Friday, May 16, 2008

A first...of sorts

AOG, Madrid

Last night I was having dinner with some friends. We spent part of the evening watching videos on youtube (on my friend's amazingly large flatscreen GE television with internet connection) and then an episode of Titty Bang Bang- the British comedy series- to mixed reviews. Paula, my Improv teacher and as of late, confidant, found some of it a bit gruesome.

In-between coffee and dessert, one of my friends asked me an odd question. I was, to say the least, surprised and slightly bemused.

"Is it true that gay men are sometimes active, or passive, or both?", my friend asked out of the blue as he took some plates into the kitchen.

I replied quickly and, I thought, without batting an eyelid. He nodded, then went back to the kitchen to do the washing up. Nothing major, just a clarification. I was, however, surprised by the question.

When he came out, the rest of us were deep into sex talk. Couples, positions, feelings, etc.

The aftershock came a few minutes later. These guys are not 12 and I would have thought that by now they would have had a chance to ask someone about this. Wrong.

After thinking about it for a while (I never said I was the sharpest knife in the drawer), I asked, innocently, if he and our other friend had any gay friends that they knew they were openly gay.

"No. Not really. There was this guy at acting class, but he left", said one.

"Like you? No, not really", said the other.

I can't say I was flattered by their comments, though they were trying to say something else other than what they were saying (body language, smiles etc etc). I was, am, their first and they are cool with that. Perhaps because I don't fit into their definition of a gay friend/man/person.

On the way back to the car I mentioned this to Paula. She was not surprised.

"Many men in Spain don't have gay friends", she said.

"Not that they are aware of", I corrected her.


She then mentioned how she herself had some now that she was an adult, and excused our other two friends for not having gay people within the circles they move in. I, again, mentioned that gay people are in all circles. And that visibility, or lack thereof, is something which I, increasingly, look out for.

She agreed.

Gay marriage in California

AOG, Madrid

Ever since I was a small child, whenever I tried to conjure up a truly modern place, I often thought of Japan. And if I tried to conjure up a truly modern place which was like paradise, I would often think of California- and Trantor, but that is because of my love for Science Fiction and my slant towards Asimov.

Today, California has stood me in good stead. It has just become the second state to approve gay marriage. Its Supreme Court has overturned two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, and instead ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

It cites:
"An individual's sexual orientation — like a person's race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

The New York Times carries the story like this on this article.

The Los Angeles Times covers the story like this on this article.

USA today covers the story like this on this article.

And The Washington Times does it like this on this article.

The only other state thus far to carry similar legislation is Massachusetts.

Surprisingly perhaps, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has said that he respected the court’s ruling and did not support a constitutional amendment to overturn it.

Ever America's pioneering State, California's Supreme Court was also the first state high court to strike down a law barring interracial marriage. It happened back in 1948 with a decision called Perez v. Sharp.

The vote in Perez, like the one in Thursday’s decision, was 4-to-3. The United States Supreme Court did not follow suit until 1967.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ABSOLUT...ely....58% of Mexicans believe...

AOG, Madrid

An ad for Absolut vodka in Mexico has sparked a small outrage in the US because it, according to some, suggests that the border between both countries should be re-drawn.

Here is the ad itself:

As you can appreciate, it somewhat follows the border between both countries as it stood before the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

A war in which Mexico
lost more than 500,000 square miles (about 1,300,000 km²) of land, about 40% of its territory and for which the US Government paid Mexico US $ 15,000,000, — less than half the amount the U.S. had attempted to offer Mexico for the land before the opening of hostilities.

All other borders are, in fact, contemporary, so the ad plays a dangerous game between historical fact and concurrent political borders. Certainly not an oversight.

I first came across it a couple of days ago when my cousin, living in Cancún, sent me a petition of support on Facebook. I thought it was cute and rather daring on Absolut's part.

I gave it little thought and saved the image for a post. Then, this morning, doing a bit of online research for this post, I came across a few disparaging comments concerning the ad.

It appears that most Americans are surprised by it. Somehow they thought that Mexico was quite happy for things to stand as they are and thought nothing of the war they fought and lost against the US back in the XIX century.

How wrong they are.

I remember back to when I lived in Mexico as a child. I remember the text books where Mexico had two really bad enemies and it was because of them that Mexico was in the state it was: One, the main evil culprit, was Spain. And the other, the US.

I understand, now, as an adult, why Mexicans need these two countries to be their nemesis. How else would they explain the state of their country? I have to say that, since independence from Spain in the 1820s, Mexico and Spain have come a long way in reconciling their differences. Though that is not to say all is well in their particular little patio.

I am not so sure the same can be said about the US and Mexico. Economic power aside, it is painfully obvious that the US sees Mexico as a bit of an inferior country. Mexicans, unfortunately, are not the best treated foreigners in the US. And, while on a personal basis, most Americans have no problems with individual Mexicans, it is true that, as a whole, Mexicans get a bad rap in the US.

Part of this is America's ignorance of its neighbors. Most Americans think Mexico is a country which extends all the way down to the Tierra del Fuego. In the US, to most people, regardless of where you come from, you are Mexican if you happen to be Hispanic. Unless you are black. In which case most Americans don't know what to make of you.

This is not to say that Mexicans are better than the Americans at understanding their neighbor. Perhaps the only truly anti-American country in the Americas is Mexico. Their love-hate relationship goes back a long way.

I am not surprised to hear that it was a publicity agency in Mexico City which came up with Absolut's campaign. It obviously plays a part in the national conscience. It is not something which they came up with. It was already there.

I always stress the need for greater education. On both sides of the spectrum.

Here is CNN's take on the whole issue:

I have to say that at times I feel like slapping Lou Dobbs with an enchilada.

But I am not surprised to hear that to 58% of Mexicans, believe that the American West is rightfully their land. Even if they lost it in a war. Even if the US then paid them for it. Even so. It is that thing which is so in vogue these days in Europe, Historical Memory. We see it everyday in the Balkans. And here in Spain.

I have to say that such an advert in Spain would have caused a diplomatic row. But for now, all quiet on the Mediterranean front.

On the US front, however, many are calling for a boycott of Absolut vodka in the US. And here is a link to that little piece of madness combining national outrage, immigration issues, and a whole lot of ignorance.

The Los Angeles Times has dedicated this page to air the views of its readers regarding this issue. Some of the comments are frightening. On both sides of the spectrum.

No more Italians in America, thank you

AOG, Madrid

I have just read an article in the New York Times which I find amazing.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency detained an Italian citizen for 10 days and sent him back afterwards.

Apparently he, who spoke little English, and the Agency's agents, who obviously had no education, appeared to be asking for political asylum in the US.

Italy is a country in the EU and very much rooted in what today we call the "First World". A democracy and a member of the G-9. So, why would an Italian citizen be asking for asylum in the US? Boggles the mind.

It appears that Domenico Salerno, a lawyer by the way, has an American girlfriend and is fond of visiting her and her well-to-do and well-connected family. From the NYT's article, it appears that : "Ten days after he landed in Washington, Mr. Salerno was still incarcerated, despite efforts by Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia, and two former immigration prosecutors hired by the Coopers".

That is what I call well connected.

The photograph depicts Mr. Domenico Salerno and Ms. Caitlin Cooper, his girlfriend, who wrote an email to the New York Times detailing the situation.

Senator Warner has a big bad battleship on his website's front page. So he cannot be accused of not loving America. Furthermore, the Senator is a Republican and a war veteran.

I am truly baffled by the fact that a Senator cannot hold enough sway with a Governmental agency to hurry the release of an obviously innocent man. Thus far, according to all involved, he has not committed a crime and was, in fact, spending a lot of his free time volunteering in the US. This is how the current Administration thanks him for his troubles.

What is happening in the US? Does it need to be such a Fascist regime?

There is a quote by Mr. Cooper, Ms. Cooper's father, in the article which, however, throws all goodwill out the window:

They were pretty shocked that the government could do this sort of thing, because it doesn’t happen that often, except to people you never hear about, like Haitians and Guatemalans.”

I take it in the spirit in which it was said, but it does show a lot of the arrogance which First World nations have towards other less fortunate countries. He is surprised because it happened to someone from Italy, but would have been less surprised if it had happened to someone from Guatemala or Haiti.

And this is because....?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


AOG, Madrid

I just read that Tori Spelling is going to take part in a new version of Beverly Hills 90210. She is now 34 years old.

Is this really necessary? She was not attractive back in the day, and now, well, just look at her. She looks increasingly like one of the Mon Calamari, albeit one with blond hair. From a bottle mind you.

So, I can understand that back in the early 1990s, her father, über producer Aaron Spelling, must have forced some poor producer to have Tori join the cast, or else.

But now? Again? I mean, if she were a good actress, she could be forgiven for the apparent nepotism, but, she is no Streep. She is not even a Monroe.

So, without looks, and with passable talent, should Miss Spelling be on television? Honestly, are there not more deserving and more talented actresses out there?

Very disappointing these news. Disappointing indeed.