Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 recap

AOG, London

The year 2010 is over. What a year it has been. I think the older I get the easier it is to take the good with the bad. Perhaps because one eventually realizes that there is just nothing else to do! 

Maybe this is wisdom of some kind.

Although only 365 years long, I have to say that, for the most part, I can't really remember a lot of what went on this year. Perhaps I can think of the grand themes of the year.

It started in a very humanitarian way with a natural disaster in Haiti early on. Moving on to a historical (but only for the British and no one else) general election in the UK which gave the country its first coalition-Government since the 1940s and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver which completely passed me by.

Later, I can recall the up-and-coming post UK election quagmire regarding the state of British finance; rioting students in London, and....well....little else in that country.

As for the rest of the planet, there was the Chilean miners story, the (pretend) Coup in Ecuador, Cuba's ever growing spiral into the abyss whilst pretending that all is well closely resembles the same idea, although with a local flavor, in Venezuela.

North Korea attacking South Korea, the US shunning the EU a few times, the Spanish economy heading for disaster,  the odd political corruption scandal in Spain, the Nobel peace prize winner (from China) and the Nobel prize for Literature (from Peru, though the Spanish press treat Vargas Llosa as though he were domestic), turmoil in Africa and, again, in the Middle East (by this I mean that there is no progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict).

On a personal note, this year was eventful in many ways, and subdued in others. 

Job went well, colleagues at work were all nice, made some friends, discovered one enemy (odd, right?), tried to find a new career path but was derailed early on and until further notice, and went to Turkey.

A new baby came into my partner's family, and thus, somehow, into mine. I had a good year for my photographs though not so good for my short-story writing. 
Health wise, well, I could be better. I've read some good books, and some good short stories. I've become (finally) a fan of Gaga, even though her concert in Madrid left me a bit lukewarm. I'm just not her little monster. Nor her little freak.

And, finally, I got to visit the place where I was born and to where I'd never returned since, not even once. And it was an odd experience.

I end the year realizing that, perhaps, I am a little ahead that from where I was this time 2009. 

I think that, all in all, this is a good thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lunar eclipse

AOG, Madrid

Today there was a full lunar eclipse happening out in space.

According to the BBC, it is the first time since 1638 that a lunar eclipse has fallen on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Also the longest night. 

Link here to the story. There's even a video of it.  

I remember reading that ancient societies used to celebrate the solstices with great religious festivals. 

It is one of those things which I think we should still do, but we don't. I don't mean the religious aspect of it.

I don't think the sky is falling or that it presages some future calamity (though the Universe could prove me wrong!), nor do I think it is some sort of divine "happening". 

It is just a natural phenomenon which we were treated to today on the planet. One of the many things I often take no notice of. It has always been like this. My modern life has always taken place in an urban setting, with artificial light to ensure civility after dark, and running water and canned food. 

My contact with nature's forces has been minute, unless the force in question was of inhuman magnitude. Like an earthquake, or a comet, or a flooding etc.

I remember seeing the  Hale-Bopp comet back in 1997. What a spectacle that was. I recall seeing it at night and thinking that this great light was hurdling towards this planet at a great speed. 

Although a natural phenomenon, I remember thinking that it looked ominous enough to make me feel scared. It certainly looked alien. It took forever to disappear from the sky and it was with us for a very long time. 

So my point is this. In my life, all solstices have just come and gone. 

When I lived in London, since from mid-October onwards it gets dark at  around 4:30 PM, the shortest day of the year was an odd thing to witness or care about since all days were short and it was always dark. 

As for the Summer solstice, it was always greeted with the annual "See the druids at Stonehenge" piece on the news which no one took seriously. 

Unfortunately, the solstices have lost all meaning in our culture. They come and go and we, unless we are druids, don't take much notice. 
Here in Spain, the night of San Juan (St. John) is known as the longest day of the year, and the shortest night. Bonfires are held and you are meant to jump over them to have your wishes granted. I did this in 2008 with some friends and, like today's solstice, it was raining profusely. 

Of course, until two years ago, I didn't much care for St. John's night or for the Winter Solstice. 
But today I did. And I hope that in future I will take notice. 

A solstice doesn't really mean anything (no, I don't know why everything has to mean something, I'm Hermeneuticed out), but it is nice to mark the passage of time on the planet. 

To note that we have gone once around the Sun and that the weather will change. That we are a part of nature, even when we don't notice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FACEBOOK, and other maps

AOG, Madrid

This is the new map of the world as influcenced by facebook. As you may gather from it, a lot of places have been left out. Here's a hi.res link to the facebook map.

Here's a link to they way facebook mapped the planet according to people's friends. 

So, what defines modernity? In facebook's case, about 500 million people and their pairs of friends.

The definition's landscape cannot escape the question, who is modern? 

But more importantly, who is not?

China isn't. Most of Africa is out. As is most of Brazil and the Islamic world.

And who is "modern"? 

No surprises there. The West. Europe, the US. Parts of Australasia. A thin line of Canada. Some Russian cities.

And the non-West? Japan, large bits of India.

Of course, if you think about it, the parts included are also the parts which hold most of our money, even though most of them don't get much air time on TV. 

At least not in the English-speaking world (so self-referencing!).

Is this map signifying something? 

In the XIX century, the British liked to redraw the political world and used to draw the British Isles rather engorged.

They were the dominant world power then.

I remember that in High School, maps always showed the US in the middle. Pride of place. 

It does not matter that it cuts Asia in half.

China does much the same.

Those of us who are not Chinese may find this interpretation of the planet as strange.

But it probably is just a question of adaptation. Why should they not be in the middle? They are the Middle Kingdom after all. 

I remember reading that the Emperor of China was upset when a Western General showed him a map of the planet. 

China -the Middle Kingdom because it was halfway between the heavens and the Earth- was not so big, when compared to others. 

But his main worry was that it was not in the middle. At the center. 

Rather, it was at the periphery of it all. 

How unlike today!

And Australia likes to show the world upside down (in a universe with no North or South).

Countries like to see themselves first. 

So narcissistic.

And at the top. 

North good. South, bad.

Monday, December 06, 2010


 AOG, Madrid

According to the Internet (guess whose name is buzzing and trending on most top 10 lists?), the arrest of Julian Assange, founder and director of Wikileaks, is imminent. 

 Apparently, he is wanted in Sweden in connection with rape and assault charges there. 

Now, I am no expert in undercover CIA ops, but it strikes me as odd that this guy would be guilty of said offenses. 

He may very well be, I don't know for a fact that he isn't, but isn't it 'convenient' that the US Government is these days trying to stop by all means a diplomatic fall-out with the rest of the planet courtesy of the salacious Australian? Link to the original story here.

As if that were not enough, even the website is under attack with some people calling Mr. Assange a "digital refugee": link to story here.

What amazes me most is the reactions of some politicians in the US who have declared that he should be put to death. Link to the story here

As we all know, when the American  Government (or any other foreign Government) does not want something to be known publicly, it does have a tendency to declare things like "National emergency", "Putting the lives of so and so at risk", "National interest concerns", etc etc. 

I'm sure that sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are not. 

But my question is this: is the American Government endowed with the divine power to decide who and what its electorate (and secondly the rest of the world) gets to know about its modus operandi

My take on it is that no, it just does not have that privilege. 

True, it certainly has the  resources to stop things from being known, but it, like the Papacy, cannot declare for itself the notion of Infallibility. Life just does not operate like that. Why? 

Because when faced with any Governmental pontification regarding the National interest, as defined by the US Government alone, a big fat "HELLO?" begins to take root on the mind of many people. 

Quickly followed by an "Excuse me?", and a no less irksome "Oh, really?" a la Saturday Night's Weekend Update.

If anything, the revelations of Wikileaks have shown that the US Government is probably the only Government who has an almost identical public and private discourse. 

Here in Spain, the revelations -as published by El País-, have only created a slight public outcry regarding the apparent Government intrusion into the Couso affair, whereby a Spanish cameraman was shot by US Forces in Irak, and the US has, it would seem, pressured Spain for this not to happen. 

Of course, Spanish authorities have always denied obstructing the course of Justice in the country. But the leaks are there...

The documents in question only show what the US Diplomatic Corps is meant to do. 

The Diplomatic Corps of any country. If surprises have arisen, it is often to do with National politics and the behavior of certain individuals, politicians and influential society figures in their respective countries towards their electorate, to whom in most cases, it has lied to , or hidden the truth from, concerning their relations with the US. 

In my opinion, the fault does not lie with the American Government. It is free to do whatever it wants, and to ask, request, or coerce other Governments to do their bidding. The problem lies with the other party, the one the Americans talk to. 

 The problem is not that the US wants you to do something. Well, of course, it would. It is a global power after all. The problem is when you go along with it. 

Is Mr. Assange as bad as Osama Bin Laden? 


He has not plotted to kill Americans or anyone else. He has merely publicised a lot of documents the US Government would rather nobody saw for at least 30-50 years. Some call that a crime. 

A crime only the US Government has decided it is one. But of course, as with all else in life, their take on the situation is completely subjective. 

It cannot be a crime simply because they say so.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World Aids Day

AOG, Madrid

Today is World Aids Day. How far we've come since that first glimpse into the illness back in 1983 when ABC's 20/20 program covered the disease for the first time.

I remember it well, I think it changed my life. 
I was living in Houston, Texas, at the time, and I was a young impressionable youth then of about 13. I remember watching the program and being mesmerised by it. 

I think I was too young to fully understand it, but old enough to know that, this AIDS thing was going to determine a lot in my life. For better and for worse.

I remember that soon after the program, my mother had some friends over, and they were talking about it. I particularly remember a lady, I forgot her name, who was very tall, and who was explaining to my family how shocked she was by what she had seen. 

"It can be passed on through the sweat in the palm of your hand", she said, as she stretched out her hand into the void to mimic a handshake. Whenever I think of Aids, I think of her and that handshake. And, of course, of the fact that she was terribly wrong.

I knew then that this definitely had something to do with me. 

Why? Well, because back in the 1980s (and unfortunately even today), the general consensus was/is that only gay people got Aids, and that it was a gay disease. It wasn't, it isn't, but the stigma is still there.

Since then, I've grown up and had AIDS surrounding my life constantly. 

I am gay, how could it not?

Soon enough, my mother, who hosted a radio show in Houston, began to investigate AIDS. 

A lot of people in the Hispanic community in the State of Texas were concerned with the disease. 

Many of them worked in hospitals, and they were, at first, being forced to clean up -without any sort of protection-, after patients. Many of them with AIDS. 

Of course, unfortunately, a few of them were infected. I remember my mother being very concerned with their health and promoting their protection. 

She invited doctors, investigators, lawyers, in short, a plethora of people to tackle the issue. It wasn't long before things changed. She helped, in her own way, to change this. Even Mexico's UNAM bought her radio shows. Such was the lack of information in the early days. I remember my sister and I helping her out. 

Gathering information, making phone calls, reading up on it on the press (no internet back then, remember?). I think that is where I got the journalism bug from. 

It was information with a purpose, and I was only too glad to help out. I think in a way, I was helping myself out too. By learning about protection.
Back in the year 1992 I was living in London. 

It was then that I met the first person with AIDS. I had just moved out from home and had hosted a "house warming" party at my flat in Pimlico. 

One of the guests, a friend of my first ever gay friend, Pierre, had invited another guy over. His name was Robert. He stayed after the party ended and helped me to clean up afterwards. 

He was a bit tipsy and we got to talking about many things. But, I will never forget this, the first thing he told me when we were alone, was that he had been diagnosed with being HIV + that same day. 

I was slightly in shock, since, until then, I had not met anyone who knowingly was positive. Knowingly. 

I didn't care that he was, since by now I had a pretty clear idea of how to protect myself. I tried to just be his friend. I think that is what I've always done when I meet people who are HIV+. This is because if I ever become infected, I think this is what I'd want from people. Just to treat me like any other human being.
Living in London, I must say that the pandemic hit me hard at times. I remember the first person I met who died of AIDS.

Him and his best friend came up to me once in Heaven, the night club. We became friends of sorts. They thought I was funny and, as they said "a new face in the scene". 

They liked me and I liked them, but we weren't buddies, just people who were friendly to each other and would speak to each other when they met. I don't know what word best describes that situation. 

Perhaps a lighter form of friendship, just above just an acquaintance? The first ever red ribbon I wore to commemorate the victims was given to me by them, the Lollies.

The years passed, and one day I noticed I saw one of them alone. I asked about the other one, and the reply shocked me. 

"Lolly died of AIDS a couple of months ago". 

His real name was not Lolly, but they called everyone Lolly.

Other too would follow in his journey. But many didn't.

Medicine, with its intense desire to end this disease, made things better for those who kept themselves alive. 

I write this with great pain, since many decided to let themselves go. I saw it. I cried for them. But it was their choice, and no one could do anything to stop them. 

Today, I am lucky enough to have a few friends who are still alive. Who care about themselves. Who survived. The cost I can't even imagine. Both at a personal level, and generational. People my age have suffered greatly, and their families and friends. 

I see that young people today are more cavalier with the disease. Just yesterday, whilst having a drink with some friends, a guy of 25 dismissed the whole thing with, "no one dies of AIDS anymore". 

I was shocked. He hasn't lived through it. Perhaps it is for the best that he didn't. It was no Pic - Nic.

But there are many more anecdotes I try to forget. 

Like the one about the guy who's partner was positive and he, out of love, became infected. 

Like the guy who felt he was missing out on the support of the gay community towards HIV positive people, and didn't stop until he became infected on purpose.

Like the guy, a close friend, who never volunteers his HIV status unless they ask. And they never, or almost never, ask.

Like the mother of two who committed suicide by mistake, in a drunken night, thinking she would have more help from the State if she was even more disabled.

I rather not go on, but it is obvious that this disease has taken its toll, mentally, on many of us.

My wish today, as every day, is that one day, before I depart this planet, World Aids Day is no longer held. That a cure, a vaccine, whatever, was found. 

And that all the suffering was not in vain.

That is my wish.