Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Newcastle - gay capital ????

An article in the guardian today discusses how Newcastle could be rebranded as the gay capital of the north-east if the city's council has its way.
Last weekend it held a ‘Have a Gay Say Day’, which I was aware of but completely failed to attend. Mainly, because I expected to see the same old faces and stalls selling ‘pet stones’ This has been my experience of the Newcastle gay scene, rather parochial and happy with a ghettoised gay scene as opposed to a more integrated culture. I have to be honest and say it is probably at least 5 years since I last went to a gay bar so it could well have changed by now.

Richard Marrin, manager of the council's gay men's sexual health and support project Mesmac (where both me and my boyfriend used to work) , says the event's intention was to tap into the pink pound and transform Newcastle into a bohemian metropolis. Apparently "Newcastle has already become a very gay city, with the local LGB community making up 20% of the population. We hope it will become one of the most attractive, culturally diverse - and economically prosperous - cities in the north." What a load of bollocks. There is absolutely no way that 20% of the population in Newcastle is gay, lesbian or bisexual. I would love to know where this figure has come from. If this were true then we would have the largest gay community in England.

I applaud any measures to tackle homophobia in schools, council departments, housing etc, and I think Newcastle has made some good progress towards achieving this. However, it does concern me that the main driver may be just about the ’pink pound’. Most gay people in Newcastle are from regular working class backgrounds and are unlikely to want (or be able) to invest ion swanky loft apartments or frequent flashy gay bars. Achieving equality in housing, pensions etc is very important and the Government’s proposed bill today on civil partnerships will go a long way to helping achieve this, but assume huge economic regeneration will follow with this.

More links
Ananlysis of Labour and coseravtive wooing of the 'gay vote'
How gay men can organise their finances
Outcomes of Conservative 'gay summit'
Labour's proposals for Civil Partnerships

Bush the Homo

Great link (via Rob) to Betty Bowers and her deduction that gay-bashing Bush is actually a bona fide homo. He peppers all his conversations with fabulous as in:

"And we'll prevail, because we're a faaabulous nation, and we're a faaabulous nation because we're a nation full of faaabulous people."

Many more examples at Betty.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Missing STD found

I have been waiting for this story to have a happy ending before posting.

A few nights ago me and my boyfriend were watching the local news and there was an item about a local boy would had gone missiing. I am happy to say he has been found unharmed. What really grabbed our attention was the boy's name - Connor Riach - not very interesting until you realise that the surname is pronounced 'Rea'. I kid you not - someone actually thought this was a good name and no one in the family noticed that the poor kid will be linked to an STD for evermore! more...:

Gay Summit for Tories

I listened to a discussion this morning on the Today programme about the Conservative Party's 'Gay Summit' taking place in London today. They say it is an attempt to recognise some of their past failings and move towards a more inclusive party, which recognises some of the diversity in society. I am not stupid, I recognise that this is about changing the image of the party to try to appeal to a broader section of society and remove some of the demons from the party's history. Equally, there are many commentators that believe it to be purely a PR exercise and that the only motivation is a "hollow, opportunist pre-election stunt". (Labour's Michael).

I suppose in reality this may be the case. It is hard to believe that a leopard can change its spots, and this could be interpreted as a desperate attempt to pull in a few more voters. I hope this isn’t the case. While I wouldn’t vote Conservative, I know that a lot of people will. If they are looking to develop more inclusive policies, including supporting a Civil Partnership Bill (More details on that are due on Wednesday), then I think we should be pleased. We have seen how Bush has used ‘the gay card’ to detract from the war in Iraq, his appalling economic record and the state of health care. The issue of gay marriage has been used to split part of the electorate into being for or against gay marriage rather than for or against good political management. The links with the religious right haven’t helped either the quality of the debate of the separation of politics and religion.

That is why I hope that the Conservative summit is more than electioneering. It is a real change for the party to offer such a clear message of inclusion to gay men and women and an unbelievable position given their previous record. I think it shows some maturing of political thinking in the UK and may help us to achieve more recognition of same-sex relationships than the model being pursued in America. The political parties seem to be shaping public opinion rather than reacting blindly to prejudices that still exist. I’ll be watching this one very closely.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Have you done it the gay way? I have, it was great.

I was listening to the re-runs of Little Britain on Radio 4 the other night and laughing at Tom Baker’s comments that “anyone who disagrees is either a woman, a mental or a gay.” In a comedic setting this is fine, but it made me think how the word gay is used in reports and how its use bugs me. You would never see a newspaper headline stating “Disableds back new policy” or “mentals campaign for new rights”. Rightly, it would say “Disabled people” or “People with mental health problems”. But if you are talking about gay men and women or black and Asian communities it seems perfectly acceptable to say “Gays” or “Blacks”.

In some respects this is no big deal, and I recognise that “Gays” is a much easier shorthand than “gay and lesbian” (and bisexual and transgender), but it still bugs me! Last week the Scotsman reported that “employment of gays and lesbians as clerics and as teachers…” I would prefer to see gay men and lesbians. I suppose it is the pedant coming out in me again. Having said that the spellchecker in Word seems happy to accept “gays” and “blacks” but not “disableds” and “mentals” – I suppose blacks gets through by also being a verb. Perhaps the world has moved on and “gay” is now a proper plural noun?

UPDATE - I have looked at a few dictionary sites and it appears I am now wrong and “gays” as a descriptinve term is fine:

Usage Note: The word gay is now standard in its use to refer to homosexuals, in large part because it is the term that most gay people prefer in referring to themselves. Gay is distinguished from homosexual primarily by the emphasis it places on the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality as opposed to sexual practice. Many writers reserve gay for males, but the word is also used to refer to both sexes; when the intended meaning is not clear in the context, the phrase gay and lesbian may be used. Like the other names of social groups derived from adjectives (for example, Black), gay may be regarded as offensive when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in There were two gays on the panel; here phrasing such as gay members should be used instead. But there is no objection to the use of the noun in the plural to refer collectively either to gay men or to gay men and lesbians, so long as it is clear whether men alone or both men and women are being discussed.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Tech advice

I have been thinking for a long time about adding an Ethernet network at home. The main PC is upstairs - music, Tivo etc are downstairs. I will be doing some re-wiring work in the near future and makes sense to add in the Ethernet at the same time. I am definitely not well informed on this, but I am pretty confident that current WiFi speeds, reliability and security are not suitable for streaming audio-video through the house and a hard-wired system is the way to go.

Has anyone tackled this themselves? If so, I would really welcome any advice, or pointes to websites that will help me assess what is needed. I am assuming it just as simple as installing the wires and sockets and then configuring the PC. No doubt this is incredibly naive?

Friday, March 19, 2004

I say a little prayer...

After a frantic week at work I am planning on knocking off a little early today. My boyfriend and I are off to stay with my parents this evening. This is one of the most expensive weekends of the year for me. As well as Mothering Sunday (don’t tell me you had forgotten!?) it is also my dad’s and brother’s birthday. We are going out for a meal tomorrow for a joint celebration and then travelling back up on Sunday to meet my boyfriend’s family to celebrate mother’s day with them. I am looking forward to the weekend, especially as this week has been the week form hell; deadlines looming left, right and centre and a new member of staff to train up at the same time.

On Saturday we are also off to my parent’s favourite hippy shop. They have always had a laid back attitude since I was brought up in rural Wales in the 70s. They would traipse from festival to festival with me in my pram buried under a pile of tie-dye T-shirts and crocheted ponchos. Inevitably, the re-joined the rat-race when my brother and I were older but they seem to be moving closer to the past as they near retirement. Their house is full of Buddhas and prayer cymbals; there is usually pan-pipe music playing in the background and incense wafting through the house. It is actually very relaxing and when they presented us with a 3 foot Thai Buddha at Christmas we thought it was time to try and mimic some of their serenity ourselves. This hasn’t quite happened with work needed on the house and the pressures of work but my boyfriend and I both have leanings towards Buddhism which seems the only faith that has real meaning to us. So, who knows what we will return with? I don’t expect us to return wearing kaftans and smothered in patchouli oil – but who knows?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Do you want my blood?

I came across a report today about a Canadian school that has agreed to bar the blood donation form using its premises until sexually active gay men can donate blood. It seems that in Canada, as in the UK, all blood donations are screened for HIV. Yet, as an added layer of protection, both agencies screen out male donors who've had sex at least one time with a man since 1977.

The school board commented that the "current ban on gay donors leaves the false impression only homosexuals are at risk for contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and as an educational institution, we cannot allow this kind of false perception to continue." There has been some debate about whether a school should take a public stand on social debates occurring outside the classroom. As the school board chair said "Our primary focus has to be on matters of education, but being elected means sometimes you have to get involved politically."

Full marks to them for this. There is no doubt that gay and bisexual men have high levels of HIV infection compared to some other communities, but the key is whether someone has had risky sex rather than whether they have had sex with another man. I used to donate blood regularly when I was a student, but stopped in about 1990 when the UK blood service restricted donations from men who had sex with other men. I entered into a long correspondence with the service about the discriminatory nature of the ban, noting that I had only ever had protected sex, whereas I knew heterosexual friends who had participated in unprotected sex could donate blood freely. The blood service didn’t seem to agree with my viewpoint citing patient safety as their key concern.

I cannot disagree with ensuring that the blood supply is safe, but there has to be a better way of identifying the risk factors rather than a blanket ban.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Group at U.N. tries to block benefits for gay partners

It is reassuring in these times of uncertainty that you can rely on the catholic church to continue supporting moves towards equality. The vatican has done a splendid job in bridging the chasms between religions by joining forces with Islamic states to block attempts to extend spousal benefits to partners of some gay employees at the U.N.

"The same group is also preparing to oppose a resolution, sponsored by Brazil and supported by the European Union, at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in Geneva that calls for nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, diplomats said. The Vatican and other conservatives maintain that the Brazilian resolution and Annan's new benefits policy would provide gay people with protections never envisioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

more on this story

Sunday, March 14, 2004

What's your type?

Just taken the Physical Attraction Test at Match, courtesy of Zbornak and Popdizzy.

Apparently, "It's official: You're "picky." The fact is you are drawn to the most handsome of the handsome. You know what you like in men and are more selective than most men your age. Your tastes seem instinctual. You'd make a great casting agent, because you have a good eye for men who have 'star quality.'...Very Selective: You are very selective, compared to most guys, in the types of men you find appealing. You're wowed by "movie star" good looks, and in general, appreciate men with "traditional" or "mainstream" appeal. ...One body type that seems to appeal to you is scientifically called "Endomorph," which roughly translates into solid, stocky guys. He's not overweight, but his big bones, muscles, and overall mass make him hard to miss. Most would say he has a real "presence." His broad shoulders and big arms convey a sense of safety. This is not a guy to mess with...."

My ideal guy is:

These guys also seem to rock my boat:

Pretty accurate actually. My boyfriend fits the body type and definitely has movie star looks, so looks like we are right for each other. That is, assuming he doesn't take the test and find I am not his type!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Peverse pedant

I had a rather bizarre conversation with my partner last night – probably due to consuming too many pints of Stella at our local pub.

I have been reading ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss, a pedantic look at grammar and punctuation in the English language. We began by having a heated discussion on the use of apostrophes and whether the contractive use (it’s for it is) and the possessive use (Jaymaster’s blog – the blog belonging to Jaymaster) can be combined.

Let me give you an example: my boyfriend believes that “Jaymaster’s a manager” is a grammatically correct version of “Jaymaster is a manager”. I believe that while this may be OK to use in conversation, it looks odd on paper and I would always use the latter version.

The more I look at this, the more I question what I think about it. I can see that it makes logical sense but it just doesn’t look right. We got into a rather heated discussion on this one.

This was then followed up by my inherent film snobbery. There are a lot of films that I haven’t seen, for a variety of reasons. For example, I have never seen ‘Braveheart’, as I refuse to put a penny into Mel Gibson’s pocket. This is perfectly logical and I defy anyone to disagree with this. I have also never seen the films of Quentin Tarantino. The goes right back to ‘Reservoir Dogs’, which I perceived as being ultra-violent. I have no objection to anyone else watching this but I tend to self-censor films I think will involve extreme violence, as I don’t really want to see it. I must stress that I am not advocating censorship in any way, but I think I am perfectly entitled to watch films on a self-selecting basis. (As an aside, I accept that the stylistic nature of Tarantino’s films may make the violence an incidental feature that has stopped me watching an otherwise excellent film).

I think that there is a pretty convincing case for both of these arguments. Where my argument falls down is with films such as ’Lord of the Rings’. I think I may be one of the only people who have never seen any of the LotR trilogy. It started off as disinterest in a goblin fantasy movie, however, as the films have gained popularity I have taken a perverse satisfaction in having not seen them. I don’t think this makes me better than others (do I?) – in fact, as my partner pointed out, the people who haven’t seen the films are most likely to be the charvas that I would want to be associated with anyway.

Although both these discussions were rather heated we didn’t fall out. We agreed that I am a little weird and staggered home hand-in hand.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Only another 33 years of work ahead...

I am sat at my desk with several items all with imminent (if not, exceeded) deadlines; yet, I still have no motivation to start working on them. I know my manager will be out of her meeting in the next 2 hours, and will expect to sit down and run through the presentation I am meant to be writing (for a conference tomorrow). It isn’t particularly difficult, although I will need to interpret reams of data in a meaningful fashion; I just have no motivation to start work.

At the moment it is more stimulating to watch a robin hopping from bough to bough, which I can see if I crane my neck out of the window. He seems to be involved in a bizarre mating ritual with a squirrel, as I cannot see any other birds around. Perhaps spring is in the air, and my brain refuses to undertake mental drudgery when I could be lazing outside.

Sudden realization – I must get this presentation done – no more procrastinating (blogging), back to work.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Norweigan penis envy

A Norwegian sexologist [what a great job] is unveiling a book to help heterosexual men compare their penis with other men. Mr Benestad, a doctor and a well known transvestite, says the book will feature 80 to 100 photographs of penises - according to this report. Linked to this (tenuously) Alan Shearer was asked on Norwegian television about what he did with his penis after urinating. Apparently, "When he hesitated, interviewer Kristopher Schau repeated the question. The former England international eventually said he wouldn't answer." Pretty simple question to answer, but hard to see the relation to international football.

I am not sure whether this makes Norway a very dull country with weird interviewers and doctors snapping pics of your dick; or an interesting country with off-beat interviewers and altruistic doctors ensuring we all feel good about ourselves?

Just for reference - photos of Norway and some lovingly crafted Norweigan wooden penises.

Archers radio show set to feature first gay kiss

As a proper middle-class gay man I listen to The Archers. Reports of a kiss between Adam Macy and the new chef Ian have been circulating. They were certainly quite cosy last night, while Lizzie and Nigel played an amusing role-playing game to spice up their marriage.

No doubt there will be outrage across middle-England; The Mirror reported it as a "shock scene" with a BBC exec quoted as saying "there will be 'audible' mouth to mouth contact" - I cannot wait to hear that! Last night, the episode ended with Ian and Adam off to a 'mellow' club. Keep tuned into this one.

Monday, March 01, 2004

St David's Day

St David's Day - or where I out myself as Welsh. I have to admit to lapsing a little and only realising when I woke this morning that it was the 1st March. I think I automatically lose my right to Welsh heritage for the next 12 months. A lot of you probably know bugger all about St David, as St Patrick is a great one for hogging the saintly limelight.

St David (or Dewi Sant to be more accurate) is the patron saint of Wales. It is thought that Dewi died in 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He also went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David's), in south-west Wales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi - he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all.

From the 12th century onwards, Dewi's fame spread throughout South Wales and as far as Ireland and Brittany. St David's Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. In 1398, it was ordained that his feast-day was to be kept by every church in the Province of Canterbury. Though the feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the day of his birth became a national festival during the18th century. Adapted from Dydd Gwyl Ddewi

St David’s Day Quiz
Welsh recipes