blanket and eat our jam sandwiches while drinking more mint tea, watching as nightly London slowly disappeared in the rain.

As the official time for sunrise (4.43am) neared, other people joined us on the hill presumably not expecting to find about 50 cyclists already there.

There was a distinct hippy feel to the moment. A small group of three young men who had traveled with us were smoking joints while listening to the Doors and the musical version of War of the Worlds.

London from Primerose Hill, 4.20am
London from Primerose Hill, 4.20am

After the sun had official, if not visibly, risen, a smaller group of us made there way to the Globe Theatre on the South Bank for breakfast. I can't say I was exactly impressed by the reception we got there. There was coffee and tea and a few sandwiches but we had to pay for them and they were quite overpriced. We were also confined to the court yard outside the theatre, when somewhere warm with seats would have been most welcome... a good thing it had stopped raining.

On the whole, however, I rather enjoyed the experience. Riding around London at night offers a different perspective and being in a group with virtually no cars around is a new experience too. It was interested to notice, though slightly bewildering, that many people who saw us on the way, thought we were protesters...

Thanks to the ride I have become aware of parts of my body, I had not really been aware of before, although interestingly, my legs are not aching.

Look at Slightly's pictures and read his post on this.


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Tuesday, 20 June 2006

US church elects first woman leader

Don't you just love those people of the Episcopalian Church, the US branch of the Anglican Church?

They seem to be on a crusaid to piss off as many of their bigoted colleagues in the Anglican Church as they can. This also goes for the Catholics. First they appoint a gay bishop and now they appoint a pro-gay woman as their leader. She at the same time becomes the first female primate of the Anglican church.

US church elects first woman leader



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Monday, 19 June 2006

Lesbians are not Homosexuals

From the Advocate, cames this incredible piece of new, that a Judge in the UK has ruled that lesbians are not actually homosexual. There isn't much that can be said in the face of so much ignorance and idiocy. This would almost be funny if the repercussions of such a ruling were not so serious.
An asylum-seeking Ugandan lesbian now in the United Kingdom is being told by a U.K. judge that she will be sent back to Africa because "lesbians are not homosexuals" and that only gay males in Uganda face persecution.
Elizabeth Muhwezi could face deportation to Uganda as soon as Sunday. Muhwezi was set to be deported last week; however, human rights organizations temporarily prevented it. The judge also questioned Muhwezi's lesbian identity because she is a mother.
While living in Uganda, Muhwezi was kidnapped from her home shortly after visiting an underground gay club, according to the British gay rights organization OutRage! She was held for five months at a "safe house," where she was raped and beaten. Uganda is one of the most homophobic nations in the world, according to OutRage!
"I am desperate," Muhwezi said in a statement. "I fled to the U.K. hoping for protection. Now I am in a prison fearful that any moment I will be sent back to Uganda. I am terrified of what will happen to me."
"Elizabeth Must Stay," a campaign fighting Muhwezi's deportation, is rallying U.K. supporters to keep her in the United Kingdom. The Advocate
For More information, visit www.elizabethmuststay.co.uk


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Friday, 16 June 2006

Love and Marriage

"Almighty God created the races, white, black, yellow, Malay, and red and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such [mixed race] marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix,"
This little piece of enlightened rhetoric spouted from the revered lips of Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Leon Bazile in 1958 as he suspended the one year jail sentence against a newly wed mixed race couple; Suspended the sentence, that is, so long as the couple left the state and did not return together for a quarter-century… Talk about activist judges!

Mixed marriages were finally made legal in the US in 1967 after that same couple mentioned above did go into exile to a more liberal part of the country and went to court. This happened 39 years ago, on 12th June; the case was, aptly enough, Loving v. Virginia. The repercussions of this change in the law on the demographics of the country have been significant.

Doesn't the argument sound familiar, though? God (or rather those fortunate enough to be in the confidence) telling us, poor ignorant mortals, what marriage is and should be? Although it seems that, contrary to what we are now being told repeatedly, and following the same reasoning used today, albeit with a different conclusion, marriage was not always simply the union of a man and a woman… A law banning mixed marriages was fisrt passed in Maryland in 1661.

In the light of this week’s anniversary, George Bush’s recent remark that “Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots […]”, takes, I think, a different meaning altogether (although this is obviously not what he would want to say): Clearly that the religious right cannot reconcile itself with the idea of liberating marriage from cultural and religious constraint and simply have it recognised by the state a the caring and loving union of two individuals; that it is something to be regreted and that marriage SHOULD indeed be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots.

Marriage, by its very nature as a human institution, is steeped into cultural and religious contradictions and I don’t think looking back at what the institution has been over the years can help define what it should be in our time. If anything history will tell us that bigotry and religious hypocrisy were as vocal on the subject as it is now. Rather, the state should create the circumstances to liberate the institution as much as possible of any partisan influence. This will certainly not be achieved by restricting it to the union of a man and a woman. If we heed God’s message in the Bible has a duty to go forth and multiply; why not limit marriage to the union of fertile heterosexual couples, since marriage is apparently there only for the bringing up of children?

This story is also a reminder, if one is needed, that racism and homophobia are the two sides of the same coin kept into a brimming purse labelled ignorance.


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Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Diversity: an extra marketing tool

For those interested in my oeuvres, here is an article I wrote about the advantages of including diversity to a company's corporate communication for the blog of the now defunct Design for Diversity:

When uttering the word “diversity” in the corporate world, you find yourself more often than not being directed towards the HR department. And it is true that any drive for wider diversity has seen the emphasis being put for many years now on equality within the workplace and the only external application of diversity for a company is often limited to monitoring the ethnic background and disability or lack thereof of job applicants.

Indeed, there are many consultancies out there ready to help companies with equalities and HR issues; offering training and awareness courses.

The D word however encompasses much more than industrial relations and there is no reason why companies should not take this on board and turn diversity into a marketing tool to expand their customer base. It simply makes good commercial sense.

Accessibility is the obvious starting point. You may have noticed recently in the papers and on the tube a series of adverts for a long-awaited film and its “global partner”. There are different versions of the ad but the main feature is always a typographic piece usually defying reading. This is due to the colours and the typefaces used and not simply because the message is coded. While there are semantic reasons for this to be the case in this context, many people have found themselves frustrated (and therefore possibly antagonised) at not being able to decipher those adverts. For a person without vision restrictions, this is very much a one off incident which can easily be dismissed but also a chance to experience what, for a person with a visual impairment, is another example of a daily occurrence.

This is obviously an extreme example but all too often, the wrong choice of colours or a typeface a little too original can render an ad illegible to millions of people (About two million people in the UK self define (which means that an unknown number of people might choice not to self identify) as having a sight problem or seeing difficulty) (1). A little consideration to make your marketing and corporate communication truly accessible can go a long way. Inclusion (of which accessibility is a part) is, however, the big challenge raised by diversity. A good example of lack of inclusion can be found in the car industry where marketers seem to watch Men and Motors perhaps a little too much. In 2004, Volvo found that 80% of car purchase decisions are influenced by women, yet, most marketing is still very obviously targeted at single white men; cue Pirelli model. Presumably with this in mind, Toyota US, have decided to target women both in what their cars have to offer and with their advertising campaign. The result? Women purchase about 55 percent of all Toyota vehicles and 60 percent of all Toyota passenger cars sold in the U.S.

Major companies now showcase their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on their websites, focusing mostly on the environment. Most of the time, diversity does not seem very high on the agenda; sometimes never even influencing the composition of the board room. CSR obviously offers opportunities for PR and brand building for companies and social inclusion is possibly the single most effective part of this from a marketing and PR point of view because of the very direct impact it can have on people’s life and experience. In addition to the design of marketing campaigns, diversity and inclusion can apply to PR (thinking about accessibility in the organisation of sponsored events, for example) and to all instances of corporate communication (using plain English and accessible typefaces and colours in end of year reports to name but one obvious instance).

Still not convinced? The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) and several other anti-discrimination laws (the anti age discrimination act to be introduced in October this year or the bill looking at preventing discrimination in the provision of goods, access and services currently under consultation, to name but two) should prove a further incentive for companies. Many companies are not aware, let alone ready for these laws which they have or will have to comply with whether they like it or not. In March of this year, the Department for Transport ruled that South West Trains could not longer benefit from an exemption from the Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 1998 for the size of the letters on their on-board information system which did not comply with these regulations. This meant that the company had to withdraw 28 trains from the network before their normal end of life. It would have cost £750,000 to install new information screens.

It is important to not to see these new laws as problems but rather chances for best practice and to remember that by embracing diversity more widely, companies could not only save money but actually develop their market shares. Marketing and PR are after all about getting a message across to as many people as possible.

(1) Estimate derived from the Government Disability Survey conducted by the Department of Social Security in 1996/7. Source: RNIB


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Monday, 12 June 2006

Recently Read

My not updating this blog for the past month or so, means that my reading list has not been updated either. Here is a quick catch up in no particular order:

* Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel, Pierre Seel
* The Folding Star, Alan Hollinghurst
* Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
* Maître Mussard's Bequest, Patrick Süskind
* Hallucinating Foucault, Patricia Duncker
* Stop Stealing Sheep and find out how type works, Erik Spiekermann & E.M. Ginger
* Tommy's Tale, Alan Cumming
* Le pape des escargots, Henry Vincenot
* Tea With Mrs Goodman, Philip Toynbee
* Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
* Tolkein's Gown, Rick Gekoski
* Self-made Man, Norah Vincent
I have also started to read (slowly) Antes que Anochezca (Before Night Falls) by Reinaldo Arenas, in Spanish...

Not bad for just under two months, I guess.

CURRENTLY READING:


The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood




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Saturday, 10 June 2006

A New Sound

The newly re-opened window on the summery heat is bringing new sounds to my little nest of a room. Many sounds have become familiar companions which have receeded into the background: sirens, distant traffic hum, a few rare birds, helicopters, at night, the sighs of the Bakerloo line trains as they come to rest or leave to work, school children during the day, the odd unidentified banging. A couple of days ago, what I assumed to be new neighbours where playing Bee Gees songs quite loudly. This morning, as the day is already heavy with the promise of the heat to come later, a different chant wafted in: a soft, almost apologetic, monotonous chant, rusty with the harsh sounds of the arabic language, slightly distorted by the speaker it was coming through, sang to me of early prayer, of a different, for me rarely heard, experience, of another face, a bearded and dignified one, of our beloved London.



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Thursday, 1 June 2006

The Prodigal Returns

I know I have been terribly remiss. It has been now over a month since I have posted here. Slightly has even received complaints, apparently!

My apologies therefore to those of you who are still bothered after such a show of callous indifference.

As you may remember, I have left my (horrible, accursed, boring, stultifying) job at the Local Council where I had been working for four and a half years. This to join a new venture (notice the .eu website) with Slightly and a few other people. Since then time has taken a new evanescent quality heretofore never attained. Although I do not have the impression to be working at all, the days just fly by like a gaggle of drag queens in a Saturday night in Soho: barely looked at and disappeared in a flash with no memory of the event.

My stint at the Council was wound up on Friday 21 April by a short presentation where I received the traditional signed card, a few book tokens, a box of mints and a bottle of Champagne, as well as the best wishes of my current and previous managers. After work, some people joined me at (read: "dragged me to") the Castle, a local pub in Camberwell for a few drinks. I was pleased to say that the event was patronised by celebrity. Craig Doyle, the hunky BBC presenter graced the place with his lovely person. He was there with two friends. This was the occasion of an impromptu and not very discrete camera phone photo session, the drunk results of which you can see below.

Craig Doyle at the Castle, Camberwell
There is even a short video in existence taken by my soon no longer to be and already a little gone (so to speak) manager. Infortunately, it doesn't seem to play on computers (in 3gp format, if that is any help).

The evening apparently ended with some girl on girl action, but I was already safely home by then and my innocent eyes were spared these unsightly proceedings.

On Tuesday 25th, I started work in "sunny" Croydon, where we are temporarily based. Since then the only major events have been the Chorus' concert at the Cadogan Hall, which went down quite well and, on the morning of the same day, a fun, free day discovering London. This was in honour of the delegates of Legato, the umbrella organisation for gay and lesbian european choirs. They were in town to decide which city would be hosting the 2009 edition of the Various Voices Festival. The Chorus were spear heading the bid and Design for Diversity was sponsoring it. London was the winning city. You can read more about the day and the bid here.

Other than this, we have been working on the final details of setting up the company and started to contact potential clients. Nothing has really happened yet but the prospects are very encouraging and it is only a question of time...