Wednesday, 26 July 2006

The True Reason for the War?

In the series: I can be just as stupid as you.

I think I have finally figured out why the Isreali are so keen to start a war in Middle East.

Apparently, the war is all gay people's fault. Hezbollah were attacking Isreal because World Pride was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in August.

There had been lots of opposition to the parade but finally the High Court (I believe) had given authorisation. Now, however, because of the war, the Parade has been cancelled.

Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, who heads the Eda Haredit rabbinic court, said: "Who knows where things will get to if we do not act further and more stringently against it."

Starting a war seems pretty stringent to me. The good Rabbi must be pleased that so many people will die to stop this peaceful demonstration of love to take place.

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Currently Reading - Op. Non Cit.

Op. Non Cit. - Alan Isler
Op. Non Cit. by Alan Isler

An interesting and unintentional (but enjoyable) choice, considering the post below...

Before that (and not showing on this pages through carelessness on my part), I read The Romanian, by Bruce Benderson.

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Isreal, Palestine, Lebanon

I have to admit that I am not sure what to think about what is currently happening in the Middle East. I keep reasonably well informed of what is going on but still I am confused.

I dislike prejudice and want to try and be as objective as possible when forming an opinion about something. My gut feeling is to condemn the Isreali government for what they are doing both to Palestine and Lebanon. I can not help but feel that the state create by a people who has suffered so much from oppression should have learned a few leason and know to avoid conflict and agression.

Of course, I am French and France notoriously supports the arab world and Palestine. I wonder to what extend I am conditioned by what I have heard most of my life on this sugject. After all Israel keeps on repeating that they are not being treated fairly or in a similar manner to other countries. I would like to avoid falling into that trap.

Listening to interviews of Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, however, I can't help but find them incredibly cynical in what they say and the way they say it. Although they claim to be taking action to protect civilian fatalities, they seem completely disrespectful of human life; arguing dismissively that when there is a war, there is going to be civilian deaths. They also often defend themselves with that old playground chestnut: "Everybody else is doing it, so why can't we?".

Hearing all this, I really can't bring myself to believe that the current attack on Lebanon is proportionate. Yes, there are Palestinian attacks and yes, Hezbollah is killing Isreali civilians but is that an excuse to kill Palestinian and Lebanese civilians? Isreal is after the rich and powerful country in the region.

Current allegations against the Isreali army on their use of human shields and
cluster bombs as well as the recent, apparently deliberate attack on UN observers, are no help whatsoever.

Other disturbing thoughts are that the current conflict could potentially escalate into an atomic war between Iran and Isreal. Experts say that Iran are probably trying to hold Hezbollah (which they support) back because they still have the issue of their nuclear researches to sort out with the global community. However, they might suddenly decide that things have gone to far and press the red button...

This, if the human losses weren't enough already, should be a very strong argument for an immediate ceasefire. This is rejected by the US government (who is notoriously funded by jewish electors no politician would want to alienate) and supported (scroll down) by Blair's team; saying that all ceasefire should be sustainable and implying that, in the meantime, it doesn't matter if people are being killed.

Is that what compassionate conservatism is, Mr Bush? Surely anything in the way of peace would be better than the continued fighting?!

A good way, perhaps, for the state of Isreal to show that it really can not do things differently to get rid of Hezbollah, that it actually cares for Lebanon and that this conflict is not simply some sort of megalomaniac and Quixotic trip on the government's part, would be for it to pay for (some of) what it has broken (human lifes can't replaces that easily) and help with or endorse fully the cost of reconstruction in Lebanon.

It doesn't seem likely somehow.

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Monday, 24 July 2006

Hypocrisy in Green?

In this week-end's Sunday Times, Richard Chartres, Bishop of London and the third most senior bishop in the Church of England, previewed Treasures on Earth, a booklet on environmental matters to be sent to every diocese for distribution.

The paper reports that in this booklet, Chartres explains that it is "sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a “gas-guzzling” car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home."
The argument is apparently supported by the idea that "scientific research supporting predictions that the earth faces serious climate change is “overwhelming”". And the bishop to ask Christians to be a little more mindful of what they do to increase climate change.

No doubt, US Christians (read: Bush's supporters who are still more or less denying climate change and certainly the fact that we should reduce our carbon emissions) won't be too happy with that...

On first examination, I am tempted to support what the Bishop is saying. We certainly must be a little more careful and, more importantly, more active in improving our behaviour in this respect.

Having heard the Bishop, this morning on the Today Programme on BBC Radio4, where he defended himself from wanting to pronounce a "fatwa" (How could he do that, even if he wanted to? He is not a muslim religious leader!) while calling for "moral responsibility" and highlighting the need for the Church to "respond to the condition of today", I am feeling slightly uneasy with this discours.

It is interesting to hear from one of its primate, that the Church needs to be in tune with contemporary ideas. All too often, other religous zealots tell us that the word of the Bible is the word of God and that what is inthere applies to all times and circumstances; forgetting in the process that the Bible condones slavery amongst other things that are today considered obsolete, to say the least.

But this is not the important point.

Our western society, which is arguably uniquely responsible for global warming, is based on judeo-christian ideas. One of this ideas is that of man's stewardship of the earth and its creatures as entrusted to him by God.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Holy Bible, English Standard Version - Genesis 1:26
At some other point in the Bible, Adam (man) is made to name all the creatures of the earth, which symbolically (if one considers the importance of the all-powerful Verb in the bible) gives him another huge, god-like ascendancy over Creation.

And this is where things go wrong. For thousands of years, human being have been having their ways with the planet under the impression that they had god's permission to do so. Indeed that this permission releaved them from all responsibility.

This was fine until human population started to grow big and technical progress really kicked in in the 1850's with the industrial revolution. Human being did not change their outlook but the impact of their activities became ever stronger.

We are at the time where we have to unlearn centuries of ideology fed to us by the different Christian Churches and this is not proving easy, as it is all too apparent.

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Tuesday, 18 July 2006


Last week was busy to say the least. I had something on each and every evening, be it a rehearsal or a meeting. The week-end however provided the highlights. I won't tell you about Friday, since, the lost boy has done it for me.

The next morning, I managed to wake up a reasonably good shape (and without a headache!) and made my way on time to the Royal Festival Hall where coaches were to pick me and my fellow chorines up and take you to Cardiff. As part of the celebrations of our 15th anniversary, the Chorus was taking its madness to sunny Wales for the first time. This was my first visit there too.

We did not have much time to explore much however. Arriving at 3.30pm, we went directly on stage for the technical rehearsal and only came out again at 6pm for an hour break before the show. I had brought my dinner with me but having decided that I needed more water (always important when you sing), I went hunting for a supermarket of some sort. I was rather dismayed to notice that, while the crowds were still out en force on that balmy evening, most shops had already closed.

The show went very well. It was probably one of our best performances ever. It was however a pity that so few people (about 200 out of a potential audience of 2000) got to enjoy this. They made up for this in enthusiasm however. Marketing its shows outside of London is a recurant problem for the Chorus but thankfully one which is not really my problem any more.

The Chorus AGM was taking place last night with the election of a new Steering Commitee. I had decided not to stand for re-election and I have returned to the annonymity of the main group although I intend to stay involved with the marketing committee. It dawned on me, as I was attending the proceedings that I would probably not have been re-elected anyway, such is people's lack of understanding of the issues.

I heard some encouraging things from some of the candidates however and I will undertake a lobbying campaign with a couple of old proposals I made some time ago which had passed completely unnoticed by my fellow committee members.

We were thankfully whisked back to London straight after the show and by 2am, I was in bed. On sunday, I indulged in The-Weekly-Cultural-Outing-To-Tesco before joining the July meeting of my reading group. In late afternoon, I went to that little corner of dried grass and litter which sits across the road from the Old Vic and exposed myself to the crowds passing by on buses and the sun. My only proper time off on my own for the past week and until the coming Friday (if something does not come up at the last minute).

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Inside Europride 2006: The Show

We were only singing during the second part of the show. The first part was therefore spent c'leb spotting (there were lots of them around) or watching the show on TV with a crap sound backstage. I saw Jennifer Saunders (who looked rather pissed off), Graham Norton, his dog and its walker, Sandy Toksvig, Dame Ian McGandalf (aka Sir Ian McKellen) who was organising the whole thing and appeared singing on stage as Widow Twanky.

We had already spent the afternoon rehearsing and learning our positions. During the warm, Heather Small and her Musical Director came to say hello and were apparently quite impressed by the short demo we gave them of our vocal talents.

Before the show, we had a break for dinner and a few of us found themselves sitting in nearby Hyde Park checking out a bunch of hunky guys playing football who turned out to be members of the cast of Mama Mia also having a break before the show. At 7.30, I went to great Slightly and his borther who were benefitting from the free tix we had been given for the show. More c'leb spotting... We saw: Brian Paddick, some woman or other from Eastenders, Peter Tatchell and author Ian Stewart (together!)...

Rula Lenska (who performed with us at our Christmas show at the Barbican) and Martina Navratilova were also there together apparently.

Our performance went well and was well received although you can never really tell these things. Heather was fab. She was, in my opinion, the best act on the night, managing to get the crowd on their feet, clapping. Something even Elton John did not manage later on. Elton who, although he kindly said "hello boys" to a few of us as he arrived and we were waiting to go on stage behaved like the true drama queen he is supposed to be. He had obviously stipulated that David Furnish had to introduce him (and no one else), which he did as "my husband, Sir Elton John". That did not stop him however from turning up late on stage forcing the hosts to fill in. Before that the piano had been rolled in and polished (!), a glass of cola prepared in an ice bucket and the autocue plugged in. Still it seemed that something wasn't quite right with on of the feedback speakers and Sir Elton made it quite obvious.

We were given invites to the after show party but the show had lasted four hours. I was too tired and decided to go home.

A few insider's pictures of EuroPride 2006 the Show taken (with a cameraphone) during the tech rehearsal:

Heather Small and Charlie Beale (our director)

The Chorus on stage

"David Furnish's husband"

Members of the Chorus watching the first part of the show backstage

Read the Evening Standard's (rather catty) review (which doesn't even mention us)...

Other bloggers who were there (in no particular order): Liam, Czechone, Chris (scroll down), Slightly Lost, Slightly Lost again, Gaypop, Wishbone, Qenny, wirelessoxygen and Zombie Coterie.

Who just shouted "name dropper"?!

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Saturday, 8 July 2006

Joyous, Homo or Lame?

I know I am coming in a bit late in the debate but I just heard something on radio 4 that reminded me of it. I also saw a few placards of protest produced by Stonewall at Pride and politicians talked about it at the rally.

About a month ago, one of the BBC's presenters, Chris Moyles, got under fire for calling a ringtone "gay". The BCC is supporting this choice of word saying that the word has now a new meaning of "lame", "rubbish".

Does that mean that we can say that Moyles is gay (because, in my book, he is certainly rubbish) without the risk of being sued? Does Tom Cruise know about this?

Some people were quick to voice their initial distaste at the loss of the original meaning of the word (as "joyous") and tried to minimise the whole thing by saying that this was just another step in the constant evolution of language. This is not however an innocuous or benign one.

The new use of the word (by teenagers) is a direct result of homophobia and should not be ratified by what we must unfortunately recognise as figures of influence with the young. Does that mean that mister Moyles is going to start talking of niggers pretexting that the word is being used by young black men (following the example of hip hop artists) in an attempt of re-appropriation? I am pretty sure that this would not be as easily permitted.

This is not the first time that the BBC is accused of being homophobic.

This episode is another proof of the fact that the LGBT community is the last minority group which it is still socially acceptable, and sometimes even encouraged to attack.

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I *HEART* Broadband

Yesterday, as expected, I received a Livebox which allows me to receive 8Mb broadband (for free).

The installation wasn't quite as smooth as it could have been. My CD player is a little tired and I had to try several times to run the set up programme. Once everything seemed fine, my PC rebooted itself twice for no apparent reason (after showing, too quickly for it to be readable, a BIOS screen).

I rang the Orange support line who were very friendly and apparently helpful although the technician diagnosed that the problem had nothing to do with the newly installed broadband but rather was due to a fault on my PC. I wasn't convinced. Finally, and rather unexpectedly, microsoft came to my help. Windows XP has a fault report facility built in. Each times my PC had rebooted, one such report had been sent as well as when the problem occured a third time. This time however, something new happened. An Explorer window opened giving me a possible solution to my problem. It seemed that it had to do with the wireless LAN network connection. The solution was to download an updated driver for the bit of hardware; something I dutyfully did and lo! everything now seems to be working fine....

The surfing speed has of course increased tremendously and my online experience has improved in parallel. An added bonus, and I will probably come up with others as time goes by, is that I am now able to listen once again, after 7 years, to my favourite radio channel ever. Yes, even better than Radio4!

When I was at university in Dijon (I got there in 1993), I started to listen to the very local student radio, the, for me mythical, Radio Dijon Campus, 92.2FM. Like any good student radio, the production values were sometimes a bit ropy but the people working there were pationate about alternative/independant music and through them, thanks to them, I was introduced to all sort of wonderful sounds I would never have heard had I contented myself with a more traditional fare. The playlist hovers between alternative rock to electronica, drum and bass, to jazz, hip hop and latin beats and many others.

I strongly invite you to give them a listen. The summer programmes are on at the moment which means the only bits in French are taking place on the hour (for the news by Radio France Internationale) and after 6pm CET (French time). To listen to that wonderful little radio on Itunes (MP3 format), click here and relax.


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Friday, 7 July 2006

Europride Parade

Well, The programme of festivities for Europride I posted a week or so ago, underwent(as these things are wont) quite a bit of changes.

The core of Pride, for me, is the parade. It is the important moment, where LGBT people take over the street and show that the exist and that they are probably not as scary as could be thought. The rest is mostly commercial profiteering. After doing my first ever Pride as a lonely walking drop in this sea of colours in 2001, here in London, I have ever since been stewarding at the Parade. An enjoyable and rewarding way to take part.

The best possible position to be given as a steward is, in my view, to walk along the floats which allows you to actually take part in the parade. This year, because it was Europride and many people were expected, the organisations with a float were asked to also provide their own team of (6) stewards.

The Southwark LGBT Network, of which I am the co-chair, were having a float sponsored by Southwark Council this year like the past two years. Throughout June, workshops were organised to get members of the community involved with the creation of the float and on Friday afternoon, I lent a hand with three others to put the float together. We were still there at 9.30pm.

The Southwark LGBT Network float in front of Big Ben - 01 July 2006

See more pictures of the float here and here.

The next day, as the Senior Wheel Steward for the float, I met up with my team of volunteers just before 10am and we signed up together. Then we joined the float and started to wait for the beginning of the parade, watching the crowds gathering slowly, particularly of course, the hunky men on display.

Since our float, was part of the first set, the parade went pretty fast for us and after 1.30 min we were amongst the first to sign off.

I have to say that the waiting had taken its toll though and after a very quick look at Trafalgar Square where the rally was taking place, I made my way to home to collapse, tend my mild sun burns and prepare for the next day at the Royal Albert Hall (more about this in an upcoming post).

Pictures of the Parade on flickr

Slightly was there too.

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7 million londoners - 1 London

Thursday, 6 July 2006

Judy Shepard

Well, The programme of festivities for Europride I posted a week or so ago, underwent(as these things are wont) quite a bit of changes.

On Thursday morning, I received an email from one of those mailing lists I am registered to, announcing a talk for the same evening by Judy Shepard (Matthew Shepard's mother). This was organised by Merril Lynch as part of the second Diversity Week.

After humming and arring for a while, I decided to go. And a very good decision it was too. The talk was introduced by the Managing Director for London and started with a short address by Sergeant Richard Hendron, the youngest sergeant in the Metropolitan Police who talked about how the service had improved in openess with gay officers in the past 20 years. He also showed a fairly moving video retracing the history of the GPA.

Then, it was Judy Shepard's turn.

Although she describes herself as a mum simply sharing her views, she is an increadibly articulate speaker and a very inspiring one. She talked for about one hour without notes (she has been doing that for 7 years now, that must help); her basic and most important message being that we need to tell our story, be visible as gay people as a way to show who you are. The effect is that straight people will have to stop saying they don't know any gay people and have therefore no reason to support us.

Something I find particularly stricking is that she uses "we" when talking of the LGBT Community. I refuse to be cynical about this and just feel privileged to have been able to hear her.

For more info on her action, visit the website of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

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Almost Forgot

Yesterday, 05 July, marked the sixth anniversary of my arrival to London. A date I am keener to celebrate than my own birthday for some reason.

In the morning of that day in 2000, I stuffed my stuff in my little 106 Peugeot and drove off to end up about 7 hours later, in Surrey Quays where I would stay at a friend's place for a few months.

I remember, when I was probably about ten, wondering where I would be in 2000 when I would be 26. I didn't imagine at the time that I would be starting a life in a new country. There has been up and downs in those past 6 years (as should be expected) but on the whole, I think, the ups outnumbered the downs. I also got the chance to do things I would never have been able to do, had I remained in the sticks.

Here is to another 6 years!