Sunday, 28 October 2007

RamPANT Homophobia

"Sagging" is becoming increasingly contentious in the US. The fashion trend of wearing jeans sagging low displaying the underwear, favoured mostly by young black men was popularised some years ago by hip hop artists. It is said to originate in American Jails with their ill-fitted uniforms and the lack of belts (for security reasons).

Several communities and schools in the US have recently been trying to ban this way of dressing and black organisations have been quick to point out possible racist undertones to these moves.

Now the attacks against sagging are coming from a different angle. Texan rapper, Dwayne Brown aka Dooney the Prince, has released a single titled "Put Your Pants Up". When interviewed last week on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight, Brown explained that sagging is another example of "moral decay". Despite the title of his song, Brown claims not to be trying to tell young people how to dress but simply to educate them on what is for him the real meaning of wearing their jeans low-slung.

It seemed a strange item for the BBC's newsteam to include to the programme. There is no mention whatsoever of Brown and his song on the internet and this is hardly a topic that would interest the regular BBC Radio4 listener, although the item was also included to Pick of the Week...

Brown is not campaigning against the possible glorification of criminals as one might have thought. No, according to Brown, sagging indeed originates in jails but rather than being the result of practical circumstances, it is a signal used by certain men that they are making themselves available to other inmates.

The word was never pronounced aloud but what is disturbing Brown is what he perceives as the homosexual undertones of the trend. While there is an undeniable sexiness linked to someone showing their underwear like this, it is highly unlikely that the majority of the young men who adopt the fashion have an interest in men. Why Brown should have decide to highlight this facet of hip-hop culture, is not clear.

Of course, any black Same Gender Loving or LGBT person can discuss at length the many occurrences of homophobia they experience at the hands of their own community. Many black men also seem to have issues around masculinity and how it should be expressed. And it seems that the reasons of Brown's stand can be found these two traits of the black community.

His "crusade", however futile, while only serve to raise the levels of prejudice even further. I should be used by now to the apparent lack of logic and true relevance, some people (mostly religious right-wingers) apply to the definition of their priorities but it seems to me that Brown's energies would have been much better employed in the production of a song titled: "Put Your Guns Down"

Sagging - Wikipedia
Are Your Jeans Sagging? Go Directly to Jail. - New York Times

Friday, 19 October 2007

Slightly is Taking the Piss Again....

Down at the Police Station

I am just back from the Police Station and the experience there was as dismal as I expected it to be.

This was the third time I had set foot in a Police Station. The first time had been to report problems I had had with a friend of my first landlord (I might blog about this someday - I don't seem to already have) and the second time was to report the theft of my wallet on a bus. The theft report had been quite uneventful but during my first visit, I had not been taken seriously (despite the seriousness of what I was reported) and nothing came of it.

As I got to the bus stop to start my way home earlier today, I found a battered mobile phone. Being the good Samaritan that my mother taught me to be, I picked the thing up and decided to bring it to the Police. The owner might be glad to get it back.

I went to Vauxhall Police Station which is one I know of and close to where I live. When I entered the place I found myself in a small hallway with only two seats and several people already waiting. The space faces a glass wall with electric doors behind which is a counter also protected by a glass wall. This was as unwelcoming as it could be.

There was no one at the counter. The clerk in attendance was busy with two women in another similar space on the side. After a while the clerk opened our glass door and most of the people who were waiting before me walked up to the counter, gave their names, signed a piece of paper and left(presumably something to do with probation). I walked in too and when I stated my reason for being there, I was told that I would have to fill in forms and that the clerk would be "a while" yet. That was about 17:25.

I didn't get out of the darn place until 19:00. In the meantime, the other person in the room behind the counter stopped surfing the net and left the building, presumably to go home. Other people came in and out having signed in. Two young women came in to pick a young boy who had been arrested. the next person in line after me was a young (cute-ish) French man who came in to report the loss of his wallet. He had a discreet little cry about it and when I left I wished him "bonne chance".

The deposition of the found phone itself took about 2 min. The clerk who eventually filled in the form (a different one from when I arrive as the first one finished her shift at 19:00) didn't even bother to take the details of the location where I found the phone properly.

In all, I spent about 1.45min there and to be honest, I think the next time I find something I will think twice about picking the thing up and reporting it. The media are full of calls for closer social bonds, for people to be more good citizens, to be more civically minded. But it seems that very little is done to actually encourage people who are trying to do something in this direction.

Still, looking on the bright side, I could find myself the happy owner of a tattered red Samsung mobile phone within four weeks if the rightful owner is not found by then and if I can be bothered to claim the thing!

Homophobia turns young people off Christianity

What goes around comes around!

A study of American youths (aged 16 to 29) by The Barna Group shows a declining respect towards Christianity in this age group. It seems that this is at least partly due to the negative attitude of the religious rights (and most established Churches) towards homosexuality.

91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers said "anti-homosexual" describes Christianity. Both groups feel that Christians "show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians." They also mention the tendencies of Christian groups to turn homosexuality into a "bigger sin" than anything else while doing little to help young people apply Christian principals to their relation with LGBT friends.

75% of young non-Christians and 50% young Christians also think that Christians are too involved in politics.

Read more about the survey here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Hairspray - A Review

Hairspray poster

It seems that life has made a come-back to the desolate shores of my existence. After the busy past week at the Cycle Show and starting work on the remodeling of the shop, today, I received a phone call from a recent new member of my reading group inviting me, for some incomprehensible reason, to share the bonanza of free tickets to the musical Hairspray at the Shaftesbury. The previews opened on the 11th and the show opens properly on 30th.

The guy is an actor and a friend of his, who seems to be managing the Front of House team (or something like that) had lined up for him two circles tickets complete with complementary Champagne and 3 track CD sampler of the original Broadway recording (the tracks can be downloaded here).

The show is based on John Waters' 1988 film and stars Michael Ball (in Divine's role of Edna Turnblad), Mel Smith (as Edna's husband), Leanne Jones (as their daughter, Tracy) and Ben James-Ellis (as Tracy's love interest).

While Michael Ball is an old hand of musical theatre, Mel Smith, although famous for has never appeared in a musical. And neither has Leanne Jones, the lead, who until a few months ago was still working in a bank. The same goes for Ben James-Ellis, a reject from the BBC's "Any Dream Will Do" competition.

Michael Ball and Leanne Jones in Hairspray
Apart from James-Ellis who doesn't have much presence and whose appearances were rather unmemorable the whole cast is very good indeed (particularly perhaps Johnnie Fiori as "Motormouth" Maybelle). Ball is very good at making us forget that he is a man in drag and the love duet with Smith is actually rather moving. Both the singing and dancing are generally great and the show was a huge amount of fun while still dealing with the serious subjects of difference and acceptance.

The show, which had its premiere at the Neil Simon Theater on Broadway in 2002 and, in 2003, won eight Tonys, including Best Musical. Several transfers to the West End have been rumoured over the years (2003 and 2005) but the show is only reaching our shores now.

On the month marking Black History Month in the UK and after researching content for this Month to publish on the LGBT History Month website and confronted with the dearth of material available, I felt particularly proud that this story had originally been written and filmed by a member of the LGBT community.

Hairspray: The night a new star will be born by Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail, 12 October 2007
Hairspray - the 1988 film on wikipedia

directed by Jack O'Brien
book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan,
music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8DP
from 11th October
Running Time: 2h40 (15min interval)
tickets: £20 to £60
(no website available)

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Cycle Show

As I think I mentioned earlier, I am currently attending the London Cycle Show at Earls Court.

For those really desperate to know what I am up to, they can visit the Witcomb Cycles blog, where I blog each day about what has been happening on the stand.

For those less interested, let me just say that it is going very very well indeed; far beyond our expectations in fact, and that I am rather tired but also quite excited.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Maman (Mother)

Maman (Mother) by Louise Bourgeois outside Tate Modern at dusk

Sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. It was part of the first Unilever Series in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in May 2000 and is made of bronze, stainless steel and marble and measures nine meters high and wide.

"The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver," the 95-year-old Bourgeois said in a statement as quoted by Reuters.

This is a taster for an exhibition of 200 works by Bourgeois that will open on October 10 and run to January 20, 2008.