(Gay) Identity and Future

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
About this blog
This is my first blog. It's a mixture of weblog and journal, with postings about my life as a gay man, and gay issues I care about. The idea is to talk about my own identity, and about what "gay identity" is now - and is becoming.

The relationship between gay sexual feelings, gay sex, and the rest of life, has always been one of tension and conflict -- within individuals and between gay people. The places where these differences show most acutely are in views and decisions about "coming out" and "equal rights". But what it is to be gay, and what it means to live openly as a gay person, have changed. They're enormously more varied. And so the meanings of "coming out" and "equality" have changed too.


John Adams (#)
Thomas Ades (#)
Julian Anderson (1 2)
Harrison Birtwistle (#)
Hans Werner Henze (#)
Magnus Lindberg (1 2)
Colin Matthews (#)
Peter Maxwell Davies (#)
Thea Musgrave (1 2)
Esa Pekka Salonen (1 2)
Kaija Saariaho (1 2 3)
Mark Anthony Turnage (#)

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July 31, 2002
Thanks to Frankie (and mefi) come some wonderful links to take up where Marcus's shit leaves off. These underpants are designed to force all flatulence through a charcoal filter in the bottom. As the manufacturers oblige one to recall: "You know the moment everyone pretends to ignore? When someone unpacks their grip, lets one rip, cuts the cheese? Your nose hair curls. Your eyes tear up. Flatulence." The site includes a detailed description of the construction and working principles of the garments, information on wear and care, testimonials, videos of TV discussions and articles. “Wear them for the ones you love.”

Then there is the flatulence filter or toot trapper disguised as a chair cushion, subject of newspaper articles from one end of the US to the other -- and you can listen to Regis and Kathy Lee talking about it! But if the smelly devil in your office won't use these products, perhaps CoWorkerHints can persuade him. For $9.95 they will send an anonymous letter to the individual in question advising them of their problem and how to deal with it, or to a manager, asking them to do something. And not just farting! bad breath, BO and custom letters are all available. Worth every penny!

You want the medical details?
    People with large hemorrhoids, for example, will have louder flatus than people with lax sphincters. Vegetarians, who actually pass a lot of gas, frequently have quiet, frequent flatus because they have large, bulky stools and looser sphincters. They will be detected socially only if it's foul-smelling; whereas, carnivores may have less gas but, since they have tighter sphincters and may be more constipated, have high drama flatus.
Drama flatus! If that taster is not enough there is more here. None of that was known when the Lady's Flatus Inhibitor was invented by Michael Flannigan in 1864. Originator of numerous other original devices during his eventful life, the flatus inhibitor was the cause of literally incredible scenes of disarray in high society, dubbed by one newspaper the Windy Lake Cross Rip.

On many non-political British blogs -- those not devoted to controversy over world events -- expressions of hostility to the actions of the United States are still commonplace. This is just as true of gay blogs. It reflects scepticism, or even hostility towards the policies of the Bush administration that is widespread in Britain. I can see the reasons for this, and I understand the values which such views arise from. But though I profoundly disagree with them, it's not usually worthwhile to say much more than that. Who wants to read opinions they don't share, by someone with no special claim to authority or originality?

But anyone who's at all interested, or who peppers their blog with comments about the news, should take a look at an article in the June/July Policy Review. It's by Robert Kagan (Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC) and is entitled "Power and Weakness: Why the United States and Europe see the World differently". It takes a very clear-sighted look at why US and Europe have different goals and approaches and why increasingly the United States makes the dinner, and Europe is left with “doing the dishes”. It sets the whole argument on a new basis (though I do have to admit it is a bit short of laughs or potential for musical adaptation).

July 30, 2002
It's nice to see that Alan Duncan -- the newly out Conservative Member of Parliament -- has a very respectable website, for anyone who wants to know a bit more about him. There are also some rather amusing pics. I'm right behind him (so to speak) and in recognition have taken down a copy of his outstanding book Saturn's Children: How the State Devours Liberty, Prosperity and Virtue -- my edition contains the chapter on legalising drugs, which got taken out, and then put back, in successive editions, as Conservative policy on the issue flip-flopped about.

While dealing with political ideas, I want to recommend Junius, an English blogger with an amazing appetite for ideas, and stamina for discussing them. Added to which he makes a lot of sense. So does Making Light (by the incredibly fertile Amercian blogger Teresa Nielsen Hayden) -- as well as linking to such hilarious sites as True Porn Clerk Stories by Ali Davis.

Despite the heat, some bloggers are really turning out a stream of hot postings. Never lost for words, Mike is on top form right now. And taking of hot streams... a kind of over-the-top coda to all the shit that Marcus stirred up has appeared on the Ananova news service (courtesy of Gary)
    Gerrit de Boer, president of Idomo Furniture International, says he found his 24,000 square-metre basement ten centimetres deep in faeces and urine. "Even if you're 40 feet away from the store it smells awful," an upset Mr de Boer said. "It's not been a good day."

July 28, 2002

Lest we forget
Alexander Ginzburg
Russian dissident in the 1960s and 1970s
Born Nov. 21, 1936 - Died July 19, 2002

Instead of ranking our own less-than-eternal prose (nothing wrong with that though there is), it might be interesting to turn to (somewhat) more enduring writing. What do bloggers think are the ten best works of gay fiction? In the Guardian Paul Burston made this choice of his favourites:
    1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)
    2. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet (1943)
    3. City of Night by John Rechy (1963)
    4. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (1978)
    5. Dancer From The Dance by Andrew Holleran (1978)
    6. A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White (1982)
    7. Queens by Pickles (1984)
    8. Flesh And Blood by Michael Cunningham (1995)
    9. Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas (1997)
    10.Two Gentlemen Sharing by William Corlett (1997)
It's a strange list - kicking off with some genuine classics, and then piling in some real rubbish. No classic lesbian fiction either, not even Radclyffe Hall's Well of Loneliness. My own list leaves out some classics (like Maurice by E.M.Forster and Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin) and a few authors who should probably be in there (like Jean Genet and Gore Vidal, neither of whom I can read with any enjoyment), though I make no apologies at all for omitting Edmund White. For what it's worth here is my top 10. What's yours?
    1. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
    2. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
    3. Kiss of the Spider Women by Manuel Puig
    4. City of Night by John Rechy
    5. Forbidden Colours by Yukio Mishima
    6. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
    7. The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
    8. Small g: a Summer Idyll by Patricia Highsmith
    9. Mr Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
    10.Valmouth by Ronald Firbank

July 27, 2002
Marcus's brilliantly funny incontinence story story reminds me of a kind-of reverse experience. A rather rich, smoothie senior work acquaintance (whose good opinion was very much worth having) invited me to spend the weekend at his country home (a lovely old farm in Pennsylvania) with a few other people. The night before leaving I went out and didn't even remember how (let alone when) I got home, and woke up with a stomach upset from hell and near-total system failure. I dosed myself thoroughly with all manner of medication and much else beside and set off for the rural retreat.

On arrival ("mmmmmmm-uh, darling!" [with wife], "oh, you're looking so absolutely wonderful, mmmmmm-muh!" [with female guests] etc.) I began to feel that strange hollow sensation that urgently signals a total bowel evacuation, and my greetings were tinged with a palpable uncertainty. As soon as was decent I headed upstairs to the guest bathroom. The toilet was wide and shallow, with a large splashy pool of water sadistically lurking just below the rim. There wasn't much I could do -- or rather, there was, and I sure did.

I stood and depressed the flush, and a trickle of water began to seep from the back of the pan. The contents appeared to being pulled down in a feeble spiral - which then quickly stalled. It took me only a second to realise it had blocked, although water seemed to be managing to esacape at about the same rate as it was trickling in. After what seemed like the proverbial eternity everything became still and disintegrating toilet paper gently floated around with more substantial debris. It was a gruesome and hateful sight and I was sure I heard someone outside waiting to come into the room.

At this point I lost my mind, since in the desperate hope that it could all be swept away, I flushed the toilet again. This time there was no swirling movement in the pan, but water pressure must have risen for a firm steam of water began to fill the pan from all sides. Within seconds the water level rose and overflowed the sides of the pan, cascading a gallon or so of water all over the floor. Of course, had it just been water it would have been bad enough. But it took with it smeared toilet paper and a substantial part of the other material, depositing them randomly all over the bathroom.

I tip-toed through the mess and found my host. "I'm afraid there's been a little problem in the toilet," I began. His urbane face beamed, "Oh don't worry about that." Somehow I managed to convince him that whatever had happened (I couldn't bring myself to describe it) needed his immediate attention. An hour later he rejoined his party and didn't speak to me once all weekend. Nor did his wife. Worst of all, the cause of all the trouble intensified, and not daring to use a toilet again, I spent the whole weekend in an agony of self-control that left me no appetite for the food and little spare consciousness for any conversation. I left as early as I could and have ever since lived in fear of blocked toilets.

July 26, 2002
In one way or another David, Marcus, Nathan and Bart (and/or their visitors) have all had things to say about age, ageing and age differences. What it means to be gay (and how one can express being gay) have changed so much that an individual's gay identity is as much influenced by when and why (s)he came out, as by his/her chronological age (though of course, youth reinforces that difference). For many gay women and men today the personal obstacles and dilemmas remain, and relations with close family (especially parents) remain problematical (even if these, and the factors that influence them, have also been transformed in the last couple of decades). Coming out remains for many a hard and uncertain process, riven with unavoidable ruptures, unkindness and unhappiness as well as the rewards of honesty, openness and self-discovery.

Nor has the "political" dimension of being gay been superceded as knowledge and understanding of homosexuality, and the sheer numbers of out gay people, have spread. But AIDS, the growing number of popular gay role models (especially lesbians) in the media and all areas of life, the emergence from hiding of gay celebrities and politicians -- all have shifted the battlegrounds to "second generation" issues (like adoption). For those who came out (to friends, family, workplace and the world at large) in the 1970s, coming out was itself a political act and one that brought with it (and was recognised to bring) some degree of commitment to fighting for gay "rights". All too often it was accompanied by the desperate need to fight for personal survival.

I think there is little chance that gay men (I don't know how severe the problem is for lesbians) of different chronological and "out" ages will be able to overcome the sexual divergence and mutual suspicion that has always been part of gay life (and the wider social worship of youthful looks and bodies) -- and reap the benefits of personal empathy, and the enjoyment of social variety, unless an informed awareness of those "early days" of modern gay history is possible and nurtured. In 1974 the pamphlet that "said it all" for us was With Downcast Gays, by an Englishman called Andrew Hodges and a Canadian, David Hutter. Hodges has remained active in gay life and has moved with its changes, as his website amply demonstrates. And he has done us the enormous service of making With Downcast Gays available in quick-downloading chapters, along with five big web pages of photos and comments on Gay Liberation from 1970 to 2000.

Hodges's writings, records and life are powerful reminders for me of the personal and social struggles of those years -- and they remain powerful and challenging across the years. Have we ceased to be "downcast gays"? But they are also a means by which such recent personal and historical experience can be made general, and mutual insight and understanding advanced. If those were achieved, they would in turn provide the ground for reducing the tension and waste that has increasingly come to characterise relations between younger and older gay men.

July 24, 2002
Following Tom Cruise's leather jacket... a STYLE roundup

(1) Frankie's new design is a tour de force. It's hot... it's so hot, it's cool. It's 100%. If you haven't seen it, check it out. (Frankie himself? ... he's cool -- he's so cool, he's hot. If you're in Virginia, check him out!)

(2) Now Alan tells us that Colin Farrell (who? oh, p-leeeze) is likely the next Batman. That will be style (and a whole lot more!) How do I cope with the time between now and release of the film?

(3) Su(zi)e comes in more than one style - from the cemeteries of London and a world of knitting to the most clear-headed personal blog. (There's more knitting, and pretty astute current affairs commentary from Teresa Nielsen Hayden.)

(4) Martijn has produced the most sylish template for Blogger. Read all about it here.

(5) And Peter's "meditation" on drag -- if it's not about style, it's a brilliant antidote to the whole idea.

(6) From Keith comes "one blog entry without any cynicism, depressing commentary or whining" - but full of style. (He was just the same when he was 13 years old if his diary is anything to go by!)

(7) David provides a useful link to explain how those sun-less tanning products work, and some stylish wallpaper photos on July 23rd.

July 23, 2002
From the Mainichi Daily News comes this delightful illustrated news item about the various flavours of Japanese ice cream - which include octopus, cactus and eel. Now - if you could have absolutely ANY flavour of ice cream at all, what would you want? (apart from that!)

(1) Tom Cruise's leather jacket in Minority Report - I WANT it.

(2) I promised myself I would make no comment about (or take sides in) the current storm-in-a-teacup of hurt feelings, stamping feet, crying-out-loud self-righteousness and other less than attractive conduct over the Guardian blogging contest. But a couple of passing comments (1, 2) about blogging in general on a site that is so right-thinkingly removed from all that nonsense, move me to recommend everyone has a look at Keep Trying.

July 22, 2002
Most Beautiful Man for July 2002 is... none other than Colin Farrell, about whom I enquired your views yesterday! From Ballykissangel to Minority Report (Phone Booth is set for release later this year) it's not surprising that for anyone so -- well, beautiful -- there are lots of places to read about and look at him. Some of the best galleries are at the Colin Farrell Information Page (which includes the Vanity Fair photos) and the Colin Farrell Fansite. Very thorough, with excellent links is Unofficial Colin Farrell. Arresting design and interesting content make An Appreciation of Colin Farrell definitely worth visiting. Colinland (one of the first), and Colin Farrell are useful, while Colin Farrell Undone is zany and tongue-in-cheek but still has some really great pics (just check out the smouldering Tigerland for starters!)

Among the profiles, reviews, interviews, appearances, articles (see the links sections) Alto Celebs and Celebrities are representative and also provide good links, while all the sites provide filmographies, biographies, guest-books and so on... And on a quirky note, Colin Farrell appears to have a namesake whose principal interest in life is Corporal Punishment and who is the webmaster of Corpun - World CP Research. (Now I know what Google is going to do with this entry!)

Peter Tachell's response to Gay Pride is worth reading. His piece in the Independent moves from a scathing critique of the annual parade-cum-party to a frontal attack on New Labour. I find myself agreeing with almost all of what he says factually speaking, but I fail to find it at all worrying or reprehensible (and I am one of Tachell's "founder" generation). Whatever, Tachell remains one of the most honest and stimulating forces in gay life in Britain today.

July 21, 2002
W. and I finally got round to seeing Minority Report -- which, as almost everyone has said, was a lot of fun. It was clear from very early on that the plot fundamentals should not be examined at all closely -- or indeed, at all. But otherwise it was exciting, funny and good looking. I particularly enjoyed the "gas powered" backpack chase, bursting into living rooms with farsical force, and the spider-search, momentarily interrupting all the everyday activities of tower-block inhabitants from arguing to crapping via fucking. The dystopia of retinal checks, underground surgeons and highway skyscrapers was typical Spielberg with parodic references to Star Wars and Blade Runner (and others), and gave Max von Sydow a chance to give a most amusingly over-the-top performance.

Intellect was not extensively engaged, but there were some themes it might be worth thinking about. As Jeremy Bentham might have asked, is a police/justice system that delivers 95% results (in detection and conviction) and tolerates and leaves uncorrected 5% mistakes (punishment of the innocent), to be preferred over one that tolerates no mistakes and will correct them if they occur, but apprehends fewer than (say) 25% of criminals. In posing this kind of question, the chilling scene with the female originator of "precrime", surrounded by her man-eating horticulture, was a delight. How much right to privacy does one have if it interferes with legitimate and socially necessary crime investigation is a contemporary dilemma, but the predictive-freedom of choice conflict never will be.

(1) Why do people think the three pre-cogs were called Agatha, Arthur and Dashiel? I could suggest a couple of takes
(2) Who else thought Colin Farrell was real cute in a Brad Pitt kinda way?
(3) Full details+links to reviews
(4) Original story author Philip K Dick

Cat with Beckham Haircut on Over Your Head blogCan you believe what some people would do to a cat -- giving the poor thing a David Beckham haircut? In this case (full size photo + linky), Japanese people...

...Duncan makes some very sensible points about national stereotyping in response to posts on David's blog. It strikes me as interesting how generally sensitive British liberal opinion is to cultural identity, and falls over backwards to avoid giving offence, or for a second appear guilty of racism. Except with respect to two countries: the USA and Israel.

Americans get "tarred" with the brush of every faux pas (as far as the author is concerned) observed to have been "committed" by an individual American, whether it's linguistic, sartorial, cultural, political, intellectual, or sexual. If there is any recognition of the inaccuracy of this approach, it is allowed that Americans fall into two categories -- the good (think, act, vote, locate their homes, listen to music in such a way that they gain the approval of the author - the exceptions), and the bad (the rest, the majority).

The idea of infinite cultural variety in a society that is the most technologically advanced; socially, educationally, economically and governmentally complex; and ethno-culturally diverse in the world somehow seems to have been lost. Almost complete ignorance of the way in which American poitical institutions work is widespread, along with all manner of ignorant myths. How many people who write about Pres Bush actually know what he has the power to do? As far as Israelis (note: not Jews) are concerned, every one of them is called Sharon and is personally responsible for the "plight" of Palestinians, unless they go to extreme lengths and publicly declare support for a Palestinian state.

July 19, 2002
I have so much fucking ironing to do that to spend any more time here until it is all done would be to court a domestic explosion (and a very poorly dressed start to next week). I'll just have to see how quickly I can get it done. In the meantime, this (with thanks to Duncan) about the sexual-marital exploits of a former Welsh "leader" is a hoot (or sick or sad or totally depressing depending on how you respond to ludicrous conduct). But can anyone tell me where the doggie comes in? Will Ron be walking it? (ho ho! and what else will he get up to?) -- or is it the start of an even more unpleasant scandal?

July 18, 2002
Come Again? "The Parsonage" - a website of the Focus on the Family (an American Christian bigot group) has an item that includes this paragraph. Can anyone explain it (the meaning and/or the sense)?:
    Baldwin's evidence includes a study by psychologist Eugene Abel, who found that homosexuals "sexually molest young boys with an incidence that is ... five times greater than the molestation of girls." Abel's data suggests that over 150 boys are molested by the average homosexual offender, compared to fewer than 20 girls molested by heterosexual offenders. Although girls are still more likely to be sexually abused than boys — in terms of numbers of children abused per offender — homosexuals are more frequent abusers and boys are their preferred targets.
This this almost certain to be a gross distortion of evidence (quite apart from its odious analysis) if an entertaining and interesting thread today on Metafiler is anything to go by. It started from another Focus on the Family hate-story (this time about the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America) and covered a whole lot of angles on gay rights and blogging. Some of the links to search pages show the way Christian bigot anti-gay propaganda is far more an organised "agenda" than ever gay rights demands are.

July 17, 2002
The US Supreme Court attracts a lot of negative comment (especially from opponents of the Bush presidency), while concern over threats to US domestic civil liberties posed by the "War on Terror" is widespread (far more so than here in the UK -- as Brent and this recent post from Vince demonstrate). So it's interesting to see the Supreme Court acting as a defender of civil liberties (even if the case was originally brought by the Jehovas Witnesses).

Stratton, N.Y. passed a local ordinance that stopped canvassers for a cause (religious, political, social, commercial or anything else) going door to door to deliver literature, or knock on doors, unless they had first obtained a permit from the mayor's office, which required them to fill in and sign a registration form. In Watchtower Bible & Tract Society v. Village of Stratton the US Supreme Court, by a majority of 8 to 1, held:
    making it a misdemeanor to engage in door-to-door advocacy without first registering with the mayor and receiving a permit violate the First Amendment as it applies to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills...The hand distribution of religious tracts is ages old and has the same claim as more orthodox practices to the guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, and press... [there is a] historical importance of door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering as vehicles for the dissemination of ideas... the Jehovahs Witnesses have not struggled for their rights alone... [so have] those many who are poorly financed and rely extensively upon this method of communication...
They described as "pernicious" the effect of a canvasser being identified in a permit application that is available for public inspection -- resulting "in a surrender of the anonymity this Court has protected" -- and the impact this has on those "enlisting support for unpopular causes".

I'm finding dealing with things after my mother's death as difficult as I anticipated. Some of this is emotional - I still find it hard to go to her flat to start clearing up there. It remains so personal, so redolent of her, even though the presence, like the flat, is becoming more and more evidently frozen in time. I find a hand-bag by her bed with £200 in it, and I imagine her drawing the money out of the bank, planning what to use it on (probably her groceries and day to day needs). How long would it have lasted her? What things would she have bought with it?

I've begun to empty wardrobes and drawers of clothes - so many little garments she had worn over the years, all preserved, up to the things I had seen her wearing only recently. Dresses, skirts, blouses, coats, sweaters, shoes - all go into black bags for the charity shop. I think of keeping something as a "memento" - but what? It would be pointless, like some superstitious relic. Perhaps I'll hold on to a handkerchief or a head scarf. I find clearing the clothes much less upsetting than I had imagined I would. It is a job - and there's so much of it that there is no room for thoughts.

I'm seeming to have most trouble with the bills and forms. There are so many, and they all require a "self starter" -- unless I initiate the process of closing accounts, disconnecting services, requesting final bills, nothing happens. Then I have to actually make the payments and declarations with the forms and invoices that arrive, each one seeming to adopt a different practice. I don't approach these things with sufficient orderliness and determination in my own affairs, but if I delay turning my attention to my mother's business, nothing seems to happen. But it has to be done. Lines have to be drawn, quite literally. Life - other peoples' - has to go on.

The sad, aching, crying feelings surface relatively rarely. It is as if as soon as I am conscious of their origin I can only sustain them deliberately, and so they evaporate, leaving behind a void that fills with a kind of solid incomprehension and then gradually disappears. But tonight I did cry and cry. For a reason, not just an emotional overflow. I found a note from my mother in one of her drawers, written one night, I would guess about a year ago, when she was evidently fearing imminent death. Who was it to? Who was intended to find it? She herself, for the next morning -- or nobody, I guess. It was not written in such a way that it was meant for me, or really anyone else to read, or even find. Then I guess it was forgotten. It was a short burst of expression to make permanent the feelings she had that night as, lonely, she imagined she would not see me again. She loved me. She wanted me to be happy. She hoped I would not miss her, for she had had such good times and "wonderful companionship" with me. She hoped I would be able to get some happiness from what she left me -- her money.

I cry now over the very idea of that little note on the back of an envelope. It is so fond and caring, yet so impotent. I long to kiss her and tell her I love her too, so much. That lovely times together are too many to begin to count. I want her here to make her happy, to comfort her as I could not then, did not know I needed to then. But I cry too because I do not know how to be happy with what she has left me. It is very little in the balance of financial needs I face, though to her it was a lot, accumulated slowly and with great effort. How can I do worthily by this gift of love, one of the only enduring evidences of our lives that we can leave to those who succeed us?

But what makes it hardest and tears me up most is that right now W. and I are having some important, and quite expensive building work done on our house. We had budgeted for it, but to use my mother's money would make life so very much easier for us --- and that is what we will do. For W. and I are as one, our destinies are joined. We are two parts of a "we". Just as W. shares my sadness and supports me through it, my mother's legacy is ours, not mine.

But I know my mother did not see things that way. She accepted us fully as gay partners. She spent much time with W. by choice, as well as when I could not be there. She had no problem at all with us, two men, spending our lives together, sleeping together. But the idea that W. might have superceded her in the hierarchy of my loyalties -- as a wife, and even more a wife and children, would have done -- was something she never imagined. She was sometimes hurt or angry if she saw W. wearing some item of clothing she had given me (we are about the same size). She wanted to continue that special relationship with me that marriage precludes a mother from sustaining, and is the basis of all the real and joked about conflict with mothers-in-law. Even more now my first loyalty is to W., yet somehow I want to protecther "soul" -- as it lives in that note I found -- from any hurt from the way I use her small legacy to me. But to think that way seems to invite a conflict and guilt that would not be the happiness she wished for me.

This is all part of something gay men are never prepared for -- certainly not by their own families, but not by the gay "community", or gay writing -- or in the demands for gay marriage, gay familty rights, gay equality. Nor do these guides to gay men's (and women's) personal choices -- the universe of ideas from which they construct their "gay" personae, and integrate their given and existential selves -- ever seem to call on them to even think about it, or be aware of it. Many of us build shared lives together, in the conviction that we are placing ourselves and homosexuality a plane of moral equivalency with straight marriage. But the lack of a fund of shared gay experience of family "by association" (in laws and and non-blood ties) is one of the things that shows why no quantity of our own chosen conduct can confer the peace of familial certainty that comes with formal vows, and their social recognition.

July 16, 2002
It's great to be back, and thank you to everyone who has been so kind as to greet my return. Things are really hopping on all my favorite blogs... except... I can't get through to Frankie any more. His blog had a spanking new design, but all I get is "page cannot be displayed". Anyone know what's happening?

July 15, 2002
Well, North Cornwall was absolutely beautiful and very relaxing. Some stories will follow. But today I notice that iVillage reports the Top 20 most popular kids' names in the UK:

BOYS: 1. Jack 2. Joshua 3. James 4. Mario 5. Kenny 6. Jordan 7. Daniel 8. Ben 9. Jamie 10. Thomas 11. Matthew 12. Ethan 13. Ryan 14. Dylan 15. Cameron 16. Liam 17. Harry 18. Jake 19. Oliver 20. Michael.

GIRLS: 1. Chloe 2. Emily 3. Megan 4. Emma 5. Madison 6. Sarah 7. Charlotte 8. Sophie 9. Jessica 10. Olivia 11. Hannah 12. Laura 13. Rebecca 14. Ellie 15. Lucy 16. Amy 17. Lauren 18. Molly 19. Caitlin 20. Holly.

Apart from the fact that the girls' names are (for the most part) rather more attractive than the boys', and the obvious influence of some famous individuals, what seems to stick out to me is (a) the New Testament continues to dominate the lives of boys: Matthew, Daniel, Thomas, James, Michael; (b) six of the boys' names are diminutives (in one case for a name that also appears on the list); (c) six of the boys' names begin with "J"; (d) as in many years past, there is not a whif of Charlie (or Charles, or Chuck, or Chas or Carlo).

Meanwhile, the XIV International Conference on AIDS in Barcelona closed on July 12th. Shortly before doing so the progress of AIDS in Asia was highlighted, along with the way in which political repression, discrimination and exclusion [MS Word document] are hampering prevention and treatment efforts.

July 04, 2002
Okay. I'm off for a week in a cottage on a farm in Cornwall. No laptop or cybercafe; no TV; no radio; no newspapers. Just W. ... and donkeys; birdlife; coastal walks; fish to eat; sea air; sleep; sketching; lazing about. Reports on return. Take care everyone.

A few links to leave you with:
UN Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic
July 2, 2002
Young People and HIV/AIDS: Opportunity in Crisis
July 2, 2002
The Men's Bibliography
A comprehensive bibliography of writing on men, masculinities and sexualities, listing about twelve-thousand books and articles, sorted into over thirty major subject areas.

July 03, 2002
God Bless America.

July 01, 2002
W. and I are going to visit our friend G. in Monmouth today. An opportunity to explore a lovely part of the country with a native host (and, for architects among you, have a look at the Drybridge House restoration)... and, more to the point, to spend hours laughing continuously over the latest gossip about our friends and acquaintances (and anecdotes about their pasts). Plus music, music, music: G. will be working on the music festival that he manages, plus we'll be wanting to plan visits for the three of us to Glyndebourne and upcoming concerts.

Trawling... So the unforgettable George Michael (who?) is creating "controversy" (=a shameless pitch for attention): "George Michael's new pop video depicts him apparently trying to have sex with Cherie Blair. Shoot The Dog, out this week, depicts the singer dressed in a leopard-print thong, trying to approach the Prime Minister's wife." (via Damian Penny)...

A full complement of Gieldgud anecdotes from Duncan...

the New Scientist reports anti-depressive effects of semen (via Chris) The study is based on semen uptake from the vagina, but "among some gay males who have anal intercourse, it is not uncommon to attempt to retain the semen for extended periods of time...suggesting, of course, that there may be psychological effects." Of course! -- though "further research will be needed to confirm whether exposure to semen through oral or anal sex really does affect mood in heterosexual or homosexual partners." Any volunteers for the experiments?...

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot is a SF plot generator by Teresa Nielsen Hayden that seems to have created an enormous amout of interest (47 comments, beat that you comment whores)...

and without any doubt, the most exciting and original blog anywhere comes from Rémi.

Gilbert and George's Dirty Words Pictures is magnificent. Every aspect of the exhibition is first rate -- the hanging, the light, the catalogue, two super posters for £5 each -- and of course the pictures. All 26 pictures, seen together for the first time, have been assembled from museum and private collections in the UK, New York, San Francisco, the Netherlands, Sweden, France and Germany -- a major achievement in itself.

This is Gilbert and George at their most serious and dramatic, their own photographs in poses beautiful and intense, looking like a cross between Edwardian social reformers and top class models. The juxtaposition of huge words in graffiti (FUCK, CUNT, FUCKED UP, BENT, BUGGER, PROSTITUTE, POOF) with scenes from London life (down-and-outs, down-at-the-heel neighbourhoods, office blocks, crowds, racial minorities, crumbling streets) asking the obvious question: which is genuinely "obscene" -- dirty words or poverty and deprivation? This is England 1977 vintage with a vengeance - Sex Pistols "God Save the Queen" is its theme music. Anger and anarchistic revolution, anti-authoritarian degradation. But for all its radicalism, it is a non-political, aesthetic questioning. It is not a manifesto or an endorsement of a political programme or ideology, it is a terminal indifference to the Cold War, not a scandalous embrace of the "other side". It explores, it reveals, it elicits feelings and responses -- it never lectures.

The structure of the items (what the catalogue calls their "artistic grammar") -- huge pictures made up of 16 or 25 frames, measuring 8ft x 6ft and 10ft x 8ft -- represents the definitive form the artists adopt for all their subjects thereafter. The glossy surfaces, personal presences, obsession with the obscene and its relation to the ordinary are all hallmarks of Gilbert and George. These works were pivotal in their development, and that is clear the minute you enter their massive presence. Gilbert and George have long been "established", long accepted and endorsed by serious critical opinion. But their ability to shock has not been blunted, and their uncompromising commitment to their artistic principles has made them too "uncomfortable" to be absorbed into mainstream culture. Their works and ideas have developed in a direction that is far more whimsical and satirical, individual and libertarian, than the "Dirty Words" pictures. But without them they could never have become what they are. The exhibition is a revelation, a celebration and a challenge. Don't, don't miss it. [Links to websites about G and G are in yesterday's post.]

By contrast the film W. and I went to see was just bloody awful. W. and I often do not agree about films, but on this one we were in total agreement: The Lawless Heart is a bummer. It entrenches the stereotype of the Guardian that its review was so enthusiastic: this is a depressing little British film, fit for showing on ITV at 10.20 on a Wednesday. All the hallmarks are there of state subsidy (some of it from -- this is not a joke -- the Isle of Man Film Commission): third rate writing; tedious self-obsession; dreary unlikeable characters; meandering self-indulgent plot; artificial, incompetent structural arrangement. Added to which the gay themes are somewhere between boring and insulting, and the social milieu is as attractive as cold vomit. It says it all that this film has received its principal US accolade from a public health society that promotes condom use in feature films. A celebration of all that is 3rd rate and miserable in British life, miss it if you can. [Links to reviews are in yesterday's post.]

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