Roll on 2009!
Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Roll on 2009!
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Danny Boyle’ Slumdog Millionaire is, very loosely, adapted from Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A and tells the story of Jamal Malik and his brother Salim, two kids from one of India’s biggest slum in Mumbai.
Jamal is about to win 20m Rupees on the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? but has just been roughly bundled off to the local police station on suspicion of having cheated. After a little “persuasion” he finally tells his story and how he knew the answers to the questions has been asked so far on the show. Each question kick starts a flashback to an episode of his life, most of which include violence and abject poverty.
Through this we learn of the love hate relationship between the two brothers and of Jamal’s quest to be reunited to the love of his life, Latika.
A few months back, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour had aired a 5 part radio adaptation of the book that I had greatly enjoyed listening to. Adding this to the hype surrounding the film, I was greatly looking forward to that screening.
While I wasn’t disappointed and am glad I saw the film, I wasn’t overwhelmed by it either.
The cinematography was indeed quite interesting with some unusual and very effective camera work. Sadly, Boyle seemed to get a little carried away with that at times and certain shots should, I think, have ended on the floor of the editing room and be remade a little more carefully (too much movement in close ups create nothing but uncomfortable and unhelpful blur).
I have never been to India and have to confess that I know fairly little about the country but the film seemed to me to be a plausibly authentic depiction of modern India with its beautiful, varied and colourful scenery, its incredible poverty and its rapid but haphazard westernisation. Although it was perhaps a little too pessimistic in its portrayal of corruption and crime.
Trailer for the film
I find it difficult to pin-point what didn’t quite work for me in the film. It looked great, Jamal’s character was quite loveable and the story took you along with it. I laughed and got misty eyed. Everything that great film should offer really. I think however that like some of the images, the story telling lacked a little focus and concision. Perhaps little more editing would do the trick. I don’t know.
At the end of the day though, the film is a bittersweet love story with a twist – a chick-flick with brains, one might say – and as such it was quite enjoyable.
Slumdog Millionaire on Wikipedia
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
This must sound very familiar to your average Californian only just a month after Proposition 8, which took away gay people's right to marry, was voted in.
This is however not about Proposition 8 but about one Proposition 6, which was introduced 30 years ago. The aim of this particular Proposition was to ban gay people in California from public service positions simply because of their sexuality (this targeted teachers particularly).
Last night I was lucky enough to go to a UK preview of the soon to be released film Milk. Gus Van Sant's latest film, starring Sean Penn, retraces the last 8 years of the life of American gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who came down in history as the first openly gay man to be elected to a high office.
In 1978, after several attempts, he was elected Supervisor of the City of San Francisco. Six months later he was assassinated (together with the then Mayor of the City) by a disgruntled former fellow Supervisor.
The film was released in the US a day before the 30th anniversary of the death of Milk (27th November 1978) and has received public and critical acclaim (even from element of the Christian press) but the project had been lingering in production hell for years.
I guess the main hurdle facing the creators of the film is that the story line is, for a biopic, quite conventional and there was clearly a danger of falling into the most dreadful clichés.
Thankfully, Van Sant manages to stay well clear of this and creates two hours of unrelenting cinematography. This is much helped by the cast's wonderful performances. Sean Penn is particularly good at impersonating Milk; even the physical resemblance is quite striking.
Another achievement of the creative team behind the film is its recreation of 1970s San Francisco and its atmosphere of excitement and the naissant expectation within the gay community for something better. The feeling that things had to change and that everything was possible if one just got out there and took action pervades the film, which explicitly aims for a message of hope.
The use of original footage and some meticulous research are to be thanked for this. The help of people who knew Milk and worked with him must have been invaluable too. The crew used the original shop owned by Milk when he first moved to the Castro (the gay area of San Francisco). They also “recreated” the street around it as it would have looked at the time and restored the famous Castro theatre to its former glory.
Trailer for the film.
Unlike Brokeback Mountain, the previous major Hollywood film to feature homosexuality as a central theme, there is no room for a controversy around the hero’s sexuality. Milk is openly gay (though he lived in the closet most of his life) and unapologetically so. This is not the point of the film, though.
The true reason for the film’s success is that it manages to transmit Milk’s sheer energy and charm, and his certainty that what he was fighting for was “not an issue, it’s our lives”. As such this is something that any audience member should be able to appreciate and identify with.
Ultimately, this is an incredibly empowering film and, to me, one of those films that should be made compulsory, especially, perhaps, for the younger generations in the LGBT community and to those that feel that we have arrived and don’t need to fight for our rights anymore.
As Milk’s character says in the film, he indeed did not reach 50 (he was 48 when he was killed) but contrary to his fear, he did achieve something he could be proud of. Something we can all be proud of, not only as member of the LGBT community but as human beings.
Even if things seem to have changed very little in the US for the past 30 years.
It is a stunning film (in many ways). My name is Zefrog and I am here to recruit you: Go and see it and take your colleagues, friends, family, lovers, shags, pets, etc… Make it a success. It has to be.
Harvey Milk on Wikipedia
Milk on Wikipedia
The Times of Harvey Milk
A much revised and shortened version of this review was published on Qind Blogazine here.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Well, this morning, I ticked another box of that long list of things a gay boy must do before he dies: I got topless in the middle of Selfridges! How gay is that?! This historic moment took place in front of the counter of the Sienna Cafe in the basement to be precise.
And it wasn't gratuitous either! While (I don't think) I have never actually bought anything there (Shock! Horror! Should hand out my pink card now or can I keep it a bit longer?), I have been spending quite a bit of time in that haut-lieu of gayness over the past three or four Christmases; singing carols and other light-hearted ditties to the shopping masses.
This morning we were there before the opening to serenade the staff as part of Good Morning Selfridges, as sort of pep talk where news and sales results are passed on to the floor staff by managers. This wasn't our most glorious moment to be honest - no warm up or rehearsal, a bad sound system and the conductor behind us playing the piano, at nine in the morning, can not really be called the most auspicious conditions! I was the only member of my section too!
Today the big new was the launch of their series of seasonal entertainment and we will be there again this year.
Isn't the Internet wonderful! I have just found this picture on Flickr of our first series of gigs at Selfridges in 2004. I am wearing the wings (of course!).
In advance of our three concerts at the Cadogan Hall, entitled For Christmas' Sake, we will be on Oxford Street on 16, 17 and 18 December.
The performance times (subject to last minute changes) are as follows:
12:30 -- 13:30 -- 16:30 -- 17:30 -- 18:30
Come and say hello!
And why did I end up topless there? I was only taking off my costume and getting back into my civvies after the performance. Tonight, I was getting changed at the Museum in Docklands, after two short gigs that went much much much better, thankfully.
Friday, 21 November 2008
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Sunday, 9 November 2008
Fighting erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Christ's crucifixion.
Two monks from each side were detained as dozens of worshippers traded kicks and punches at the shrine, said police.
Trouble flared as Armenians prepared to mark the annual Feast of the Cross.
Read the full article and see the video of the fight and members of each side blaming the other, on the BBC News site, here.
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
One of those propositions was Proposition 8 which was originated by Christian organisations and aims to ban gay marriage from the Californian constitution after the Hight Court of the State allow it back in June. 18,000 couples got hitched since then, thanks to this change in the law.
The battle generated by the amendment was quite high-profile and much more heated than they normally are for these things. Many celebritries (such as Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg) and even companies (Apple and Google) "came out" against the Proposition, some even donating money.
In total close to $70 million were spent by both sides of the argument to promote their views ($32m for the supporters and $38m for the opponents).
The results of last night's elections were truly exhilarating. The fact that Obama won by such a margin and all the possibilities that that opens is really fabulous.
But what happens in California is there to remind us that the battle for freedom in the "land of the free" is not won yet. In the first place, it could be argued that the fact that the country is still grappling with race issues is not such a positive sign.
In any case, Proposition 8 won and gay marriage will be explicitly banned in the Californian constitution. It passed last night by 51% to 48%...
The (tiny) good news is that the constitutional change can’t be backdated, so the couples already married will remain so even if it is a curious legal limbo. Apparently, officials are also saying they won’t stop issuing licences until directly instructed, which could take months.
Similar bans were also voted in Arizona, Florida and Arkansas.
And to add insult to injury, the Californian voters also voted for Proposition 2 which prohibits the confinement of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.
Californians obviously care more about farm animals than their fellow human beings. That's true Christian charity for you.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
This picture of a vandalised fresco at the second edition of the Cans Festival, taken in Leake Street under Waterloo Station, has been used by Londonist to illustrate an article listing places to follow the results of the American presidential elections in London.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
I thought I was too. That's until, earlier tonight, I started mixing in a mug 4 tablespoons of plain flour, 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa (actually Nesquik chocolate powder). I mixed that thoroughly and then added an egg. I mixed the stuff again. Finally I added 3 tablespoons of milk and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and stuck the lot in the microwave for 3 minutes.
What is the link with the internet, I hear you say. Well, I found this recipe of the "mugcake" on the internet on a message board I am a member of. And while I am normal well disciplined, I decided try it out (probably out of boredom).
The result (exhibits 1, 2 and 3 are shown below and were shot with my cheap newish camera which I obviously don't master yet!) was not exactly pretty to look at.
About halfway through it's passage inside the entrails of the microwave, the mixture started to rise and rise till there seemed to be about half as much stuff outside of the mug as there was inside. I had to open the door and stop the microwaving a couple of times for fear of a flood.
After dutifully taking rubbish out of focus pictures, I finally reached for the reward of my hard 5 min labour and tasted my creation. While I can't say it tasted bad, after all why would good things mixed together taste bad, I can't really that it was wonderful either. It tasted a bit bland if I am honest. The taste reminded me of when I tried to sprinkle some Nesquik powder on my (non-sugared) crèpes. Hmmm, perhaps there is room for experimentation after all.
If I am honest, the thing was a little rubbery too; I wonder if Michelin, Goodyear and Dunlop have been told about this...
this one looks marginally better than mine.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
I MUCH regret making some off-colour jokes about homosexuals on my website and I have offered a full public apology. I made those remarks and they are the responsibility of no one but myself. I repeat, I’m sorry I wrote what I did. However, I do believe The Evening Standard took my words out of context, although that paper did have the good grace to print my explanation of my intentions.
To wit: I was not criticising individual homosexuals. I have never criticised them. I number many homosexual men and women among my dearest friends. I voted for the Homosexual Reform Act of 1967; and I would vote for it again today. This Act specified the decriminalisation of homosexual acts “between consenting adults in private.” “Between” means two. “Adults” meant 21. “Private” means in the bedroom – and neither Hampstead Heath nor public lavatories. What I do oppose – on the authority of the Christian faith – is the corrupting influence of the promotional parades of homosexuality by such as Gay Pride demonstrations. And that is what I was satirising. It is scandal that some homosexual campaigners have not kept to the letter and spirit of the generous Act of 1967 and instead have consistently and lewdly promoted homosexuality as if it were merely part of the entertainments industry.
Sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual, is a private matter and it should be kept private.
We used to acknowledge this when we contrasted “decency” with “indecency”.
One might say that what was once a mortal sin is now only a lifestyle choice. And the love that once dare not speak its name now shrieks at us in high camp down every high street. This situation is what some homosexualist campaigners constantly claim under their doctrine of “rights”. It is the reason also that they are so annoyed with me – because I repudiate their “rights” argument – which is in any case not Christian but secular.
Anyone who has listened to my sermons over the years, or who cares to read them on my website, will see that I have repeatedly and emphatically spoken out also against heterosexual promiscuity – the trivialising of human relationships so that “making love” has degenerated into “having sex” and the only remaining commandment seems to be “Wear a condom.” This is the sin of regarding others as means to one’s own gratification.
It is wrong and a hugely corrupting influence and I make no apology for opposing it on Christian grounds. When sexual relationships – homo or hetero – are trivialised and commodified by casual pick-ups and one-night stands, then the whole of our public life is degraded.
I was delighted to be so warmly welcomed at church last Sunday by the many homosexual people in my congregation. I took the opportunity of their graciousness to say sorry to them personally for my tactless and offensive remarks – which actually weren’t very funny. I was glad to hear the comedienne Sandy Toksvig, on Radio Four’s The News Quiz, turn the joke back on me. She said: “Peter Mullen is Chaplain to the Stock Exchange – so he must know what it feels like to be completely buggered!”
That’s a funnier joke than the remarks I told and a lot better natured.
I can't even be bothered to comment!
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Sunday, 12 October 2008
I had the privilege to hear her talk a few years ago and she is a truly inspirational woman, who has managed to make something positive out of such a negative event.
To find out more about the Matthew Shephard Foundation and its work, visit www.MatthewShepard.org or www.MatthewsPlace.com
picture of Matthew Shephard by Gina Van Hoof
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Someone from a social website I belong to, took the trouble to write to the London Stock Exchange to complain about Mullen and he received the following reply (I have no reason whatsoever to doubt that this is original):
Thank you for your letter to Clara Furse regarding the comments of Peter Mullen, about which she has asked me to respond.
Like you, we were appalled to read of Peter Mullen’s comments in Monday’s Evening Standard and elsewhere. We were also concerned to see him being associated with the London Stock Exchange.
There are historic links between St Michael, Cornhill and “The Stock Exchange” of old, reflecting the fact that the Exchange was previously housed within that parish. However, there is no formal connection between the London Stock Exchange and Peter Mullen, and our company does not even have a chaplain.
We have asked the Diocese of London that Peter Mullen desist from implying a connection with our organisation when none exists.
Director of Corporate Commnunications
London Stock Exchange GroupInterestingly, the same guy also wrote to the the Archbishop and the Bishop of London, but is still waiting for an answer...
At the end of August, I had to go back to France in an emergency for some serious family business. During a conversation with my mother where I was telling her about a friend of mine whom she also know and how he had recently signed the French equivalent of a Civil Partnership with his boyfriend (she didn't even know he was gay), my mother suddenly asked me if I had a boyfriend.
Missing only just one beat, I emitted a laconic "no". She then, I think, asked me why I hadn't, to which I replied that it wasn't that easy. We moved on to something else.
That was it: how I was outed by my mother. No drama, no fanfare, no tears or screams. Typical.
Anyway, I just wanted to say (in case you hadn't noticed), I am a big poofter!
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
The deletion of Rev. Mullen's writings might just have something to do with the fact that last week, the Evening Standard and then the Daily Mail published an article (the same article actually) about some of those very writings (even though the elements of said writings being quoted had been published in June this year, at the time of the blessing ceremony which took place between two members of the Church of England in St Bartholomew the Great - picture).
In the article, we learned what the Rev. thinks about gay people and what should be done to them: We ["Religious believers"] disapprove of homosexuality because it is clearly unnatural, a perversion and corruption of natural instincts and affections, and because it is a cause of fatal disease. The AIDS pandemic was originally caused by promiscuous homosexual behaviour. Such promiscuity is itself an evil because its perpetrators merely use others indiscriminately for their own gratification, treating their fellows as sex objects and as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves.And the pièce de résistance:
Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS.Following on the dear Rev.'s idea, I would suggest that we should perhaps also tattoo the Jews but that has apparently already been done...
The dear Rev. had also penned the following poem:
Gay wedding at St Bartholomew’s EC1
The Bishop of London is in a high huff
Because Dr Dudley has married a puff;
And not just one puff – he’s married another:
Two priests, two puffs and either to other.
“It isn’t a wedding, for that’s not allowed;
They’ve just come together and promised and vowed
To shack up and snug up, to have and to hold:
Ooh aren’t we radical! Ooh aren’t we bold!”
Now here’s a most queer and most wonderful thing:
He’s given his hand, he’s offered his ring;
And each to the other forever will bend,
After their troll in the coach up West End.
Not a flash wedding, no pics in Hello!
Just a honeymoon cottage, convenient so.
Of such Dr Dudley a goldmine has found,
From shaven-head puftas the nuptial pink pound.
The new Church of England embraces diversity,
A fresh modulation on ancient perversity:
“I’m C of E and PC so don’t think it odd of me
To offer a licence and blessing for sodomy.<How charmingly Christian in its high charity this all is!
The Church of England's hierarchy has spoken out against the extremism of
Rev. Mullen's comments and he has himself apologised for his "injudicious" comments, adding that he "did not intend to cause offence when I made some joking remarks about homosexuals. I was not actually meaning to criticise individual homosexual persons, but the promoters of gay culture."
Yes, my dear reader, it was all a joke. It also seems that our preacher does not like preachers! For, no, he has nothing against homosexuals (some of his friend are indeed homosexuals. I kid you not!), he was simply talking against, well, homosexuals I suppose, for who else would be "promoters" (whatever that is) of the "gay culture" but gay people themselves?
The dear reverend, however fails to mention what he would do to heterosexual people who practise sodomy and fellatio or perhaps to adulterers. This last point is perhaps a little more delicate, for you see, it seems that our dear reverend was once censured by the Church for adultery.
Page 194 of Peter Vardy’s The Puzzle of Sex (Fount Paperbacks 1997- Vardy is an ethics lecturer at Heythrop College) refers to Peter Mullen as “An Anglican vicar who resigned for committing adultery with a parishioner” If you look him up in Crockford’s clerical directory, he left a parish in yorkshire in 1989, and did not minister as a priest again until 1997. His resignation would have been obligatory, and he would presumably have been on the Lambeth discipline list for at least 5 years (with thanks to Bob who left this very useful comment on the PinkNews article listed above).
Another interesting inconsistancy in Rev. Mullen's biography is that as I mentioned above, he is the chaplain to the London Stock Exchange. I am sure that Peter (I think I am allowed to be on first name terms with someone who takes so much interest in the decoration of my arse) would confirm the fact that, according to the gospel, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality. He had however a lot to say about rich people and commerce. Did he even banish the merchants from the Temple?
In anycase, considering the currently economic climate, one would imagine that Pete, in his quality of "moral advisor to Mammon" would have other things on his mind than other people's sexual preferences and activities.
So my message to Pete is very simple. Put your money where you mouth is (so to speak) and be more charitable and Christian in the future. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
If someone feels the need to write to my new mate Pete, here are the details:
St Michael, Cornhill
St Michael’s Alley,
London EC3V 9DS
To contact the Rector:
The Rev’d Dr Peter Mullen,
The Watch House,
10 Giltspur Street
London EC1A 9DE
Telephone & Fax 020 7248 3826
There also was a Facebook group asking for Pete to be sacked, but it has been deleted.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Saturday, 21 June 2008
Although I have attended a few demonstrations, this was my first of this type and I have to say that I was left a little dubious. I think about 3000 people were in attendance of what seemed to be organised mainly by unions and as is all too often the case, irrelevant "causes" found themselves grafted onto the main theme of the event.
I was pleased to spot a few (not many, sadly) rainbow flags. The photograph of the Pink Paper was in attendance but left with very little material of relevance. There was also a reference to sexism and homophobia on a particular set of placards and the leading float was also (rather incongruously) festooned the rainbow flags, reference to IDAHO and the pink triangle (see pictures).
While I completely agree that it is important to fight the BNP and their narrow minded ideas, I was also taken aback by the systematic links made between this party and the fascist and Nazi ideologies. I have to say that my ideals of fairness rebelled against this and that I felt a skeptical (I will not even mention Godwin's Law) but having now done some very quick reading up on Wikipedia, I must admit that there is probably some truth in this.
What particularly took me aback though was the calling out of the names of certain concentration camps by someone on the leading float (in answer to which the crowd lustily chanted "never again!"). I found that distasteful and belittling of what happened in the camps as nothing even remotely similar is likely to ever take place by the doing of what is after all a very marginal party.
The crowds used the same "never again" when the BNP's name was called which I thought particularly idiotic since the party is still in existence...
You can view the very few pictures I took of the event here.
Friday, 20 June 2008
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
I am not really expecting to hear from two of the said agencies. One of them was supposed to contact me again to schedule a registration meeting but the silence has been deafening since then, even after I gently nudged them. The other wasn't really for me (the seem to specialise in underpaid admin jobs in healthcare).
I had an appointment to register with another agency at lunchtime today. I have been registered with them a couple of times before and I am always dealing with the same consultant. We've "known" each other for about 5 years now, I think. It is rather amusing to have that sort of ungoing acquaintance with someone in that big maelstrom that is London.
I will have to cancel the registration meeting I was going to have with this fourth agency (although it is conveniently situation just up the road from where I live) because of what happened with the remaining one.
My jobsearch has exclusively been taking place online. I am registered to a few job alerts mailing lists and know a job listing site which I checked regularly. Among all the adverts for job I had to trawl through, I spotted one that sounded interesting. A six month contract as an Editorial and Marketing Assistant for the renowned tourism organisation.
I sent my CV by email to address specified and quite unusually received a phone from a consultant about this job about 30min later. I was invited to come and register the same day and was informed a day or two later that I would be having an interview on the following Monday. That was yesterday. At 10 O'clock.
Knowing that I would have to cross central London (the interview was taking place at the agency which is located near Broadcasting House and Oxford Circus) on a bus at rush hour I have given myself plenty of time to be there when I had to. And an inspired idea it proved to have been since George Bush was this week on his farewell tour (hopefully not one à la Barbara Streisand) and had decided to have breakfast with his mate Gordon. This meant that Whitehall had to be closed down to traffic and huge concrete blocks deposited in the middle of the road to be sure no car come any where near Downing Street unsolicited.
The result was a mini traffic jam on the Embankment and twenty minutes to go from Westminster Bridge to Trafalgar Square when it would have taken me 5 to get there by foot. Thanks, George!
The interview itself went swimmingly well. This is probably the easiest interview I have ever sat on. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, the interviewers, (the future bosses) were nice and not only did I seem to answer their question satisfactorily they even starting answering for at one point, saying that I was the candidate with the most skills in the lot they had seen.
As I mentioned during the interview, the job felt tailor-made for me, bringing together elements of my past experience at work and as a volunteer, as if someone had gone through my CV and drawn the Job Description from it. Something truly ideal to have on my CV to consolidate and "officialise" lots of skills acquired in an ad hoc way along my 8 years in this country.
After the interview I have a short copywriting test and I was soon on my way home; hopeful yet weary. I have been in interviews before where things had gone well (admittedly not that well) and still managed not to get the job. My impression was reinforced by a phone call from the consultant giving me some very positive feedback from the interviewers (including about the bit of copy I had to produce). She also told me to expect a phone call at five O'clock this afternoon with the verdict.
It looks that despite his successful attempt at, once again, showing how talented he is at creating chaos, I have managed to foiled George Bush's evil plans. The phone call was duly received at about 5:30 and I have been offered the job which I have accepted. I am started Monday.
Update on 21 June at 23:31:
I received a phone call from the agency yesterday at 6pm, informing me that I would be starting on Tuesday after all because my new bosses hadn't quite got round to organising a desk and everything needed for me. Sounds promising!
Saturday, 14 June 2008
In the meantime, the MP's psychoanalyst friend, whom she claimed can cure people of their gayness rides the media hype with (surprise! surprise!) the support of the Christian Institute.
If you are feeling (justifiably outraged by this sad story, you can click here to sign the petition to the Prime Minister to reprimand MP Iris Robinson for her recent comments. You have until 9 August to do like the 3748 people who have already signed as I write this.
Pass this on...
Friday, 13 June 2008
Thursday, 12 June 2008
First there is the cost involved in all this, the wasted money; then there is the wasted time for his constituents who noe find themselves without an MP for however long it will take for Davies to be re-elected.
And that the bigger point, He has a majority of 5000, the Lib Dems have already said that they wouldn't put up a candidate and I don't think Labour should bother either (if nothing else but show up Davies), so Mr Davies is guarranteed to be re-elected... He is not taking any risk whatsoever. Unless perhaps the electors wake up and realise they have being conned.
Would he not have been better able to carry on raising the issues he wants to raise by staying in his position in the Shadow Cabinet, rather than becoming a backbencher?
Wouldn't it have been better for him to allow the media and the public to keep on focusing on those said issues, rather than focusing him?
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
This week-end, together with thousands of other people of all ages and background (I saw a BBC political journalist, whose name escapes me, together with his family and also caught a glimpse of a former flatmate), I visited the darker recesses of Waterloo Station where The Cans Festival was taking place.
Leake Street, a dismal little street under the station itself had been transformed for the bank holiday week-end into a street art gallery.
The most famous artist on show was by far our local Banksy but there were people from all over showing either full on frescos or more humble efforts. Members of the public were also invited to wield the cans.
I went there on Sunday and Monday morning (and will probably return in a few days to see how the images fair when left to their own device) and took about 200 pictures, a selection of which can be viewed here.
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
A vote against this effete and frivolous Tory is a no-brainer by Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, Tuesday April 29 2008
Ken Livingstone has relentlessly worked to improve London’s lot. Boris Johnson is running only for fun and fame.
Vote for Ken
Monday, 28 April 2008
Last week, with the approval by both Houses of Parliament of the Sexual Orientation Regulations was of course a very important and much publicised time for the LGB community. That same week might however have other less obvious and less auspicious consequences for at least some members of our community.
The big news for the Country, last week also came from Parliament. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister in waiting and current Chancellor of the Exchequer was delivering his budget for 2008 and to some extend two to three years beyond that. The big headline, widely reported in the media, for what everybody assumes to be Brown's last budget, was the announcement by Brown at the end of his speech of a cut of 2p in the basic income tax rate.
However, Brown had also made clear right from the start of this same speech that the budget would be a balanced one: ie no cuts. This prompted commentators to say that Brown was giving from one hand and taking from the other. And indeed, along with the 2p cut, came the dissappearance of the "10p starter rate".
Although fairly few figures are available, it is often claimed that members of the LGB community earn on average more than straight people. According to a 2006 survey of 1,118 readers of Diva and Gay Times by the marketing consultancy Out Now:
Men had spent on average £626 and women £519 on holidays and mini-breaks. Gay men also spent more than lesbians on clothing, £374 compared with £249, as well as furniture and fittings, where they typically spent £300 to women's £263.(source: the Guardian). Moving away from the headlines of the high earning capabilities of the community, we learn here that 8% of our community (identified as clerical and office workers) are likely to have a low income. Perhaps it was conducted on a very specific segment of the population (readers of magazines who can be expected to be from the higher and more affluent stratas of society), the survey does not mention manual workers and people with little qualification or the unemployed and the retired who are also all likely to be at the lower end of the pay ladder.
That reflects the fact that the typical gay man working full-time earns an average £34,168, compared to £24,783 for a lesbian. Both figures, though, are much higher than the salaries earned by the average male and female British worker of £24,236 and £18,531 respectively.
Among the respondents, 40 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of the men were professionals; 11 per cent of the women and 13 per cent of the men were managers; five per cent of the women and six per cent of the men were senior managers; and eight per cent of both sexes were clerical and office workers.
The limitation of the population polled may also provide ground to dispute that fact that LGB people generally earn more than their heterosexual counterparts.
A 1995 study (Poverty - Lesbians and Gay Men: The Economic and Social Effects of Discrimination) found that 21% of respondents were living in poverty and over half (57%) of respondents said they found it difficult to make ends meet. In her 2001 book Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay men, University of Massachusetts economics professor Lee Badgett finds that "Gay/bisexal men [...] earn 17 percent less than heterosexual men with the same education, race, location, and occupation."
From December 5th 2005, LGB people who receive benefits, and live with their partner are treated in the same way as heterosexual people. They have been re-assessed as a consequence of their relationship. This has affected a significant number of people, who have been vocal in their objections to this joint income-assessment. This has indicated that there are LGB people in the UK who come from low-income backgrounds(Poverty and social exclusion, Stonewall).On the whole most people will find themselves better off as a result of Gordon Brown's exercise in juggling with the figures. However, the Institute of Fiscal Studies said that about 2 million people on lower wages - such as single people with no children earning between £12,000 and £18,500 - would lose out, as they would be harder hit by the abolition of the 10p starting rate.
In view of what I discussed above, "single people with no children earning between £12,000 and £18,500" sounds worryingly like that might include a not insignificant part of the LGB population. I am myself one of these people.
If we consider that there are an estimated 3.6 million gay and lesbian people in the UK, this change in the budget will affect several hundred thousand people in our community.
Even the optimistic Out Now survey, cited above, only mentions 64% of the lesbian and 52% of gay men responding; some of whom, as we have seen, will be low earners. It is therefore, I think not, unreasonable to think that that could affect up to 1/3 of our population. That would be about 1 million people. Half of the people the IFS estimates will be hit by the new measure.
Of course, across the whole community, an increasing number of people are getting civilly partnered (more than 15000 couples so far with another 28,000 ceremonies set to happen over the next year). This move may soften the fiscal blow somewhat for those.
Regardless of whether many members of the LGB community are affected or not, it is rather worrying, to say the least, that a Labour government should put itself in a position where it actually penalises the vulnerable and members of minorities, for what could very easily be percieved as a PR exercise for the impending Prime Minister.
And that is not mentioning how we will suffer through so-called stealth tax.
Sunday, 27 April 2008
We should stand up for Boris. So what if he has no grasp of detail and his management experience is limited to editing the Spectator magazine. He is a jolly funny chap and will be an inspiring ambassador for London.Johnson - or to give him his full name, Boris LOL!!!! what a legernd!! Johnson!!! - is a TV character loved by millions for his cheeky, bumbling persona. Unlike the cartoon MP, he's magnetically prone to scandal, but this somehow only makes him more adorable each time. Tee hee! Boris has had an affair! Arf! Now he's offended the whole of Liverpool! Crumbs! He used the word "picaninnies"! Yuk yuk! He's been caught on tape agreeing to give the address of a reporter to a friend who wants him beaten up! Ho ho! Look at his funny blond hair! HA HA BORIS LOL!!!! WHAT A LEGERND!!!!!!
- Martin Clerkenwell, London
I’d rather he spent £100M on new Routemasters than another penny on minority ethnic interests.
- Squiz, Islington
Doesn’t matter, I would much rather Boris spend the money on Routemasters unlike Ken who squanders our taxes on ‘focus groups’ for immigrants or visits to third world dictators.
- Kyle, London
So what if Boris got his sums wrong, I’d take someone who admits his error over someone who gets his team to lie for him so he doesn’t have to come clean…
- St, London
Boris all the way. He is funny and not politically correct which is great.
- David, Lincoln
I don't care what Ken Livingstone does - I'll still vote for him if it stops Boris Johnson becoming mayor - Charlie Brooker, The Guardian
Friday, 25 April 2008
Thank you for your e-mail regarding [sic]
I am sorry if you were offended by the content of 'Happy Mondays: The Don't Watch with Mother Sketchbook'.
I can assure you it's never our intention to deliberately upset its audience.
As you're no doubt aware and the programme title itself suggests the content often 'sails close to the wind'. However we can assure you the programme isn't intended to gratuitously shock and the humour contains no malice.
As a public service financed by the licence fee we must provide programmes which cater for the whole range of tastes in humour. We believe that there's no single set of standards in this area on which the whole of society can agree, and it is inevitable that programmes which are acceptable to some will occasionally strike others as distasteful.
The only realistic and fair approach for us is to ensure that the range of comedy is broad enough for all viewers to feel that they are catered for at least some of the time.
Nevertheless we appreciate that you felt this edition was in very poor taste and I'd like to assure you that we've registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily for all programme makers and commissioning executives within the BBC, and also their senior management. It ensures that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.
Thanks again for taking the trouble to contact us with your concerns.
Ramble by Nicolas Chinardet at 16:34
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Baron D’Holbach, Système de la nature, 1770
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
This week's episode, The Don't Watch with Mother Sketchbook, "a celebration of the 30th anniversary of an imaginary sketch show", was sadly not at all as funny as last week's. If I am honest I even found it rather offensive. There was a sketch meant to be the only surviving copy of an old sketch from this imaginary show dubbed in Zulu, featuring a man and woman hopefully really talking Zulu must as likely as night just making things up on a background of canned laughter. Nothing very funny there at all.
The most offensive part, in my view, however, was found right at the beginning of the show during the introductory speech where a former member of the imaginary team, Peter Wellet, was said to have died of a "gay related disease", "the silly poof". We were then informed that the show was dedicated to him and that fees and proceeds from the show would "NOT be going to AIDS charities worldwide".
This assimilation of AIDS as a gay disease, completely out of context and unnecessary in the show, is not only unfunny, it is also redolent of the worst moments of bigotry that were witnessed at the beginning of the epidemic. I thought these had gone for ever; how mistaken I was! The same goes for the "Zulu sketch" which had nothing intrinsically funny and seemed only there to poke xenophobic or racist fun at a "funny" (read ridiculous) foreign language.
The clip is available to listen for the next week by clicking on the link above. I have also saved a copy of the offending segment.
The programme was written by Rhys Thomas, Lucy Montgomery, Tony Way, Stephen Burge and Glynne Wiley. And the cast went as follows:
Tom Rhys-Griffiths ...... Rhys Thomas
Tracey Anderson ...... Lucy Montgomery
John Girling ...... Waen Shepherd
Roger Mills ...... Tony Way
Peter Wellet (deceased) ...... John W Hopkins
I have used some of the above post as a basis for a complaint to the BBC. Let's see what sort of response they come up with.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Although I already pretty much knew already who I was going to vote for, I took a short online quiz a few days ago. The results (as reproduced below) given to me by Vote Match didn't yield many surprises (if any):
Ken Livingstone (Labour)
Siân Berry (Green Party)
Lindsey German (Left List)
Brian Paddick (Liberal Democrats)
Boris Johnson (Conservatives)
Alan Craig (Christian Peoples Alliance / Christian Party)
Matt O’Connor (English Democrats)
Gerrard Batten (UKIP)
Richard Barnbrook (BNP)
In order to help voters make up their minds, many interest groups have been organising hustings around the capital, allowing people to meet the candidates and ask questions.
I am just back from one such hustings. Organised by Stonewall in collaboration with Pink News and taking place in the main auditorium of the British Film Institute, the event brought together what can probably be considered the 5 major candidates for this election and a roomful of LGBT people.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how young the audience was. From my seat on the last row, I spotted a few familiar faces: Peter Tatchell, Kirsten Hearn, the Mayor's LGBT advisor: Neil Young, someone from Kairos, someone, I think, from Imaan and a couple local people I have met at Network events. I am sure there were others.
The two hours that the event lasted were both very interesting and entertaining and felt altogether too short. The candidates present in the panel chaired by Tony Crew, editor of PinkNews, were (left to right on stage) Lindsey German, Sian Berry, Boris Johnson, Ken Livingston and Brian Paddick. After 5 minutes statements by the candidates, the floor started to ask questions varying from the status of older LGBT people, Ken's team members' recent financial problems and his own welcome of muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi at City Hall, homophobia in schools and elsewhere, cycling, the funding of voluntary associations, public transport and disabled people or Boris' apparently changed attitude towards LGBT people and whether he ever had any gay experiences. On the whole the debate was very civilised and good natured.
Boris proved is renowned bumbling self and as such much fun for the gallery. He seemed however to have little substance (as expected) and, as Paddick put it, didn’t seem to have much of a clue. His ideas (often unrealistic) seemed to be focused on rather trivial subjects like bringing back a routemaster. He lost his cool once, banging his fist on the table in front of him and declaring that he had indeed voted in favour of the repeal of Section 28 (after having supported the section in writing for years) and that people should stop saying he hadn't (Checking the public whip, it seems that he voted against the repeal first and then for it, in two votes within about half an hour of each other). When pushed further on his past attitude towards LGBT people and Section 28, he repeatedly said that he was in favour of freedom and refused to see the government dictating school what they should teach to children (Lindsey German was quick to point that that was exactly what Section 28 was doing). At the same time he claimed to have gone against the party whip, despite the fact that the Tory party had a free vote on this occasion.
He also ignored a suggestion from the chair that he might want to apology for saying in 2002 about Civil Partnerships that "If gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog." A quote from one of Boris' books that Ken had used in his opening statement. When responding to the first question, he seemed to stamble on the term LGBT, which made everyone laugh in unsurprised frustration; at which he turned to the chair and asked: "I got that right, didn't I?" More laughter ensued. This seemed to be the most common reaction to him in the audience. There were also a few hisses and some clapping at some points.
Paddick was thankfully not as arrogant as he was the last time I saw him speak. He remained however lackluster and vague. Agreeing in response to questions that things were terrible and or needed to be changed but without apparently offering any concrete solutions to the problems. This was of course a gay hustings and possibly Paddick's core constituency but I felt he was too much the professional gay focusing too much on gay issues and not widening his answer enough to the whole of London. He made a few gratuitous personal attacks (saying for example that Ken had "lost the plot" in the past four years and that Boris would be a disaster for London while not acknowledging the existence of other candidates it seems).
Siân Berry was good. She obviously knew what she was talking but I think she still lacks clout. She is my age and I think this is probably too young to be running such a big and complicated city. She probably needs to relax a little more and gain that assurance that only comes with experience. The green party have asked for people to choose Ken as their supplementary vote.
Lindsey German, the other female candidate, was great. I felt she said the right things in the right way. Although if I had to criticise, I would say that her opening statement focused too much on government policy which is not that relevant to this election, although this is also a sign that she can see the bigger picture. In a repeated attack against developers, she also suggested a moratorium on the building of non-affordable housing (currently 50% of new builds) in favour of affordable housing, which in my view is unrealistic since developer would then loose any incentive to build at all. Together with Ken, she was, I think, the only person to actually mention trans people. On the whole however she certainly knows her stuff and makes sensible and pragmatic propositions. The Left List asked for people to choose Ken as their supplementary vote.
As for Ken, the incumbent, he was, I thought, the most impressive speaker. His opening statement got by far the biggest ovation. He appeared both relaxed and completely in charge of his material and the situation. I think on that occasion he was very much the statesman. In response to a question about the attendance by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi at a City Hall conference, Ken said that he wasn't aware of what tabloid newspapers said where Al-Qaradawi's view on homosexuality but that when he met him he asked him and that he received the answer that Al-Qaradawi condemns the killing of gay people and the beating of a wife by her husband. Ken added that no leader of any of the major religion is actively in support of gay right and that we should therefore not expect Al-Qaradawi to be any different but that it was also important to engage with the more moderate parties in Islam. Ken received the support of Lindsey German in this.
With respect to the charges of corruptions thrown at him, Ken said he had himself dealt with these as soon as he knew about a problem, asking the police to investigate, and contacting a lawyer to check that nothing inappropriate had taken place, let alone anything illegal. In his view this is a right-wing witch hunt conducted by the Evening Standard only. The other candidates present, with the exception of Boris, seemed to support him in this view.
Of course the man doesn't come without a certain whiff of sulfur but nobody is perfect and this is compensated by a really positive record. In my view, he has done some great things for the LGBT community in London and for the city as a whole. I don't think any of his opponents can pretend to be better than him and from that rather motley bunch, he seems to me to be the only one capable of leading a world capital. His plans seem to be to carry on how he started and to focus more on the green and environmental issues.
The event was very useful although it slightly muddled my views as to who would be my first choice. I was going to vote for Siân Berry but having seen Lindsey German for the first time, I am not wondering if I should not be voting for her instead. It might be interest to attend a different hustings not aimed at the LGBT community; somewhere a little more neutral to see how people fare. What I will retain from this however is that whereas I don't think it would be a good thing for higher offices, personality is quite important when it comes to decide who will be in charge of such a big and important city.
* Video: PinkNews editor takes Boris Johnson to task - footage of the hustings
London Mayoral Election 2008 - Wikipedia
* London Elect - Official guide
* Who's who in the race for City Hall - The Independent
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Five years ago, the War on Terror (TM) kicked off for good after weeks of toing and froing at the UN and demonstrations around the world by millions of people.
Five years on, things don't seem to have improved much. The world is still and dangerous place (probably more dangerous as a result of this war) and hundred of thousand of people have died seemingly for nothing.
I took this picture on the Embankment during the anti-war demonstration on 15 February 2003 which brought together 2 million people to the streets of London, making it, I think, the biggest ever demonstration in the UK.
Friday, 14 March 2008
Seeing a cabinet minister (Barbara Follett, Minister for Equality, who, incidentally, was one of the best speakers of the evening) dancing to a silly song about baking crumble (the lyrics went like this: Everybody’s good at cooking something/and I’m good at cooking crumble/In fact, I’ve got one in the oven/would you like some? YES, PLEASE!) while waving a small glitter ball over her head at the end of a metal coat-hanger was probably also worth the trip in itself!
Four of the mayoral candidates were also present (or their representatives: Paddick and Sian Berry MP, the Green party candidate, were the only ones present. Ken and Boris had sent representatives with speeches) and sadly treated the thing as a hustings which I thought was a bit cheeky of them.
Paddick was rather obnoxious. He behaved as if we owed him allegiance simply because he is gay and that seemed to be enough to make him the right person for the job. He was a rubbish speaker too. His "speech" didn't seem to have much point to it and was badly delivered.
Stonewall are organising a proper gay hustings at the BFI on 19 April (details here) which I shall be attending too. That should be interesting. Let's hope Mr Paddick will have had a healthy portion of humble pie by then.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
It proved to be another disaster to add to my ever expanding list. All the more crushing as an email chat during the day had been fairly promising. Basically, we couldn't find anything we had in common and the conversation languished into a series of clumsy reciprocal questions about our lives.
We lasted one hour (which was quite good I thought) and packed it in.
I was supposed to attend something similar on Tuesday but thankfully got invited to a performance of Brief Encounter at the Haymarket Cinema. I canceled the "date" and I don't think I am going to pursue a reschedule, in light of last night's events.
The show was thankfully really good fun, using a mix of music and film to create a fluffy concoction. More than a retelling of the film, it is a homage to it and a way to acknowledge the long-lasting lovestory between the film and the British.
Thursday, 21 February 2008
In doing my selection, I have deliberately moved away from the usual disco and dance anthems which are supposed to be favourites in the community but ultimately only speak indirectly about our experience. Since the event, I have done a little research and my (non-exhaustive) list has now grown to 55 songs, all of which directly and explicitly talk about the gay, lesbian, bi or trans experience. The only possible exceptions to this being three same-sex duets. It is interesting to notice, by the way how, many songs with a Trans theme seem to be out there.
The last four tracks at the bottom are two songs with and a translation.
The list of songs can be found below in blocks of 10 and in alphabetical order by artist first name. Please, feel free to submit other titles fitting my criteria.
You Are My Sister (feat Boy George) - Antony & The Johnsons
I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy - Antony & The Johnsons
You Don't Know Me - Armand Van Helden
Sexual Revolution - Army of Lovers
Si Demain - Turn Around, Total Eclipse (feat. Kareen Antonn) - Bonnie Tyler
Why - Bronski beat
Smalltown Boy - Bronski Beat
I Was Born This Way - Carl Bean
Ziggy - Celine Dion
Beautiful Boyz (feat. Antony Hegarty) - CocoRosie
Pour ne pas vivre seul - Dalida
Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross
Jesus by 45 - Ebony Tay
Jet Boy, Jet Girl - Elton Motello
Glory Box - Faith No More (Portishead Cover)
Micheal - Franz Ferdinand
Outside - George Michael
I Am What I Am - Gloria Gaynor
Freaks - Imperial Teens
The Devil's Mollies - Joel Gibb
Wig In a Box - John Cameron Mitchell
The Origin of Love - John Cameron Mitchell
Angry Inch - John Cameron Mitchell
Walk on the Wild Side - Lou Reed
Stereosexual - Mecano
Sans contrefaçon - Mylène Farmer
Maman à tort - Mylène Farmer
Tuesday, 3 am - Nita Whitaker
Another Beautiful Day - Nita Whitaker
The Night I Fell in Love - Pet Shop Boys
It's A Sin - Pet Shop Boys
Can You Forgive Her? - Pet Shop Boys
Homosapien - Pete Shelly
The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II) - Rod Stewart
The Art Teacher - Rufus Wainwright
Gay Messiah - Rufus Wainwright
She's My Man - Scissor Sisters
Shut Up (And Sleep With Me) - Sin With Sebastian
Let Me Be A Drag Queen - Sister Queen
Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover - Sophie B. Hawkins
Freaks - Stephen Trask
Lola - The Kinks
I Can Make You A Man - Tim Curry
Sweet Transvestite - Tim Curry
All Mine (feat. Divine Comedy) - Tom Jones
Glad To Be Gay - Tom Robinson Band
Real Men - Tori Amos
What More Can I Say (Falsettoland) - Michael Rupert
Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other - Willie Nelson
Adam et Yves - Zazie
What Makes A Man - Charles Aznavour
Comme ils disent - Charles Aznavour
Une Femme Avec Une Femme - Mecano
Mujer Contra Mujer - Mecano
For those interested, the Queer Heritage Music website might prove valuable.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
The film uses the stories of British servicemen who fought bravely for their country during the Second World War and the example of the Dutch Army which started to welcome gay people in its ranks from 1994 to explore the arguments in the debate around the legalisation of homosexuality which was taking place in the UK at the time of the making of the film.
The film includes testimonies from gay (and straight) men from the three services as well as a particularly prejudiced interview with Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Armitage, the former head of military intelligence (his view are reproduced in the contemporaneous links below).
The ban on gays in the UK armed services was official lifted in 2000.
The film was very and, with hindsight, the homophobic comments were rather funny ("real men don't like to take showers with men who like to take showers with men"). There were about 20 people in the room (though some left early), which is rather good considering how little promotion was made and also tallies with what we get for our local events. They also had flyers on prominent display at the information desk for the Month in general and the local events in particular.
This is the first year that the Museum is celebrating LGBT History Month and I am proud to say that am less than a little instrumental to this happening. As I think I mentioned before on this blog, I have now been trying to get the museum to celebrate the month for about two years now. This started after my attending an event for Black History Month and thinking: Why not us too?!
Last year I drew up a long-ish document explaining the Month, what it could do for the museum, how it could be promoted and giving ideas of events and a list of resources they could tap into. I then had a meeting with the Head of Education at the Museum to submit this. And kept on
If she had looked a little bewildered when I first button-holed her at the end of that Black History Month meeting, she has been otherwise quite supportive of the idea and if there was some reluctance (which I am not sure there was), it came from higher up. Anyway, I do hope that the experience has been positive for the Museum and that it will be an incentive for them to organise more and bigger events in the years to come.
(The second screening is tomorrow, Sunday 3rd at 2pm)