Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homophobia in London

AOG, London

I have been in London for less than 24 hours and already a story has hit the news that makes me loose my faith in humanity.

It appears that last week, right in Trafalgar Square, Ian Bayham, a 62 year old man, was assaulted outside the South African High Comission by three people.

Three teenagers, two of them girls of 17, and a boy of 19, named Joel Alexander, were arrested and will be tried in Court for the assault.

I cannot begin to understand what would make three young kids attack an older man because he was gay. According to the press, the motive of the assault is homophobia.

The Times writes that:

"Ian Baynham, 62, was walking through Trafalgar Square in Central London with a 30-year-old friend when a woman began shouting homophobic abuse at him.

He went to talk to her but she attacked him and a man with her is said to have punched him to the floor and then kicked him. A second young woman was also involved in the incident.

Mr Baynham, from Beckenham, southeast London, was taken to hospital after the attack two weeks ago suffering from severe brain damage."

Mr. Bayham died of a severe brain damage, according to the police, when doctors switched off his life support machine.

A vigil will take place this Friday in Trafalgar Square from 8 to 10 PM.

I have spent the afternoon with a good friend, and we were handed an invitation to the candle vigil.

Although I wish I could go, I won't be in London then, but I will be thinking about the incident.


Because with any luck, I might be 62 years old one day.

I would hate to be attacked by three teenagers so badly that I too would die from severe brain damage. And all because I was gay, like Ian Bayham.

I am sure that the kid's families are in shock as to the events and about what might happen to them. They have been charged, I think, with manslaughter.

There never is a reason as to why these things happen. How could there be? This is a hate crime, and like all hate crimes, it makes no sense. Ignorance is the motive. Also probably anger, and frustration. Alienation. It saddens me to read that these things still happen. It saddens me even more when I think that they will probably continue to happen when I turn 62.

For all our beauty, what a horrible species we really are.

Homo homini lupus .... indeed

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Learning Japanese

AOG, Madrid

Ok, so I'm going to Japan. And I decided to buy a phrase book because, God knows, the locals are less than "fluent" with the Shakespeare, and although I'm a fan of all things "Nihon", the language escapes me.

Much like noodles do when I try to eat with chopsticks....

So there I am, learning away and asking my one friend who is from Japan (although in fact she was born in Mexico) to teach me a few phrases.

"Otearai wa doko desu ka?" means, where is the restroom please. Aren't I doing well?

She teaches me a few more phrases. I read a phrasebook. I practice.

And then my partner asks, nonchalantly, "why are you learning how ask anything since you won't understand the reply?"

Japanexican friend laughs out loud. Do I harakiri their ass now or later?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public Holidays Judeo-Christian Style

AOG, Madrid

Yesterday, a newspiece popped up on the El País website. It mentioned that the Catalonian School Council in Barcelona (Catalonia is Spain's most "on-again, off-again" progressive region- at least it likes to think it is) was putting forward a project to the Generalitat (Catalonia's regional Government) to rename the Christmas Holidays (Navidad in Spain) as, simply, Winter Vacations. And the same goes for Easter- Spring Vacations.

It also wants the school year to have a week of rest for the students in February, to start earlier than it does, and to debate the heavy workload of some public schools in June. All these measures it seems to have the full backing of the Council.

According to the article, in Catalonia 63% of schoolchildren go to public schools, and 37% go to private academies- and more than half of these are religious schools.

Of course you can imagine the outcry. Change Christmas? I posted the link to the article on Facebook and my take on it.

I am all for the name change. Why call it Christmas? Years ago I was informed as to why in the US and the UK we often say "Season's Greetings" on X-mas cards.

So as to 1- not offend non-Christians, and 2- take away the religious aspect of a Christian holiday in a lay society.

A couple of colleagues at work are also friends on Facebook. One of them is very religious. He blew a gasket. He did not understand how you could separate the religious from the holiday (btw...Holy-Day). He thought the whole thing stupid, but he was, however, open to debate and discussion. He is a journalist after all.

My other friend, not religious at all, had a similar reaction.

He did, however, went down a more cultural route.

Would the Catalonians be willing to rename Saint Jordi's day? Saint Jordi (Saint George), is the patron saint of Catalonia (and Aragon, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as Moscow, Beirut and Barcelona) and on the 23rd of April, Barcelona celebrates the day with lovers giving each other a book and a rose. On that day, Mexico, in accordance with UNESCO, celebrates what is known as Book Day.

I recall it very well from my childhood and when I was told about the celebration in Catalonia, I was surprised to hear about the attached Saintly celebration -Sant Jordi's days.

Needless to say, it is a very beautiful public festivity with the whole city of Barcelona awash with bookstands and flower sellers.

I don't know if they want to rename the festivity, but they might not care. Or they might do.

Part of his argument was tinged by Spanish nationalism versus Catalan nationalism.

In other words, regionalism versus regionalism.

His main argument against the name change was that "it has always been done like that".

I, of course, argued against the danger of any premise that starts with that sentence. Women in Africa are circumcised because it has always been done like that. Women in some Islamic countries are stoned to death if they commit adultery (not the men of course) because it has always been done like that. When I mentioned this, he agreed to the invalidity of that argument. But he still kept to his former view.

Another Facebook friend, who now lives in the US, reminded me that in the Soviet Union Christmas was celebrated eventhough the regime outlawed all religious dates. Much the same continued to happen in Cuba until the regime relaxed its stance. The Pope visited Havana not long ago.

I pointed out to my friend that Christmas was actually based on a previous, pagan, holiday.

Emperor Constantine thought of merging the two so as to not upset too much the pagans (of which, according to historians, he was one until almost his dying day when he was finally baptised).

So the celebration of someone who was, in theory, born in August, is performed in December.

Furthermore, how many people, I asked, do something religious at Christmas? Many do, of course, but here, in Spain, the younger generations are not that religious. And many older people aren't either. Yes, they like the tradition. The look of things. But I think the religious aspect is, often, forgotten or looked over.

I for one am not a great fan of Christmas. Jesus loves you so here's a Playstation. Somehow it does not compute. Yes, as a kid its a good chance to get things, if you are lucky enough to have parents who can do that, and you live in a country where that is done.

But as an adult, yes, I love the presents aspect of it, but little else. Certainly the religious part of the festivity pushes me away.

Would we still get gifts in December even if Christmas was re-christened? Probably. The gift industry needs dates like that.

Furthermore, the Japanese celebrate Christmas. But then Japan is a law unto itself.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Falcon Heene Was Never In The Aircraft

AOG, Madrid

This whole charade is amazing. Not just because of the coverage it achieved in the US, but because the amount of countries which followed the story. A small boy was thought to be inside a hot air balloon in Colorado. And the world talked about it here, and here in the UK, here in the Philippines, here in France.

Fortunately, the balloon was empty and the boy, allegedly, was hiding in the family home's attic. The media have portrayed the family in question as being very media hungry. It seems the father has twice asked to be on Family Swap. When interviewed, the boy said it was all for a show. Was it a hoax? Who knows. It appears it was.

My take on the whole thing has bigger perspectives. I think it is a perfect example of the differences, injustices and disparities still found in our world.

Daily, children in the Middle East, Africa and India, die.

These deaths get little or no air time. Unfortunately, it shows once again that Western citizens' lives are much more valuable and newsworthy than the lives of non-Westerners.

It is also a monument to the Global reach of American media.

In my view, it shows us once again how the world is getting smaller, but only its rich citizens are worth knowing about.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gay weekend

AOG, Valencia

This weekend I went to Valencia. It was a friend's 50th birthday and he and his partner were flying down from London to celebrate. I was really looking forward to seeing them. We used to go out a lot when I lived in London. We have, somehow, managed to remain friends in spite of the distances- geographical and emotional.

I took a train from Chamartin Station in the North of Madrid and, unfortunately, traveled all the way down facing backwards. Dizzy does not begin to cover it.

My partner came down from Barcelona with a friend who was visiting from New Jersey.

My friends also had another friend of theirs, from Venezuela, over. All in all we were all a very merry bunch.

We made friends very quickly, sort of like children do. I have to say that this does not always happen, but I am glad that it did on this occasion. We seemed to like each other and made each other laugh in the gayest way. It was like a movie sometimes. All we did was have a good time and laugh. So simple!

The city itself is beautiful. The last time I'd been there was in 1990. A different time. And then, I was there only for one day. Hardly time to see any of it.

We went to dinner to celebrate the birthday boy to a homestead-cum-restaurant on one of the rice paddies outside Valencia. Very traditional, so traditional, in fact, that there was a wedding going on too, where the groom was in full Scottish gear. Kilt and all!

So it went, my friends and I. Jokes, laughter, merriment. All fun. All gay. It had been a long time since I'd had one of these.

I suppose some people might wonder what I mean by "gay". I mean the ability to speak our language and know we are being understood. The ability to pinpoint cultural references old and new, classical and made-up, real and fake, and discuss them. The ability to make up a situation on the spot, and have everyone play along for fun. Mannerisms, words, expressions, gestures, borrowed, stolen, made up or personal. All in all, the ability to be yourself with your peers. Finally, peers!!

I remember in High School, back in Texas, how my classmates were my peers "in theory". In fact, I remember that back then I thought of very few people as being on the same mental wavelength as I was. None of them were, to my knowledge, gay. The ones who, sort of, approached what I would call peerdom, were one or two people in Drama class, one or two in French class. And the odd classmate here and there. I think it is a shame that I had no gay friends back then. It would have helped a lot. Alas, it was not to be.

And this past weekend was all about that. Carefree bantering. Jokes, applause, sightseeing, conversation, looking at people and being looked at back. I wish I had more of these. It is ironic, perhaps, that everyone who met up this weekend in Valencia lives everywhere except Valencia.

Maybe that was part of the magic?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

AOG, Madrid

I truly admire President Obama. But I think this is premature. He has yet to do anything like bring about peace somewhere.

If he can stop the Israelis and the Palestinians from killing each other, then yes. If he can bring peace to war-torn countries in Africa, of course. If he ends the nuclear threat or bans nuclear weapons, without a doubt. of today, he has done very little to deserve this.

I'm sure in time he will deserve it. No doubt.

But I think the best he can do right now is decline the honor and leave it for the future.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, October 05, 2009

Training of sorts...

AOG, Madrid

I spoke with a friend today about this blog. She mentioned she'd been reading it and that she felt she knew me a bit better for having done so.

Up until today, the only three people I'm aware of who read this are my mother , my best friend in the US, and, occasionally, my partner.

I was flattered and curious to know what she thought of it, after all, what else are blogs such as this one but exercises in vanity?

She seemed to reinforce this idea.

"You have a lot of tags on this blog. I didn't realize you had so many opinions on so many topics", she said.

My reply was, of course, pedantic. "Yes, opinions are free so of course I have many of those". I then encouraged ger to write one, but she declined. "I have nothing to say, and that which I do, I leave for my diary". I love having a friend who keeps a diary. Such an old thing to do.

I used to keep one too when I was a kid. Somewhere along the line I stopped. Perhaps I was too tired of moving around?

This past weekend I attended the Sitges Film Festival. On the flight there, I read an interview of the Spanish singer Concha Buika. She said that adults spend their childhood getting ready for what they are going to do as grown ups. "Children who grow up to be firemen constantly climb trees and get into trouble for doing so. But they are just training".

She then said that songwriters, and writers in general, also got into trouble because of lying. They lie because they are training; they are working on their stories.

I loved that biographical and sociological analogy. I like to think of myself as a writer. Certainly I work as a journalist. It was refreshing to think of that period of time as "training".

Now guess what I spent my childhood doing? It wasn't sports...