Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Kat, Tom and Will

In London this morning, Tuesday 24th November 2009, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle will give "notice of their intention to form a civil partnership". Nothing strange about that, you might think, but, as their names suggest, they are of opposite genders. And, just as marriage is not allowed for gay couples, so civil partnership is legally not allowed for straight couples. It is for precisely that reason that Kat and Tom are taking this step: they do not believe in discrimination on the grounds of sexuality; they do not want to be part of an institution that is closed to their friends because the bigots say so. They registered for their ceremony by giving only their initials (want to bet THAT won't happen again?) and at 1030 UK time this morning they will be there at Islington Town Hall, along with the great civil rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, to make their statement in support of this great cause.

Meanwhile, over the pond in Arkansas, just a few hours later, a ten year old boy named Will Phillips will sit down at school, and seated is how he will remain while his classmates are reciting the pledge of allegiance. He refuses to make an oath about "liberty and justice for all" while homosexuals are denied liberty and justice in the form of marriage. Now, Arkansas is one of the reddest of red states (in other words, dominated by repuglicans), and Will has been subjected to abuse, taunts and teasing over his stance. But he has refused to give up and insists he will not do so until his gay friends have the same rights as he does. What a moral giant of a young man.

Gay equality is our modern day civil rights struggle, arguably the last great such struggle, and it is important to all of us, gay, straight or bi. Until we are ALL free, none of us is completely free, and until we are all granted the same rights under the law, including the right of marriage, we are not all free. Why should it be my business or yours who someone falls in love with or chooses to spend their life with? No one tells me whether I should have a life partner with blond or dark hair, blue or green eyes, light or dark skin, so why the hell should they be allowed to tell me they must have a vagina and not a penis? As it happens, my intended is a brown eyed, brown haired, light skinned woman from New York, and that is my choice (and hers of course). We will get married; and we see no reason why all our friends should not have the same option. It is ridiculous to tell people they must go through this or that door depending on the dangly bits of their lover, as offensive as telling them what lunch counter they can sit at on the basis of their skin colour. What the religious do in the privacy of their own churches, mosques, synagogues or whatever is entirely up to them, but they have no right to dictate to the rest of us what happens in public spaces or the public realm-- and homophobic bigotry is primarily religious in nature. I will not willingly put up with bigotry against my fellow citizens, and nor will Kat, Tom or Will.

Respect to them all, and congratulations and a long, happy life together to Tom and Kat.

Update: To no one's great surprise, Kat and Tom were of course turned away at the town hall and refused their civil partnership, as detailed here: they are now taking legal advice and intend to take their fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Lights, cameras, action!

I'm a member of Sofa Cinema (for US readers, the equivalent of Netflix but associated with the Guardian), and my latest three DVDs are Disc One of I, Claudius, the bonus disc for This is Spinal Tap, and King Kong vs. Godzilla. These have delighted me no end.

For those unfamiliar with the Godzilla movies, I am not talking here about the abysmal nineties Hollywood monstrosities (which had proper special effects and therefore immediately lost any sense of understanding the point of the exercise), but the glorious Japanese originals. The monsters are VERY clearly guys in suits (hell they even fight, almost, according to Marquis of Queensberry rules), the mouths keep moving long after the speech has finished, the dialogue is painfully stilted-- apparently translated by Japanese people without recourse to any professional assistance-- and the plots are utter nonsense, despite having their hearts very much in the right place: these were pro-environment movies, albeit really badly made, DECADES before inconvenient truths were generally noticed. If I've made them sound awful, well they are, but SO awful that they are glorious; they are absolutely hilarious. Very much in the manner of the great Ed Wood.

Ed, of course, was an American film maker and dreamer. He somehow dreamed that he was capable of making watchable movies; he made movies all right, but spectacularly incompetently, and tripped over backwards into genius. His most celebrated film-- rightly-- is Plan 9 From Outer Space, which was also Bela Lugosi's last film. He died two days into shooting. Ed cast his wife's chiropodist as Lugosi's double, despite the fact that he was about a foot and a half taller than him and bore no facial resemblance to him whatsoever. So Ed cut some of Bela's early rehearsal footage into the movie, regardless of whether it actually fitted anywhere, and had the chiropodist walk around with his cloak covering his face at all times. This caused him to have to take bizarrely roundabout routes from one side of a room to the other at times to make sure his face wouldn't be towards camera, but hey, who cares, right? The film has some classic lines like "flying saucers? You mean the kind from up there?" and "one thing's sure. The captain's dead-- murdered-- and someone's responsible!". It also has a retired wrestler called Tor Johnson, an American schlock TV star called Elvira, and of course Ed Wood's wife's chiropodist. It is often cited as the worst movie ever made-- the stock footage from a dinosaur movie randomly spliced in no doubt contributes to that estimation-- and it is still available on DVD to this day. I recommend that you try to see it. I remember seeing it once in a glorious fleapit cinema in Munich called Neues Arena. It was a late night showing; the kiosk sales person was also the ticket taker and the projectionist; and there were about twelve people in the audience. I had smoked a great big joint before arriving there, and I swear everyone else in the place had done the same thing, because every time one of the superbly incompetent lines was uttered, or sometimes without that reminder, one person would giggle and gradually every other person in there did the same thing. It was absolutely the perfect way to see an Ed Wood movie. You won't be able to replicate that, but you can still see the movie. And King Kong vs Godzilla, and other Ed Wood and Godzilla movies, with or without herbal assistance. If you know what's good for you, you will: you should never underestimate the power of "so crap it's good".

Saturday, 7 November 2009


I told you there would be occasional poetry infesting this blog, so here goes. Some new works.

That's the last time I smoke a salmon,
he promised himself as giant multi-
coloured pink swirls adorned the wall
that way and this, swishily and swervily,
shrinkily and growily. Sometimes he
wished vaguely that he had taken the
builder, whose name was Barry, for
his word and added the other three,
but tonight he just enjoyed the show.
Until Anita the average anteater
started nibbling the wooden chips in
his paper, rendering the article about
those Moldavian decorators illegible
except for the word "EXCLUSIVE",
which on its own was of limited value,
as Anita solemnly agreed with an
uproarious grin. Then she hid behind
the surprised old man on the pavement,
who stayed where he was to avoid her

How awful to live in the World of Better,
where people always say "well that could
have gone better" and measure their
distance from perfection, rarely knowing
satisfaction. Surely preferable in the World
of Worse, where it could always be worse,
where people are aware of their distance
from total disaster, where there can be true
joy at its aversion.

People said the old woman downstairs
was a witch, and they also said that blue
apples and green apples were different
to the core.


THEY DID IT!! The Yanks won game six by the fine score of 7-3, having dominated from start to finish, and the Phillies, especially Jimmy Rollins, have cheesesteak all over their faces and ain't waving their daft bloody towels any more.

Sorry. Couldn't help it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Go Yankees.

Susan is a New York Yankees fan; she was born in the Bronx, where the team plays. And right now they are in the World Series, playing against the reigning champions, the Philadelphia Phillies. As I write this, the Yanks are leading by three games to two in the series, and so need just one more win to win the series, which we hope will come in tomorrow night's game at Yankee Stadium.

I say "we" because, in the spirit of romance and partnership, I decided to take an interest by watching the deciding game in the Yanks' previous series against the Los Angeles Angels. And blow me down if it didn't get me hooked. So hooked, in fact, that I signed up for ESPN so I could watch it live rather than the minute or so behind I was getting with the streamed broadcast. And we've been watching the games together three thousand miles apart, by phoning as the game starts and hanging up shortly after it ends.

Baseball's exciting stuff, not at all like the borefest that is cricket, which many people on this side of the Atlantic imagine it resembles. It is complex and fast-paced-- to the extent that I often am unable to keep up with what has just happened and have to wait for an explanation from the commentators or from Susan, or whoever might happen to be in the room with her as she also falls behind occasionally-- and has one hell of a lot of specific terms which I will have to learn to keep following it. For instance, it's damn hard for me so far deciding just what's a strike and what's a ball, sometimes, although I'm already getting better and was able for instance to laugh right on cue when one poor opposition player started jogging to first base after only three instead of the required four balls, and before Susan had caught on. I have even begun screaming in delight when a Yankees player unexpectedly reaches base or more expectedly scores a run, or when a Phillies player drops the ball or misses a catch. I still fall behind reality a lot though (nothing new there, I suppose, but watching football it rarely happens. And by football I mean football, not gridiron: the clue is in the word "foot"). I've also started being abusively sarcastic about Phillies fans and their silly towel-waving. In short, I'm having a great time and have discovered a new sporting love. Now I just have to decide which player I want on the back of the shirt Susan's going to buy me. At the moment I think Joba Chamberlain is in the lead, because he is closer to my own body shape than any sporting hero I have ever seen. Which is another thing I love about baseball: some of those athletes look decidedly unathletic and could never in a million years cut it in any other sporting discipline.

Of course, Susan's end of the deal is to return the compliment when she moves over here, and watch and try to learn football. I can't wait to teach her the offside rule...