Saturday, 30 September 2006

Fantasy on a Theme

11.40 pm.

I close the front door and shut off the world, climb up to my room and here I am, survivor of yet another attack of bad luck. Tonight was the scene of another low in my already subterranean track regard with strangers. I am sure some scientist of the extreme will find it some day and hail it as the missing link in the evolution of protozoa into amoeba. Or something charming like that.

Location: Village bar, Soho (very gay bar in a very gay part of town)
Time: 9pm, Friday night in the lull between the ebb and the flow of two waves of customers.
Characters: Two men in their early thirties, meeting for the first time, although they have been in contact electronically for about a year. The meeting was a last minute arrangement made earlier in the day.
Duration: 75min approx.

Surpringly we managed to find a seat (near the open Fench window on the street) and I was instructed to go and sit while (let's call him) PSJ went to the bar to order drinks. He came back with 3 classes, including two of wine (one red and one white) for himself. Conversation, I may be so ambitious as to call thus the trickle of sounds we emitted sporadically in turn, (very) laboriously ensued from there, in-between my man disappearing to the toilets (three times! including twice in a row because he forgot the first time that he had gone there specifically to put drops in his eyes because of his lenses and had to go back!), to use his phone outside away from the din (twice) or to go and buy cigarettes across the road. Much checking out of the attending crowd also occured from both parties.

At one point at notice a very middle class Japanese couple edging their way hesitantly along the crowed bar to finally come to rest a few seats from us. The woman picked up a few magazines (sadly not the gay bar-rags) abandoned on her seat while the man went to order. I was observing furtively for the moment of realisation as to where they were but either they already knew or they remained totally blind to what was going on around them.

After about 50 min of this, the group of 7 or people men who were sitting on the other side of the door, got kick out of their corner but management who started to set up a till for when they start charging people to come in at 11pm. The group seeing plenty of space in our area, decided it would be a good idea to henceforth launch a prehemptive attack (now perfectly allowed in international jurisprudence. thanks George and Tony!) and to invade our little haven of misery. Soon we were surrounded, almost trampled, introduced and as smoked out as foxes on the last ever day of the fox hunting season.

Soon after this, good manners shortly reasserted themselves (unless it was simply good old fashioned bitchyness rejoicing) and my companion and I were asked separately and in turn if what had been barged upon and battered by the virtual handbags of impudence was in fact a date. We each decided, again separately, to disappoint our questioners and tell them we were just friends (which was already starting to look quite ambitious an appelation by then).

The apparent sigh of relief having barely been expelled from the (probably poisonous) lips of the man questioning PSJ, than the latter was pronounced very handsome by the former. Again, manners and bitchyness are the protagonists of the unsettled struggle to decide what prompted Former to quickly turn towards me and to add placatingly: "oh, and so are you, so are you!"... I looked the other way and pretended not to hear in a desperate attempt to spare our stumbling dignities.

Although I had hinted earlier that perhaps it would be good to move on, PSJ had decided he wanted to stay and had gone bought himself another drink. By then the cigarette smoke was starting to get at me. PSJ had gone off into one of his expeditions and I was, surprisingly perhaps, praying for him to come back so that I could ask for mercy and a swift departure. When he finally came back, the same person who a few minutes earlier was telling me that he sees a therapist because he is claustrophobic, responded to my request for fresh air but asking to stay until he had finished his drink. I started to cough. He lit up and pointed out to me (twice, I think) that we were really lucky to be next to the open window; imagine what it would be like if we were over there. Gesturing towards the centre of the bar.

Stupidly well behaved and polite son of my mother that I am, I agreed to this, only to grab my things a few seconds later and making a mad rush for the door, mumbling something insincere about keeping in touch online and how nice it was to meet you.

I walked home, thoughts of self-pity, martyrdom and and eternal celibacy whirling madly in my air-starved mind.

As you probably won't have noticed, my aim was to make this post funny or at least vaguely amusing, but the whole story is so pathetic that even if I had the sense of humour of Jerry Lewis at the height of his (imaginary! take note my american readers) successful career in France, I would not be able to extract a smile out of Jane Birkin with it.

Let's face, I am like my life, anyway: not funny.

PSJ might be reading this blog. He could technically easily have found his way to it, should he have been bothered at some point, should he have been the type. Somehow, I don't think he is the type to bother and, to be honest, I don't feel like being it either tonight. We are even.

Apologies for yet another self-pitying moan... I needed that and that is what this blog is for!

Tomorrow is another drag!



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Friday, 29 September 2006

St George and the Flag

An Apology... of sort.

My recent post on St George has somehow found itself linked to in a news item on the blog of the Campaign for an English Parliament. This has generated a couple of comments.

One of them, while I understand that it was possibly not very nice, was certainly quite inarticulate and I therefore was not able to reply to it. The other reacted to my affirmation that the nationalist right wing had highjacked St George's flag and insisted that this was only a media driven perception of the situation.

This is where I have to apologise I think. I like to try and be fair and I think that in my hurry to get to the quirky bit of news that post was all about (that St George is the Bridegroom of Jesus and therefore could potentially be the patron saint of same-sex unions), I produced a rather shoddy bit of writing and rather caricatured St George's fans.

I would say however that when the perception of people claiming allegeance to St George might be media driven, a generalisation and not the one some of them would profer, it is how the general public views them. To be fair their has been a move in the past few years, from more main stream members of the public (read: not the National Front or football hooligans) to reclaim the flag and clean it of all the drit that was covering it (so to speak).

At the end of the day, nationalist flag waving individuals make me rather nervous; nationalism having a worrying and recurrent tendency to turn into xenophobia, with disastrous consequences. At a time when human beings from around the world are growing ever closer (despite the wars), when Europe is about to celebrate its 50th birthday (next year), I find it contradictory and difficult to understand, to say the least, to see people turning back on themselves and indulge in what appears to me to be small minded isolationism.

I am happy to be proven wrong. I am just not sure that I am.



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"Homophobia is Gay"?!?!?

I have just been helping Slightly put in English this letter to newspapers I wanted to send. I thought I would share it with you, as these are my views too.



I recently came across a press release for the new Liberal Democrats Youth and Students group anti-homophobia campaign called "HOMOPHOBIA IS GAY". Enclosed were badges bearing that same slogan, and A5 leaflets asking people to sign a petition against homophobic bullying at school.

As a member of the LGBT community, I find this a very praiseworthy initiative.

As a communications consultant, however, I have to point this out as a very badly thought out slogan. At best, it sends a conflicting message (isn’t “homophobia” a sort of contrary to “gay”?). At worst it re-enforces the current trend that the word "gay" refers to something “bad” or “naff”.

Following the recent controversy around a BBC presenter's use of the word "gay" in accordance to some apparently justifiable new meaning of the word in playgrounds, the LGBT community has attempted to reaffirm the word’s positive meaning and highlighted the homophobic undercurrent attached to the new usage. This campaign goes squarely against this grass-root movement.

I decided to contact Mark Gettleson, the chair of 'Liberal Democrat Youth & Students', who is responsible for the campaign. Despite my own questions on this, and his acknowledgment that he has received several calls on the subject, he still saw no reason for offence. He insisted that his message is that “Homophobia is wrong and needs to be stopped in schools."

I raised the point that the badges said nothing like this but simply that "Homophobia is Gay". The reply was that it is a satirical statement and that whoever gets a badge will be handed a flyer; flyer, which in my view, does not alleviate the negative meaning given to the work gay by the badge. Presumably people are expected to wear both to ensure that the message comes across as the Lib. Dems intend it.

Satirical or not, the message thus sent to children in schools is, I think, irresponsible and will comfort them in their assumption that “gay” and, by extension, anything that is gay, indeed has a negative connotation and that it is ok to use the word in that way. This is obviously not ok.

If a campaign was ever needed to encourage homophobic taunts and isolation, "Homophobia is Gay" would be a good starting point.

Tony Malone
Design and Communications Consultant
Design for Diversity
Some people might say that this is all about semantics and that this discussion is therefore irrelevant to the aim of the campaign. I think semantics have a huge importance. It is, after all, with the creation of the word Homosexual in the 19th c that proper systematic discrimination started. This also gave raise to the gay liberation movement.

Associating the only positive term to describe who we are with a negative connotation is not going to help anyone. Especially not a kid who is trying to make sense of what is happening to him in an adverse environment.

Quibbling over a word is of course not going to stop homophobia but it is one step in the right direction among many other. I think this campaign is targetting liberal minded people who haven’t thought much about the issues involved and will think the message on the badges is cool because it use "youth speak". It has obviously been created by the same people it is targetting whithout much consideration.

More details on the campaign here.



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Thursday, 28 September 2006

In the Name of the Father

Update
The Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association has learned that an evangelical Christian politician, Rev George Hargreaves, the leader of Operation Christian Vote, a fundamentalist Christian political, will be seeking a private prosecution of members of the Gay Police Association in relation to this. Link.

At the same time, we learn that Stephen Green has been cleared of the public order charges after handing out anti-gay leaflets, but now plans to take civil action against the police for infringing on his freedom of speech. Link.




In the last 12 months, the Gay Police Association had recorded a 74% increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator. -- Verbal abuse and physical assault against gay men and women is a criminal offence and should always be reported to the police. -- Discrimination against gay people is the workplace is also unlawful and should be reported to employers, who have a duty of care to prevent it. -- Homophobia can never be justified and must never be tolerated.
Gay campaigners have welcomed the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today that the Gay Police Association (GPA) will not be prosecuted for a controversial advert linking religious statements to homophobia.
[...]
The protests against the ad were led by Christian Voice whose leader Stephen Green faces trial on Thursday for public order offences after handing out homophobic leaflets at this year's Cardiff gay pride.
Further details @ pinknews.co.uk.

www.report-it.org.uk

Place your cursor over the picture or click on it to read the text.

Originally published on 26 September 2006, 2.10pm

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Letters from Guantanamo - Sami al-Hajj

Letters From Guantanamo, presented by Gavin Esler was broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Wednesday 27 Sept 2006, repeated Saturday 30 Sept 2006. Listen to the programme here (40MB Mp3 file, 43 min).
Guantanamo Bay is the world's most controversial prison, the heart of George Bush's "war on terror".

Over the past few months the BBC has obtained access to the biggest cache of letters to come out of Guantanamo from someone still detained there.

He is known to the Americans as Enemy Combatant Prisoner 345, Camp Four, Guantanamo Bay.

His employers - the Arab TV station Al Jazeera - call him Sami al-Hajj, a cameraman who was picked up on the Pakistan-Afghan border almost five years ago.

And his young son Muhammad, who is just six years old, hardly knows him at all.

'Abuse'

Sami's story emerges in his own words, through the letters he has sent out and which have been through the US censorship process.

Here's a flavour:

"Who are these people who are held in cages not even fit for wild animals? How do these humans live?"

"The Prophet Jonah lived inside a whale - and Moses lived in a coffin. So, I have to force myself to think that these Guantanamo cells are only for those who are strong, and those who have the will to adopt the path of the prophets.

"If I have to stay all my life in these cages, let those who inflict this on me do what they wish, but I feel that I am living the life of a king."

Sometimes the letters are moving, sometimes shocking, sometimes merely recounting the tedium of his life.

Throughout, they are impossible to corroborate.

Sami claims he and other prisoners are beaten and that medical treatment is used as an inducement to cooperate with the interrogators - the US authorities strongly deny this.

But the Americans will not say why Sami is being held or why he has been interrogated more than 130 times.

They have not charged him with any offence, he has not been tried, he has not been sentenced - and therefore he has no hope of one day being freed, except at the whim of those holding him.

It is possible Sami could be some kind of terrorist.

But in months of talking to his family, relatives, lawyers, former detainees, and US sources including the commander of Guantanamo Bay, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, we have found absolutely no evidence which would suggest Sami is anything other than what he claims - "a man of peace."

'Asymmetrical warfare'

Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't any.

Rear Admiral Harris is adamant that the people in his care are well looked after and are enemies of the United States.

He told me they use any weapon they can - including their own urine and faeces - to continue to wage war on the United States.

The suicide of three detainees, he reaffirmed to me, amounted to "asymmetrical warfare."

The letters undeniably show there is a struggle between inmates and those holding them.

In one letter Sami imagines cells like those at Guantanamo at the foot of the Statue of Liberty: "Inside there are creatures wearing orange clothing. It hardly seems possible that they are human (but) they breathe, just like we breathe, they have feelings just as we have feelings, sentiments and emotions..."

"Will one day the world stand for a moment of silence beside that colossal wreck saying, 'there used to be a stone statue here - a statue called Liberty?"
Gavin Esler, BBC.


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PeaceOUT UK

PeaceOUT UK is Europe’s first gay hip-hop festival.

Friday the 20th October 2006

The DiTch Bar
145 Shoreditch High Street
London E16JE

www.peaceoutuk.com


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Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Currently Reading - Death in Venice

Death in Venice - Thomas Mann
Death In Venice and other stories by Thomas Mann



A collection of portraits where most people will recognise a bit of themselves, or a lot, as I did already with Tonio Kroger... The title story about an older man falling in love with an adolescent and loving him from afar, is, of course, one of the classics of gay literature.


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Claiming St George

St George, as patron of England and all its flag waving morons (most of them are, let's face it), has, for the past few years, been highjacked by football fans (mostly) and the nationalist far right.

This morning was presumably a news starved day. Not wanting to annoy people any further with the Brown/Blair saga, the Today Programme had a short slot (listen here (4.88Mb Mp3)) with Clive Paine, some pernickety local historian, defending BBC Radio Suffolk's decision that St George is ("foreign",) not English enough and should be replaced as patron saint of the country with St Edmund, forgetting in the process that there is very scant evidence of dear George's existence anyway.

This choice of St Edmund, whose sole claims to fame seem to be "a home-grown, defender of the homeland, saint" and to have (unsuccessfully) fought the invading Danes (like the BNP is now fighting the invading immigrants, one can't help but think), does not strikes me as the most judicious and the most conducive of social cohesion.

Dr Sam Riches, a cultural historian at Lancaster University, was talking too. She mentioned a very interesting, little known and rather amusing small detail about St George. In the Coptic tradition, St George is called the "bridegroom of Jesus" (The quotes in this page are from The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappodocia: The Coptic Texts, E. A. Wallis Budge, (London: D. Nutt, 1888), p282 and 320-321)). This, in turn, has moved some people to call for the Saint to become the patron saint of Civil Partnerships (and other same-sex forms of matrimony, I would imagine).

Something, I am sure, St George's jingoistic fans would not quite agree with, just like the fact that he is also recognised by the Islamic and Judiac traditions.

Further comments from me here:
St George and Flag - 29 September 2006



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Monday, 25 September 2006

Liberating Books

Spending time outside of London, away from civilisation, brings out the worst in certain persons. You'll need to follow that link and read the post if you want to understand what follows.

Yes, it is me in the picture but I was only LOOKING at the books. Slightly, on the contrary "liberated" two of them AND it was his idea in the first place.

Ok, I admit I just didn't find anything I found interesting.

The reassuring thing is that, considering the (pungent) quality of the punters of the place, the staff would probably never imagine that anyone would be interested in...erm..."liberating" any of those dusty old things on the shelves.

The Churchill first edition (Painting as a Pastime) Slightly picked up is probably worth about £30 though... Not bad for £5.50 for two meals outing!

There are three more shelves for us to explore...



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Saturday, 23 September 2006

The Pope and the Muslims

hypocrisy
Last week, the "Muslim world" rallied in anger against Pope Benedict XVI and forced him to apologise for comments he made the week before about the relation between violence and Islam during a speech (edited version) he made in a German university. Death threats against the Pope, attacks on Churches, burning of effigies of the Pope, his being equated to Mussolini and Hitler and the killing of nun and her bodyguard followed.

In my mind this “incident” around what the Pope said is like the one surrounding the Mohammed drawings earlier this year: politically orchestrated by people in the "Muslim world" who have an interest in keeping the animosity against the western world alive. The fact that it took a month and a visit by local Muslims to the Middle East to start the cartoons crisis seem to indicate this.

It only took a few days in the Pope's case but the fact that there is a delay seems conclusive that some sort of manipulation is happening (I also think that the people rioting are not monitoring the world press for obscure negative comments on their religions in foreign countries and languages…)

What I don’t quite get in this instance (the situation is basically the same with the cartoons) is that SOME muslim people reproach the Pope to have said that Islam is violent (something he does not seem to have done anyway). They do this violently. Why, then, do they find what they think is the Pope’s statement offensive? It would seem to coincide precisely with their view of Islam…

Originally published on 21 September 2006, 1.57pm.


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Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Posts You Won't Read

Here are the posts to this blog I could have written, had I not been such a lazy bugger. In consequence, you will only be able to read samples of them. I can hear a general sigh of relief.

Tomato Teaser
Monday 18 September

This afternoon, I attended a photoshoot for one of Slightly's projects. About a year ago, he launched a blog mixing food recipes and pictures of hunky guys. The blog has since been so successful, that he decided to pitch it to a publisher. The shoot is part of the process of creating the proposal. This involved £20 worth of tomatoes (about 4/5 kilos), a semi-naked man (complete with tatoos), a photographer and the inevitable hangers-on.

Below is a short video of the shoot:



Thames Festival Fireworks
Sunday 17 September

This week-end was Ken's Thames Festival. It involved, some sort of fun fair on the South Bank, and performances. There was also a night Carnival, which for me mostly meant delays for the bus I was on coming from Regent's Park from a picnic with a few Tenors 1 from the Chorus. (pictures available here)

In the evening I attended the traditional fireworks on the river from Waterloo Bridge. Someone I seem to have managed to see most of them (often by pure chance) since I have been in London. When this year's edition was finished (and a bit before that, if I am honest), Slightly and I looked at eacher and almost burst out laughing. The display had been so bad we wondered if Ken had had a discount at his local corner shop. I am pretty sure I saw better shows at my parents' tiny village when I was a kid.

Gaddafi: A Living Myth
Friday 15 September

About two years ago, on the Today Programme, I heard a few bars of the forthcoming ENO piece by Asian Dub Foundation. It sounded great and the chosen subject matter, Colonel Gaddafi, seemed rather intriguing. Since then, I had been on the look out for the production.


As you can imagine, I really wanted to like this but already the reviews I had of it had prepared me for desappointment. The music, as expected was great (you can download a track from the show on the ENO website and the production was quite good, although perhaps a bit stark by ENO's high standards. The actors were quite good too. The libretto was really the problem. The story line was not very clear moving back and forth in time as if in a linear way. The text, in rhymes, sounded rather bad.

The show did not go deep enough into Gaddafi's character and the whole thing lacked pace. Everything seemed on the same level of hightened aggression; there almost no respite. The music could have also been given a more central place, not being used simply as a soundtrack. A missed opportunity but definitely worth the try.

London Gay Men's Chorus in Turin
Thursday 14 September

Yesterday afternoon, I got back, quite tired, from that trip to Turin with the London Gay Men's Chorus.

The organisation and generosity of the organisers was quite astonishing compared to the self catered way of doing things the Chorus is used to. The show went incredibly well (pictures, video stream (Windows media player) and podcast (10.9 Mb Mp3 file - 7 min 46 sec). The audience loved us, we did what is one of our best ever performances, and got loads of PR (local papers (here and here; in a third paper too) and TV).

The show was reviewed (several critics were spotted taking notes but only this review has been traces so far). We also were officially received by the City of Turin and Pride organisers in one of the city's buildings (pictures). We were also billed as the main attraction for the opening of a new gay venue. Those were pretty intense few days however, trying to fit in the rehearsals, the performances and the sight-seeing. A link to my pictures has already been posted on this blog.

To be honest, I found Turin rather monotonous. In the centre of town, the buildings all look more or less the same; probably the reason why so many people compare it to Paris. Historically, it is rich and very interesting but for the city-boy that I am, it all felt very provincial despite its million inhabitants. The fact that most shops and restaurants are closed on Mondays and even more on Sundays does not help that feeling.



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Saturday, 16 September 2006

Ashley Cole - update

It seems that old stories on this blog are coming to haunt me today (see previous post). Do you remember this?

It seems that there won't be a trial after all. I haven't heard from the lawyers again, so I rather thought that much. Apparently, Mr Cole and the papers involved came to some sort of (financial) agreement.



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Friday, 15 September 2006

My Second Film

Remember this? If you didn't believe me, check THIS out (10.5Mb Quicktime file). You kinda need to know what I look like to "enjoy" that, I agree...

poster


Well, it looks like the whole thing is now finished and with a website. You can see the site and view the trailer at: www.theplansofman.com.

My first reaction after seeing the trailer, however, is: "ok I know all I needed to know, why should I bother to go and see the film?"....



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Thursday, 14 September 2006

Back in Business

The London Gay Men's Chorus at Settembre Musica, Turin

I am back in London after a good if tiring trip. I will try and post more in the next few days. In the meantime, you can see some of the 240 or so photos I took during my three days in Turin by clicking on the picture above.

Enjoy.



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Friday, 8 September 2006

Chi Di Verde...


He who dresses in green is confident of his beauty (Italian saying on the Chorus tour T-shirt).


I am currently away with the Chorus. Normal services will resume after our return from Turin (Wednesday 13th).


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Thelondonpaper Worse Than a Tabloid

On tuesday, I blogged about the two new free evening papers in London, telling how I thought thelondonpaper was better, in my view than London Lite.

It seems that the "bloodbath" is still going on on the streets of London. On Wednesday night I once again found myself on a bus to rehearsal with the Chorus and if anything there seem to be more people handing out free papers (both titles) than there were on Monday. A witness to this was the state of the upper of the bus home!

I dutyfully picked up a copy of each paper to see whether my observation of the other day were still holding. Just like a swallow doesn't make spring, an issue obviously does not make a newspaper. I have to say, London Lite did not disappoint. It is just as bad but then again, this is the result of years of experience. The recipe is tested and in no danger of dilution.

Tabloid: thelondonpaperI was not so pleased by what thelondonpaper was offering, however. Two days had been enough to turn it into a parody of its rival, it seems. It still looks classier but it seems that the editor has chosen the lowest common denomitator rather than try and raise the debate, however slightly. As a result, both papers carried the same picture on the front page (the cover of the latest Vanity Fair) highlighting (just like the Evening Standard) the highly newsworthy fact (!) that Tom Cruise's daughter does actually exist. That picture being the proof, apparently.

What really irked, however, was the impressive example of bad journalism and writing which shared the front page with the aforementioned picture.

"'Pervs' lurk in the square" shouted the title in bold capital letters. Followed an article so biased and of so little substance in its attempt to scare people that even the Sun would probably not have published it.

I could also mention something called "Hair apparent. Has Blair Been to the Bleach?"...

Then next day, still in thelondonpaper, we were treated to "Hi-tech Peeping Toms, 'upskirting' menace"... and 'My pants became web fodder’...

The cover story today is "London's 'Cocaine epidemic' by the same Hannah Summers.

Just pass me a book, will you?!



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Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Caught in the (Gay) Act

One of the members (who was obviously bored at work) spotted this bootleg clip of the Chorus rehearsing, on YouTube. We (yes, I was there) were doing a last minute rehearsal before our performance at the Royal Albert Hall for Europride 2006, The Show on 02 July 2006.


Another member commented on this:
There's nothing more beautiful than when a voyeur stumbles upon a gardenful of exhibitionists. What a shame this girl's
commentary isn't transcribed - some of it is priceless (particularly their fondness for "the biker guy" wearing a "wifebeater".)

My chief memory of that very fun afternoon rehearsal was watching tour buses go by and wildly point their cameras in our direction, and the old people who stopped to listen to us and smiled appreciatively - then backed away in horror and shooed the small children away as they learned of our slightly less G-rated intentions.
Also spotted, a fleeting glance of the Chorus float during the parade at Pride, the day before.


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Stephen Green Arrested

From MediaWatchWatch we learn that Stephen Green, the National Director of the infamous Christian Voice, was arrested last week-end during Cardiff Mardi Gras.

While I am pleased to see that Christian Voice should have recently disappeared from the BBC's radar (I like to think due to things like this), and also that they are recognised for the homophobe that they are, I have to say I am slightly concerned by this arrest.

Stephen Green is, despite what he claims, no friend of freedom of speech (He was at the origin of the furore when the BBC tried to broadcast Jerry Springer the Opera, trying to ban it) and I certainly don't like what he has to say. I had a very quick look at the leaflets (pdf file) he was arrest for distributing. The leaflets are a re-iteration of what the Bible has to say about same-sex (with the Christian Voice slant, of course). On the whole, however, the text is much milder and sounds much more sensible than Green's usual rethoric. It is interesting to note that David and Jonathan have been forgotten as examples of same-sex love. In the end, I only see someone expressing his views, here.

As I said, not a view I share but I don't think that opposition to this man's views is an excuse to turn into what he is: someone who can not abide options different from his own.

Now that he has been arrested, Mr Green can become a martyr to his cause. I much better way to fight him and his narrow minded friends is to speak out as loud as they do, confront them when they are being disingenuous and general show people that we are not as different or bad as they might think we are.

Find out more about Green's exploits here.



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Tuesday, 5 September 2006

thelondonpaper V London Lite

thelondonpaper V London LiteThe big news item in London for the past few days is the "bloodbath" started on the city's pavements and stations between the two new free afternoon newspaper. On my left, London Lite, produced by the people (Associated Newspapers) behind the Evening Standard, the Metro and the, I think now defunct, Standard Lite. On my right, Thelondonpaper, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp's latest.

Yesterday was the launch of thelondonpaper, an event which had been preceeded in the past two weeks or so by a ad campaign on on bus stops around the capital. The ads features a the body of a black man or a woman in purple work clothes, holding a sign with a selection of slogans such as "We Live London", "Life Starts at 4.31" and the most interesting one from an LGBT perspective: "Wall Street - Old Compton Street".

Yesterday evening, was first day back at school for the Chorus and I dutyfully found myself on a bus crossing central London just after rush hour. I found a copy of London Lite on offer when getting on the bus, so that was easy. From my ventage point on the upper deck of the bus, I could see people dressed in purple every 100 metres distributing copies of thelondonpaper but I only got to glimpse at someone else's copy. I did not manage to get a copy myself until I found one abandoned on the bus home later that night. I was going to be able to see what the fuss was all about and compare the new offerings.

Before I go any further, I have to confess my long held contempt for the Associated Newspapers' set of publications. Writing the post is, partly, a way to vent this contempt. Those papers are now little more than tabloids with very little news in them and exhaustive (and exhausting) articles on who was wearing what at this or that premiere last night in the West End; all of this sprinkle with a few quirky news from some remote parts of the world. My regular encounters around town with the placards displaying the Standards' headlines, regularly leaves me fuming at their obviously sensationalism and even sometimes clear attempt at misguiding people. Let's just add that the word "chaos" seems to be one of the most frequently used words on these signs.

London Lite was therefore not given a headstart in my views. Its name, to be honest, is not help either; "lite" suggesting something without substance and of lower quality. On the day of the release of the new competition, they carried a full self promoting page title "London Lite, the capital's FIRST free evening paper" (there have been claims that the paper was rushed to appear before its competitor), which included testimonies of londoners (who had not seen the other paper yet) saying why they like "their newspaper" and an exert boasting that the paper with printed with ink that "WON'T rub off on our hands" (the paper's emphasis in both cases).

the winner: thelondonpaperOn the whole the paper looks messy with "boxes" and bits of information all over the place; it is also not easy to define what is about what. Their seems to be a lot of trash/celebrity stuff and little "serious" news, all of it with a sensationalist, crowd-scaring tone to them (terrorism, murders and David Cameron's £600,000 home conversion). Did I mention the bad, bland jokes on most pages?

thelondonpaper on the other hand has a much clearer, classier design and is divided into sections which make the information easy to recognise and classify. There seems to be much more news in it and of better quality. There is also some much less serious stuff however and I am certainly not saying that this paper is perfect. On the whole, the paper as almost a magazine feel to it and I do think that it will appeal to its target audience; the 18-34 yo London urbanite.

At the end of the day, though, I find that papers are a waste of time. I would much rather pick up a good book.


On the frontline of the free-for-all, Stephen Brook, The Guardian, August 28, 2006 (includes links to previous articles on the subject)



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OMW


I was the outcast, the misfit, the weirdo.
I was the kid at school reluctantly chosen
(last) by the team.
The one called "the girl" by the other boys
because I did prefer playing with the girls.
The one who wore home-knit jumpers.

When I knew how to read,
I took refuge in books;
living other lives
in other worlds, in other times,
in the darkness of my room.
I missed living my live in the meantime.
I missed learning to live.

I am the outcast, the misfit, the weirdo.
The one who can't talk to people,
who doesn't know how to.
The one people don't talk to
(not for long) anyway.
The one who doesn't appeal to the men he fancies
and who would probably not find them appealing.

I will remain the outcast, the misfit, the weirdo.
Always.
Alone.


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Andiamo Torino

The London Gay Men's Chorus has been invited to take part in the prestigious international music festival Settembre Musica in Turin, Italy. Sharing the bill with us at the festival are Peter Maxwell Davies, the London Sinfonietta, Les Ballets C. de la B., the Philharmonia Orchestra, Les Arts Florissants, the London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic, amongst others.

We will be spending 4 days in Turin, as of Sunday and will be performing on the 12th at the Auditorium Giovanni Agnelli Lingotto (a 2000 seater, apparently more or less sold out already). We will also have a chance to visit the city and I think an after-show party is being organised.

Expect pictures when I come back.



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Friday, 1 September 2006

Catholic Church is at it Again

We learn today that Mario Conti, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, has spoken out in support of nine scottish firefighters who had been disciplined for refusing to hand out leaflets during a gay rights march.

His fatuous arguments are, it seems, summed up by those two sentences:

"The duty to obey one's conscience is a higher duty than that of obeying orders."

"They were asked, while in uniform, to hand out leaflets during a demonstration where they had legitimate concerns about being the subject of taunts and jokes, and in which in some cases, their religious sensibilities would have been grossly offended by people dressed as priests and nuns lampooning the Church."
The whole story is so preposterous that I don't really know where to start. I also find myself lakcing the energy to reply to such drivel. Yet again.

The first quote, first. As members of a paramilitary organisation, firefighters can only obey their conscience and refuse to obey an order when the said order is illegal. This one clearly wasn't. Further more, we can be sured that somewhere in those guys' contracts there is a paragraph saying they they have to do prevention and that they are not allowed to discriminate. Take the archbishop's argument to another extreme, what would happen if firefighters suddenly decided that they can't help black people caught in a fire because it is agains their conscience?!

The second quote, is just as stupid and proves that the archbishop had been a little more open minded and had attended a Pride march, he would know that firefighter are not "the subject of taunts and jokes" but rather of a huge amount of friendliness and a bit of lust... As for the men's "religious sensibilities", if they have one, they should simply not have signed up to a job where they have to deal with the public, let alone as civil servants.

Finally, the official Catholic stance is to "hate the sin but not the sinner". This can not mean that catholic people should (as it happened when those men refuse to attend the march) actively refuse information which might lead to saving gay people's lives...

Surely?


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