Sunday, February 29, 2004

That Angels Grace

A Place
That Angels Grace
GIVE glory to the guv'nor
who hosts this space
to make the spirit of the music hall
live on in Peter Pans
Where fry the sour milk
Of Aristocracy.
But observe the Prime Directive
For they tread closely by the cliff's edge
Of their own nature.
I, (in Emma's voice)
love THESE people...

Saturday, February 28, 2004

To be Primal or Civilized

Ever had a dog? Eat, bark, run, sleep, shit, pant, sniff, lust, shag. A good reminder of the basics of life. (There is also, kill: but even Princess Anne can't let her dogs do that.)

Ever seen a judge? They don't need to do any of those things, or do they?

In a big city, the focus of a civilization, there's always so much pressure to hide the basics. You can drown yourself in every perfume from cheap shampoo to Chanel; but it seems you musn't even let a bit of fresh sweat come through.

The simple basics even frighten people. Quite a lot of people, actually.

Words, words and more words...

The first 2 verses of IF by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

.... spent my entire childhood sleeping with all 4 verses by my bedside, and never learnt it by rote let alone understood it ... how would I or could I, any more than I could teach myself nuclear physics?

Friday, February 27, 2004

London's Gods and Monsters

The film, Gods and Monsters, with the powerful Ian McKellen and the beautiful Brendan Fraser, was made in 1998. Why is it that I only saw it tonight for the first time? I was deeply touched. This should be on the course material list for a bachelor's (sic) degree in How to Survive as a Gay Man. It focusses every gay man's deepest fear: of reaching the age when you have lost it all.
I have met so many gay men in my life that were fleeing from this. When they come up to 30, they think they're past it. Then they come up to 40, and they think they're past it. And the 50 year olds laugh at them and the 60 year olds laugh at the 50 year olds.
And as they flee from this, the reckless roads they explore! All roads lead to London. The mistakes they make! All mistakes are fully stocked and always available in London. The prices they pay! All purchases can be paid for by credit in the currency of chance. All would be fine if the mistakes hurt no one and left no lasting damage, but luck and chance are not the same.
***** *****
When there are monsters, and you look for gods,
Beautiful gods to save you from your monsters,
You try one god, then the next,
Then another, not finding him,
The godly bodies having godless souls,
Still trying, near despairing,
You try the places where the gods are monsters,
Asking them to be your monster, wearing the face of a god,
you using these godmonsters to fight your monsters,
Until one day everywhere you look
you see monsters,
More monsters than you started with,
And you don't know where you are,
Or how this has made you a man,
...Maybe you should have seen this movie and saved yourself all that fucking trouble, gas masks and all...

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

East End London - a tribute to its lost culture

I live in Newham, which together with Tower Hamlets and Hackney formed the bulk of the pre-War East End of London. There aren't many native English people here these days. Most of the original East Enders moved out to Romford and beyond, or died off, or retired to Spain. For over ten years, the British born children of recent immigrants have been the visible majority in all the schools. New immigrants, legal or not, never stop arriving and most of the time it's difficult to believe you're in England.

When I moved here in 1987, I admired a lot of the qualities of the EastEnders that were still here. And since then I have seen them ridiculed and maligned, particularly by West and North Londoners. The Guardian and the Independent liked to portray them as National Front and BNP boneheads, and accorded them no respect or intelligence. The BBC still churns out Eastenders, the ridiculous soap on TV, which deserves to be castrated for its part in the genocide of a noble people.

The upshot of all this unfair publicity is that even in 2004, I have to explain to a friend in Brighton that the East End is NOT crawling with racist white supremacist skinheads. It never was, not in the 17 years that I have lived here: there are only a few bigots, lonely and unhappy, in such numbers as you would find in any part of the world. The reputation of East Enders as inbred marauding West Ham thugs causing trouble for new immigrants was hyped-up news fodder by pompous journalists claiming to uphold the British values that won the Second World War. And nowadays, not only is the reality of the new East End distinctly opposite to the outdated perceptions of these mouldy-minded people, but the new reality is still hush-hushed.

Thus the East Enders that were bombed to hell in the Second World War later suffered another bombing from their own countrymen, and whenever they tried to find a voice to fight back, they were censored and crushed, by those erudite spectacle wearers that did a lot of reading but never did a day's manual work in their life.

I learned years ago that I felt safer with the honesty of East Enders than with the hypocrisy of those that attacked them. Mile End Park includes a tribute to the East End culture that has disappeared, but what a paltry compensation that is, for the Reichmann family's Docklands office blocks, and for decades of insults....

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

London - Where have the interesting people gone?

Once you could walk the streets of London and discern the people who had something interesting to express. They would show it in their clothes, their walk, their attitude, their approach, their disaffection. They would take it to the streets and make a Performance piece, or busk, or even just get drunk and drug crazed in public.

When you start looking around at blogs, you will be struck at how amazing they are, and how many there are. Glimpses into fascinating people, that you didn't know existed in London, with genius driving them near the edge of schizophrenic madness.

Oh dear, so this is where Life has disappeared into a Black Hole. Perhaps never to appear again. We return to being a society of people such as existed before the 70s - keeping our dirty laundry indoors (but on the internet). As in days of old when little girls used to sit obediently in their bedrooms, and write, "Dear Pen Pal", or "Dear Diary". Yet when we meet in the pubs or even in the Chat Rooms, we're afraid of conversation outside of celebrities, football or sex, and we desperately want to be seen as "just a normal guy", or "sane and sorted".

Maybe the trend hasn't reached Cardiff yet, where they brawl in the streets on a Saturday night, but it surely will, as surely as Tesco's and Asda's trucks do arrive there.

I shall content myself that I saw the late twentieth century. But Snoboardr's exhortations to get OUT there are ever more amplified. You're expected to keep up with the Internet, and I think you have to do that, but it is a poor substitute for Life.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Denial: Friend or Foe? The truth or the lie?

Sex and the City. Samantha has cancer. Her three friends have only ever spent their lives buying fabulous clothes, strutting around New York, meeting for lunch, and having sexually-liberated affairs while they try to find the perfect men. The classical gay man's fantasy (did you see that rubbish play called Shopping and Fucking?)

Carrie 's boyfriend is played here by Mikhail Baryshnikov (ballet idol of gay men) with stereotypical Russian grittiness. He points out that Samantha COULD DIE. Carrie wants to believe that Samantha will not die, so they have a big fight. Luckily, Carrie isn't just the dizzy frizzy that she spends so much money on trying to look like. No, no, because she is a writer, which means she has a brain! She figures out that she's afraid to live outside a world of happy endings. And thus she writes for her column, "Denial: Friend or Foe?"

They say the truth hurts, but why does the truth trigger fear so easily in some? Why are some people so fragile, yet manage to exist "successfully" for long periods at a time?

There is no doubt about it, denial works; it's there, here, and everywhere. It is a powerful way of filtering fear. It's not the only way of handling fear, but it is the endemic method driving Western consumer society. There is a preferred way of coping with fear in every cultural society, which assists that population to become large and successful.

In this episode of Sex and the City, the clash is between the Russian way and the Noo Yawk way, The Russian way is to throw back some Vodka, stare at Fear between the eyes, then dance with Madness, until it slinks back into the darkness of the woods.
The Noo Yawk way? Well, you know it - smile, shop, laugh, coz it will never happen!

How social cultures deal with fear, is so vitally important to their survival, that religions evolve to bolster them. Whole civilizations rise and fall in human history with the help of the religions that galvanize their courage. Wars occur between them, as one society refuses to do it the way it's done by the other society. So even today, we have the war situation with Al Qaeeda, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.

"Denial: friend or foe?" is the same quandary as the choice between Hedonism and Asceticism. One society aspires to Hedonism, which depends on denial, while the other society adheres to Asceticism and pessimism. Neither is correct all the time, but neither will learn from each other.

Away from nations and civilizations and back to you, me and the Sun reader: Should you tell somebody the painful Truth or let them believe their happy Lie? Should you live a lie, or face the truth?

Well, there are those two options at least. And then there are the refinements and variations of each. And then there is a time and a place that is right for one , but not for the other. So why not become an expert, and teach it to the next guy.....

Sunday, February 22, 2004

SooOoo Baaddd.... vs being Good

It starts very young. The quickening of the pulse, the rush of adrenalin. You make your choice at some early age, and for so much of your life you repeat it over and over again without ever understanding it.

Its about WHY you decide to be excited. Does being BAD excite you, while being Good feels like death to you? You're not alone. It isn't necessarily human nature, but it is common.

So common, that it became fashionable, at the end of the twentieth century, and today it has passed its peak of fashion.

Oh those rap stars have been at the pinnacle of modishness. Fifty Cent is a sign that badness has become trite, and comprehensible. You can almost laugh at his silliness now. Badness without depth. Badness brought to the surface and turned into a style of clothing, a style of talking, a style of ACTING. Badness as a style, is the end of Badness.

And all fads do fade. So what has Badness got to do with you? If you're a teenager just wearing the style, you won't have a serious problem yet. You'll just get nostalgic for it when you hit your Thirties.

If you're 35 to 55, your problem is more insidious, because it's growing without your even knowing its there. Some of today's children could take one look at you, see right through you, and laugh. What are they laughing at? How can they be so clever? It's not that they are special geniuses, just that they can see something that seems so ridiculous to them that the idea is automatically funny. They don't even understand why, but it's such a basic feature of human personality that they can pick up on it instantly. And they'll view you as out of date, out of touch.

For you to recognise it, just think about sex. Do you get excited about picking someone Virtuous, or Dirty? Do you depend on the thrill of doing something Bad? Something your parents would disapprove of? Is your favourite sexual partner someone that you couldn't imagine your parents being with?

Gay Marriage in the USA...

In The Times (UK) Saturday Feb 21, a guy called Jonah Goldberg has an interesting article comparing the 'Marriage turns Gay' issue to the China Turns Communist issue in 1949.
He thinks there could a backlash similar to the AntiCommunist McCarthyism of the 1950s. Apparently, the feeble way US politicians are dealing with the debate around gay marriage, is very similar to the ineffectual response to Communism taking over in China.

WOW!. Your average militant San Francisco gay activist could be lining up the USA for another four years of George Bush, or something even more extreme. Gay activists aren't very good at shrewdness or obtuseness - it is their obsession with forthrightness, truth and honesty that causes them to Come Out in the first place, where others would be happy to toddle along with what they see for sale at the Shopping Mall.

This is why I think it is good that Arnold Schwarzenegger puts a stop to San Francisco's attempt at making Gay marriages mainstream (...more...). Arnie was never a true blue Republican - he isn't that stupid, and isn't he married to a Kennedy? No, Arnie became California Governor because someone thought he was the best person who could pull off the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em strategy". If you are gay and believe in gay marriages, don't knock Arnie yet: just keep quiet and keep watching.