Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Part 7: When in Rome

Hey kids,

Have finally got access to the Net here in Rome but limited as always with time. I can say initial impressions of Rome is that it's very hot, poor, aggressive and Catholic. Still having a great time though, and looking forward to day trips in Florence, Venice and Verona.

Unfortunately Im battling a cold but as I refuse to be sick here, it's very much mind over matter that's keeping me going.

Anyways, heres my next QP column. I hope to write more extensive reflections soon. Ciao xo

Queer Penguin's first waddle into Rome proved somewhat challenging, and a more paranoid penguin might assume a cosmic conspiracy were in operation to make him or her feel as unwelcome as possible.

A trip to the Vatican, and specifically to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was of course a given, so with my close friend and tour guide in tow I set off to experience this classic masterpiece.

Things initially went awry when we took a deceptive sign that led us around the walled perimeter of the City. About forty minutes and a couple of blisters later we arrived at the correct entrance, only for my camera to mysteriously malfunction. Eventually consoling myself that I could return with a new camera on another day, I decided to see the ceiling, but after passing through the metal detector security with relative ease I was sent away by two menacing door bitches at the Chapels entrance for the cardinal sin of wearing shorts (not entirely unexpected on an overbearing Rome summer's day).

I took away from this debacle that "my sort" was not welcome at the Vatican, in a scene strangely metaphorical for the Church's attitude towards practising homosexuals (an "intrinsic moral evil", according to our current Pope). Even if a queer person were to make it through or over the huge walls, it seems the papacy and its minions will concoct some spurious reason to deny you access to its heart.

In contrast to the UK and Spain with its same-sex civil unions and marriages, the Catholic Church's infusion through Rome is evident everywhere, whether it be nuns crossing the road at every second street corner or the crucifixes that decorate the ubiquituous medieval architecture.

My non-existent Italian has prohibited me from talking shop with politically-aware locals, but it is clear Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is fiercely conservative, anti-progress and even anti-democratic, my English-speaking friend worringly likening the former media entrepreneur to an Italian Rupert Murdoch but with even more power.

The combination of this leader and his government with the Catholic Church would seem to guarantee that queer people here will remain outsiders to mainstream acceptance and civil justice, just as I was kept outside the Vatican.

What I would like to know is: How on earth did they know I was coming? Does the City have in operation perhaps a covert gaydar?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Part 6: Sitges the Porn Movie

Before leaving, every homo without fail blurted out, the second I mentioned I was visiting Barcelona: "Sitges!" I guess it can be described as Spain´s Brighton: the coastal village that´s almost too gay to function.

Stu and I arrived in Sitges in the afternoon, set up in a basic but not unpleasant hotel and, after doing laundry (I know, the highlight of anybody´s overseas trip), arrived at the infamous gay beach of Spain. We had a clue it might be gay due to the presence of 300 men sunbaking compared to 5 topless women, none of whom were receiving any attention. Our respective slight and pasty white bodies - not to mention Speedos and board shorts - were in stark contrast to the golden tanned super pecs and tighty boxer-brief bathers, but hey, you have to start the tanning process somewhere. My first dip in the Mediterranean was a truly indulgent experience - the afternoon water was so warm and placid. I was drowning in the sea of beauty when I chanced to hear 2 English speakers. I looked over to see two young spunks - one of whom was wearing a ripped D&G top - cavorting with a soccer ball and each other. The novelty of hearing English was enough for me to introduce myself and soon I was friendly with Simon and Kevin, two Irish boys also travelling through Europe. We mistakenly believed we were staying in the same hotel and almost missed each other after agreeing to meet up for drinks, but thankfully we ran into each other at a bar and our Sitges experience truly began.

After an amazing dinner of the best paella I´ve ever had (accompanied with not so great red and white wine sangria), we hit the bars and clubs. I was unabashedly in lust with Simon, the toned and tanned property expert oozing seductive charm and confidence, but it was Kevin (also remarkably cute) who I bonded with, the sensitive and very talented flautist about to begin a career with (if my hazy memory serves) the UK symphony orchestra. Stu, meanwhile, was also gettin jiggy with our new Irish friends, and so several drinks and hours of fine conversation later, going to a club that required patrons to strip down to their underwear seemed the natural thing to do.

Although the first underwear club was a little disappointing, the second one was a treat, not least because that night Trailer´s (as it was aptly called) was hosting a foam party. For diplomatic reasons, I cannot go into extensive details as to how the foam party climaxed around 5:30am. Instead I´ll refer totally randomly and on a different topic to the words "men" and "eight" and "public". Those crazy Spaniards, eh? Crazy Irishmen, too.

We were lucky enough to run into Simon again, curing his hangover as I was by dumping himself in the Mediterranean. The four of us caught the train back to Barcelona and promised to stay in touch. My London experiences have taught me to take such promises with a grain of salt, but in the case of these two boys I really hope they´re sincere. They were fantastic ambassadors for Ireland and they helped Stu and I have by far the highlight of our time together in Barcelona.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Part 5: Hola Barthelona

12:30pm local time, Barcelona,


What a crazybeautiful place in Barcelona, Spain.

I arrived Monday evening quite terrifed about my first extended stay in a country where English is not the first language, but soon came to learn that this was a redundant fear. Spanish is a fun language to be spoken appallingly, and I feel the Spaniards appreciate you making the effort no matter how ridiculous you sound to their ear.

The people of Barcelona are every bit as beautiful as as the carrers, plaças and the plages. I´m currently writing in a square not far from my hostel and already there is a gorgeous dark-haired angel walking by with his dog. They´re definitely dog fags rather than cat fags in this city.

After a shaky start - arriving at airport, finding my way to the hostel then returning to the airport 4 hours later (midnight) to greet my Barcelona buddy, Stu, we finally crashed in our hostel room (which thankfully is of the quality and cleanliness of a hotel room) at 1am, desperately needing sleep from our respective London and Paris jaunts. (NB - Check out Stu´s site for a fairly dystopian vision of Paris.)

Tuesday was spent meandering down la Rambla, a stunning tree-lined boulevard of flower stalls, newsstands, cafes and markets - specifically, a thriving marketplace called the Mercat de la Bouqeria where we bought everything from mandarins to cognac-filled chocolate balls. At this point, both of our Spanish was very limited to pointing and extravagant mime, but we somehow got by. After giggling at the McDonald´s which sells, amongst other things, gazpacho and beer, we ended up being "chauffered" to the platja by the three-seat tourist pedal bike. The afternoon ended drinking cocktails by the Mediterranean. Truly, this was "the life".

We hopped around the various bars that evening and were a little disappointed with the small crowds. It was only later we were told places only became interesting from 1am onwards (which was when we left), even on Tuesday nights. Bercelona in summer is very behind schedule. With siesta and the sun not setting until at least 9pm, everything starts late. We arrived at a restaurant one evening at about 8:55pm and had to wait a few minutes until they actually opened!

Wednesday morning began with a sample of the work of Antoni Gaudi. In retrospect, I feel utterly ignorant that I replied "who?" when Stu first mentioned the name of the father of modernist architecture. Though we didn´t make it to the Gaudi museum, we did check out a residential house of a former (I think) surgeon who had commissioned Gaudi to re-model. Gaudi was big on the rejection of standard geometric lines and enjoyed integrating nature into his work, so there were lots of arches, rounded corners and even wavy ceilings. It was only when Stu pointed out all the Gaudi designs within the city that I fully appreciated the influence he had on Barcelona.

Wednesday afternoon, evening and early Thursday were spent in Sitges, which is technically part of Barcelona, but was so crazy it warrants its own posting. Click here to check out our misadventures there.

Sporting very strong hangovers on Thursday afternoon, well, when in Barcelona, so we treated ourselves to extended siestas. Then it was time for dinner. We tracked down a cute little bistro in the gay heartland (conveniently just around the corner) that did a three-course dinner and drinks for 12 Euros, and I embarassed myself with the (naturally) hunky waiter who giggled as I resorted to pointing at things on the menu, even though he spoke English, apparently quite well. I had become the odious Yank tourist who doesn´t bother to speak the country´s language and who assumes that just because a person does not speak English they must therefore be dense. We were told by other men in the restaurant to get out to the beach party that was on that night as part of the day´s Saint Joan celebrations. Apparently Saint Joan is a much revered treasure here, and she is commenorated with street fireworks, some set off literally inches from our faces. As with smoking, Spain is very relaxed about its pyrotechnic device laws.

Anyway, we didn´t make it to the beach as we were still precious from Sitges and planned to get up at 6am the next morning to catch a train to Montserrat and see the Benedictine Monastery there. However, missing the infrequent train and with Stu having to leave early, we instead went to the Parc Guell, the park in which Gaudi turned his hand to landscape gardening. A very strange and enchanting place - a "Doctor Seuss garden", as Stu called it.

From there, we raced to the other side of the city to Montjuic, the hill overlooking the city that was part of the main site for the 1992 Olympics. We had enough time to reach the Castell at the top of the mountain via a fernicular and some ruthless stairmastering. The magnificent 360 panorama by the end was worth it.

Stu has since left for Berlin and tonight is my last night in Barcelona. I have loved its history, colour and design. Every street you look down is worthy of a photo. Now it´s one last dip in the Mediterranean for me, before perhaps seafood and sangria for dinner followed by a final night indulging myself in other Spanish delicacies (not that I imagine I´ll be wanting for "nutrition" in Italy either).

One final observation: As a family of wailing people walk by I´m reminded of the passion of the Spanish people. It´s inescapable, whether it´s the ungodly shrieking of the infants, the yelling of the old men at each other, the carefree whistling of the cafe vendor as he sweeps the pavement or the flamboyant hand gestures of the (naturally) fashionably stunning ladies, the Spanish don´t hide from expression. I guess this explains the interminable blaring of car horns too, especially at the thousands of people on scooters, but it also explains why the smile from a Spaniard make me feel so warm. I know it´s coming from a true place. Adios.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Part 4: I Will, I Won´t

2:45pm local times, Gatwick Airport, 20 June

London was many things I didn´t expect it to be and not always what I assumed it would.

Upon leaving from Gatwick airport I already feel a sentimentality for the old girl.

I will miss:

The Tube system, where the longest I ever had to wait for a train was four minutes. But I´m sure City Rail has been totally fixed up in my absence, right?

Soho, the gay al fresco village. What more could a gay boy ask for?

Big Ben, St James´ Park, A&V Museum, Harrod´s and other classic London cliches whose universal knowledge somewhat dimishes the reasons why they are famous - that is, that they´re magnificent. Especially BB. You can only appreciate this gentle beast when you´re right at the bottom gawping up.

Londoners: Maybe it was just because I was mostly dealing with the tourist customer service folk, but the prediction I heard in Brunei airport that London would make Sydney seem friendly by comparison just didn´t happen for me. You have to wonder how a city of 15m people can still manage the odd joke and smile amidst the chaos, while one of 4m cannot.

London bouquet: No matter where I was in London - shopping, pub, clubbing, tourist trap etc- there was a je ne sais crois scent, a bouquet, to quote Tom Baker. There was something wonderfully reassuring about this bouquet. It was the constant reminder of where I was, which sometimes was not always a given, eg on my first night when dancing shirtless at Heaven surrounded by a bunch of tattoed muscle maries to handbag pop, the scent would lean over, tap me on the shoulder and assure me this was not in fact Arq or the Shift.

It was perhaps the clubs that were the only disappointment for my London experience. Saturday night at G.A.Y club I was dancing to music that cast me back to Mars Bar in Adelaide all over again. ABBA, Irene Cara, Spice Girls, you name it, and if it was bad it was there. Granted, the theme to team with that night was songs from movies, but for a venue that was so huge it really was unexpectedly tacky. It was only the night next at G.A.Y pub (there is a difference) that I met a Polish fellow (a "local" as hé´d lived in London for 5 years) who listed all the clubs in London I should have gone to. It would appear I have been provided with misleading and deceptive information from my English friends in Sydney. Still, this didn´t stop me having a good time. I was in London after all, ffs.

I won´t miss:

Queues - 30 mins for the Eye and 45 for Madame Tussaud´s.

Pounds - initially getting excited when seeing prices and for the briefest of moments marvelling at how damn cheap everything is, then becoming extremely depressed as I automatically multiply the figures by 2.5.

Part 5 to come: Barthelona.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Part 3: Getting Lost in London

(OK. Logistically this entrance jumps over one or two yet to be written, but it's one I feel obliged to get down while it's still in my head. Missing bits to follow).

7:03am local time: Net cafe in Leicester Square. A surprisingly fantastic night of discovering Gay London. I arrive at Ku Bar where the median age of the patrons is probably 22 at most, and commence sitting on my own in the hope of some nice London chappies making my acquaintance. After a while that got boring, so I acquainted myself. And then my new posse and I are off to Heaven, apparently London's biggest and best.

Flash forward to dancing, debauchery and mutual making fun of accents with my new London playmates, and I arrive to my base at 4:30am, only to find I cannot work the locker combination to open the pub's (I'm staying in residence above one) security grills. My cousin anticipated I would have troubles, but not keen to awake him and his lovely lady friend I contemplated other moves. It was already very bright and any body clock I may have had ran out of batteries days ago, so, after a failed attempt at sleeping in a nearby park (did I mention I'm a bit tired, having now not slept in over three nights)? I decided to walk. And walk. Get myself lost in London. It seemed like a romantic notion at the time and with brain nerve functions barely operational.

So I did manage to get myself lost in the stinky part of London - literally, the area where you have to step over garbage bags on the sidewalks. Suddenly I understood why people sometimes call London an ugly city. Of all the places in which to lose myself this was especially heinous. After nearly an hour of walking without a Tube station in sight I started to get a bit panicky (which, it my current state means I raised an eyebrow, possibly bit a fingernail). Then, one appears - and bloody hell, it's one down from Liverpool Street station where I began my journey!

Anyway, a few tube rides later and here I am at this dingy cafe, too exhausted to sleep but somehow full of hitherto untapped energy, fuelled only by a strong cafe latte from a dodgy 24-hour Italian cafe.

Feeling very strange, unsettled, and yet undeniably liberated. I have never enjoyed walking with no idea of where to turn so much. London cannot not impress, even its dark sides.

Some more general observations: Can't shake the fact it feels like an oversized Melbourne. Might be the long single-decker trains, its housing commission areas uncannily reminiscent of (Melbourne's) South Kensington, its unusual shapes on the skyline, the Thames being a lot like Southbank on the other side of Westminster Bridge etc. Still yet to come across a genuinely unpleasant, unhelpful Londoner too (short maybe, crabby sure, but not pro-actively resisting any kind of information or assistance Sydney workers can, particularly their rail folk who have provided small pleasures along the way).

Now maybe my cousin will be up and I can go home now.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Part 2: London Postcards

17.6.05 5pm local time: London Tower

A moment´s pause after a day of non-stop trekking and sight-seeing.

Leicester Square: tick
Trafalgar Square: tick
St James´Park: (and without going into details, it wasn´t just the ducklings on the pond with which I frolicked here) tick
Buckingham Palace: tick
Big Ben: tick
Houses of Parliamen¨: tick
London Eye ride: tick
Dali Exhibit at County Hall Gallery: tick
London Bridge: tick
Tower Bridge, which I realised I had thought was London Bridge and wondered what all the fuss was about, as LB not TB is really quite dull: tick

(Ed note: Since got in Knightsbridge/Harrod´s, Madame Tussaud´s, Albert and Victoria Museum, Carnaby Street, Portobello Road, Hyde Park, shopping at Oxford Street and homosexualising at Soho).

Have still been pleasantly surprised by demeanour of Londoners. Any time I´ve asked directions I´ve only been greeted with friendly assistance (although quite a few turned out to be tourists themselves. Damn Yankees.)

Heard an Indian woman say as she stopped her husband from taking a snap of London Tower: "Stop taking postcard pictures!" I fear I got sucked into doing likewise my first couple of days here. I can already hear my friends stifling yawns behind manufactured enthusiasm as I flip through my photo album of postcards. I´m too nice - or maybe too paranoid - to give strangers my camera and ask to take a photo of me*, although I had the pleasure of a Spanish? - Brazilian? - mamma stop me in my tracks outside of BP and ask in a delightfully incomprehensible language to me if she could have her photo taken with me as her giggling family of daughters, son, mother, aunt etc looked on. If only she had been a Brazilian Capoeira instructor, maybe 26, Capricorn, 3-day stubble...I digress.

(*Sidebar: Don´t try and buy a non-digital camera. When I was asking around for one in Bondi Junction last week I was mostly greeted with looks of abject horror, as though I were asking for BetaMax cassette players.)

So the next goal in my journey is to get my hands a little more dirty, less of the postcard pictures and more jumping over the velvet ropes to touch.

Part 1: Brunei and Dubai Sound Similar, Don't They

(Postings fairly brief as I'm limited to net cafes. Oh, general notice I'll hopefully also get to email: The c*nts @ Vodafone fucked up my roaming function so until I get that sorted my mobile is useless. So please don't be mad if I don't respond to your texts or calls; it's just likely I'm not getting them, let alone able to reply.)

6:30pm local time: My first step on foreign soil at Bandar Seri Begawan airport, Brunei Darussalem. Pretty much getting off one plane, getting off another, cough. I'd say the first leg of trip was OK but not phenomenal. Take-off was certainly a thrill and I was lucky enough to be seated next to a lovely old dear from Bowral who liked a chat but who also understood the sacredness of silence. It was the screaming, whiny infants surrounding us both that desecrated the silence. As a gay man, I've realised that, contrary to popular opinion, I am not anti-The Family, merely anti-The Obnoxious Manipulative Brats Whose Parents Obviously Don't Watch Super Nanny Enough. Does this make me a bad person? I think not.

Royal Brunei has so far left me luke-warm as an international carrier (not that I have many against which to compare). The gorgeous Bruneiese (?) female flight attendants, surely none heavier than 40kgs, their porcelain doll faces framed by thin yashmaks, were cool at best, surly at worst. No smiles and little interest in going the "extra mile" (yes, the first of many bad travel puns) for their customers - at least, those in cattle class - emanating from their tiny frames. Plus my telescreen was inoperative so no films for 7 hours. I tried to drown out the torturous sounds of the nursery from hell with Elgar, Mahler, Kylie, Kate Bush, hell, Faith No More - but to no avail. Needless to say I was relieved when we arrived in the viscous sauna that is Brunei.

I did manage to get a couple of pics of a very striking mosque (which, apparently, wasn't even "the impressive one"). Otherwise flying over the city felt not unlike flying over the Sydney Hills district - lots of newly-built, ugly McMansions. I don't imagine Baulkham Hills would be so ridiculously humid, however. Still, the airport was an educational half-hour leg-stretcher. The monitors showed calming nature images with English subtitles to complement the sound of the recorded native tongue, assuring us that we "are in no doubt that the only God is Allah" (or some such). Not sure if this was a regular channel in this country or just stock footage filmed specifically for the airport. Either way, this combined with the Allah blessing each flight piped through the cabin before take-off left us in no doubt as to who calls the shots in Brunei. I mean, I guess unofficially it would be the Sultan, but officially...

I don't think it's quite hit me that for the first time in my life I have actually stood on non-Australian soil. It took over four hours of flight before Australia was finally left behind, a reminder of the might and majesty of my island home. I know 98% of people reading this have already been abroad and I'm sure I sound adolescent, but that's sweet - I love being an 7-year-old adventurer again, sitting in quiet awe as when I would be taken up to the cockpit.

Brunei - Dubai: I have a new neighbour on the plane now and thankfully no infants in sight or hearing. Fun times ahead! I'm wondering if I should introduce myself to my new neighbour. She looks harmless...If only she were the two beefy Poms I was eavesdropping on while waiting in line to go through security at BSB airport. Their conversation ranged from Sydney/London comparisons (apparently, the latter makes the former seem a "friendly, relaxed" place by contrast - uh oh), recent girlfriend break-ups and the Da Vinci Code. Loverly. Hrm, oh well. Onward adolescent traveller...

1 am local time: Dubai International airport for re-fuelling. Impression of Royal Brunei has risen sharply: new male flight attendants are far more professional and courteous, screen is working and as well as movies there's endless music and games to choose from. It would appear I'm good at Chess again. Dubai looks not unlike Las Vegas from the air: this is definitely the Arabic-by-geography-only, Western imperialist-by-soul city I've been told about. The airport was grand enough for me to warrant taking photos (I realised by the end of this trip I will have been to 9 airports. Excessive?)

Credit is running out here, so London escapades to come in next installment. Chowder.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


So this time tomorrow, I'll be waiting for the call that Royal Brunei flight 194 to Bandar Seri is now ready for boarding. Or, more likely, sobbing as I try to flag down a cab and race back home as I realised I've forgotten my passport or some such. I guess I'm just preparing myself for the worst. Call it classic Taurean stoicism. Or uptight anal retentiveness, your choice.

Have just scored some free accommodation in Piccadilly for the first leg of the trip (without having to resort to drugs or prostitution, no less), and extra poundage in London can't be a bad thing.

I'll endeavour to keep updating QP on a semi-regular basis. The SX column will (theoretically) continue since, as my editor kindly pointed out, it'll just be me out of pocket if it doesn't. And considering I'm going to be broke as when I get back (this trip has only been made possible through taking 2 weeks' unpaid leave), I'm in no position to knock back additional revenue sources. Something tells me the first thing on my to-do list when I get back is to get a properly-paid job.

Anyways, cheers, thanks a lot to you all, I look forward to keeping you posted on all my misadventures.

Sam xo

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Divine Incarceration

Thanks to Nik for bringing this tragic situation to my attention. If only it were an isolated incident. My next SX article follows.

Today, certain branches of the Rancid Religious Right are legally permitted to inflict what can only be described as psychological abuse and torture on children.

If this sounds a little melodramatic, you may not yet have heard about 16-year-old Zach, a gay blogger in Tennessee whose parents responded to him revealing his homosexuality by sending him, against his will, to Love in Action International, a fundamentalist Christian “ministry” designed to isolate people and “cure” them of their homosexuality through extensive Bible bashing – er, teaching.

According to LIA’s website: “There is no such creation as a ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ person. There is only homosexual attraction and behaviour; accordingly, there can be no change from a sexual identity that never existed in the first place.” Despite being forbidden from contacting the outside world, Zach has been able to post the 112 rules by which detainees at the “refuge” must abide. Some range from comical – “the clients may not wear Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Klein brand clothing, undergarments, or accessories” – to disturbing: “No sexual/emotional misconduct. Any temptations, fantasies, or dreams are to be presented to one’s staff worker only.” The ministry’s director, who “left the homosexual lifestyle in 1984”, claims he “would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle”.

The ministry operates on the standard RRR chestnut that homosexuality is a mental illness which may be cured through accepting the love of Christ, despite the reality that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counselling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that as homosexuality is not a mental disorder it thus cannot nor should not be cured.

The blogging world at least has been quick to highlight Zach’s plight, with his latest heart-breaking posting receiving over a thousand replies. Though he has drawn strength from this support, he naturally feels great anguish as a teenager forced to cope with his parents’ betrayal, and writes: “All I can think about is killing my mother and myself. It's so horrible. This is what it's doing to me … I have this horrible feeling all of the time …”

Unfortunately, LIA is but one US example of these horrendous brainwashing prisons. Exodus International – “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ” – is a “global alliance” with a co-ordinating office in Brisbane. Such camps can only continue to exist legitimately when a pope refers to “the homosexual inclination…as objectively disordered” or our own Anglican Archbishop likens homosexuality to alcoholism. Such seeds of extreme hatred will always bear dangerous fruit.

To offer your message of support to Zach, go to http://blog.myspace.com/specialkid. He needs all the genuine love he can get.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Corby: Perspective, Maybe?

Not surprisingly, the Schapelle Corby jokes have come quickly and plentifully, as have opposing opinions as to whether or not they're appropriate. I don't expect to win many friends with this post, but here's my take on the post- Corby judgment world.

I felt almost nauseous on the Friday afternoon when I was on my way to the airport - not because Corby got 20 years, but because of what I was listening to on the radio consequent to the ruling (which, let's face it, was no big surprise). Corby's pleas and wails superimposed over heart-rending ballads and "don't give up" anthems. They were so tacky and overblown they might have been used on a comedy sketch show were they not for real. People calling to say they were in tears over the verdict, as though Schapelle were their own daughter. Boycott Bali, shame Howard, etc.

Only one call came through the anguish that didn't make me want to switch off - the one burning question that if asked can potentially spark a public stoning: What if Corby is guilty?

We don't need to re-hash the for/against arguments. By now the overwhelming majority of Australians clearly believe she is innocent based on undeniably compelling circumstantial evidence, appalling Indonesian police procedure and a guilty-until-proven-innocent judicial system with a judge who has never ruled anything other than guilty in 500 trials.

But none of these in my mind conclusively disprove Corby's guilt of the crime itself. They also don't get us hypocritical Australians off the hook - Australians who were deafeningly silent when it came to David Hicks or Thomas McKoskar but who are now so very vocal, and in some cases vandalic, when articulating our outrage to the Corby verdict.

Perhaps if I didn't have such doubts as to Corby's innocence, I would find the jokes more appalling. But even if I were totally convinced, I wouldn't begin to self-righteously condemn other people for getting some comical mileage out of this. As the linked article highlights, we all enjoy a bit of schadenfreude every now and then. I have chuckled at Diana jokes, Michael Jackson jokes, Tony Abbott jokes (about his "son"), maybe even the odd WTC joke, and I don't believe I'm less of a person for this. Human beings always draw humour from the most unexpected, "inappropriate" places. It's a coping mechanism designed to help us with grief, shock or despair. For anybody reading this who hasn't once ever laughed at any jokes relating to the aforementioned or any other sensitive subjects- and/or you've always reprimanded other people when who have - kudos to you. I imagine such people are a very small minority, however.

Having said that: I keep "those" particular sort of jokes within a limited sphere of close friends and acquaintances. If Corby is innocent and if her parents were to hear a joke about her situation on the radio, they would have every right to be furious and demand an apology from the broadcaster. Maybe this is hypocritical of me, but that's my point: most of us are hypocrites to some extent.

Where do we draw the line as to when a joke is appopriate or not? If Corby were somehow definitively proved guilty, would there be such outrage to the jokes? Don't forget, the Australian public as judge, jury and executioner got it completely wrong when sentencing Lindy Chamberlain; it's possible we've got it wrong again when so readily presuming Corby's innocence.

So I won't put any Corby jokes on this website, but I'm not going to slap a friend who tells me one in confidence.

Only 3 days to go...

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Day the Laughter Died

I don't know if anybody was as unfortunate enough as I was to catch Seven's now-axed live "comedy" show, Let Loose Live, but the episode I tuned into - mainly because the man candy who won Dancing With the Stars was hosting it and, you know, I enjoy objectifying buffed heterosexual men wherever I can - was about as funny as bowel cancer.

The selling point was that, as well as the new faces, LLL also had a bunch of "seasoned" funny people. However, that was just one of its many problems: Of all the ex-Fast Forward cast they could have parachuted into the show, they took arguably its two least funny performers, Michael Veitch and Peter Moon. Marvellous Marg Downey was there but totally wasted, left with little to do other than lame Zoot commercial send-ups. I assume Jane Hall was also meant to be a drawcard of hilarity, but let's face it: She wasn't funny in the not-funny "All Together Now", she's not especially talented, she was abominably unprofessional live, and apart from her spunk rat husband Vince Colosimo, she really has very little going for her. That left us with the new faces, who ranged from mediocre at best to "I'd rather set my eyelids on fire than watch them for another second" at worst. One sketch was, literally, five minutes of a young character abusing another woman. And then it finished. Seriously. No punchline, no sustained joke, nothing. The warm-up people at Seven deserve a big pay rise, for getting the audience to appear so genuinely pleased to be there and laugh so uproariously. Maybe they just slip speed in their complimentary OJs as they're walking into the studio.

When and why did Australian television stop being funny? When did we stop taking the piss out of our tall poppies so entertainingly and create our own legendary comedic characters? Between the D-Generation, The Late Show, Fast Forward and even the first series of Full Frontal, we have seen how magnificent Aussie sketch comedy can be. How much poorer a country would we be without Graham and the Colonel? Shitscared? Eleanor La Gore from the Saturday Show belting out "I Was Only 19" with the ABC dancers? Margaret Bland teaching youths how to dance morally? Or Magda Szubanski's unnervingly spot-on impressions of Joan Kirner, Maggie Tabberer etc? Was humorous Australian performers a mere genetic discrepancy that dissolved from the gene pool by 1995?

Now, between series of Kath and Kim, Australia's comedy landscape is a barren place. Seven keeps putting up comedic flop after flop - The Big Bite, Hamish and Andy, Greeks on the Roofs etc. Nine has Comedy Inc which, admittedly, I tuned into the other night and could see had substantially improved since its first season, to the point that I was actually chuckling throughout their Mark Philippoussis piss-take. It still has a long way to go, however. Ten gives us unintentional humour with Big Brother and Australian Idol, but only people to laugh at, not with. Its "Skithouse" show is so appalling that a friend of a friend who's in the cast actually goes around calling it "Shithouse" with everybody else, with no apparent irony. SBS has Pizza which has its moments, but I feel is a few years past its use-by date. And Aunty has Spicks and Specks which is good for a guffaw depending who the special guests are, but ultimately it's just a musical spin on Good News Week, nothing particularly original.

What's sorely lacking is a one-hour sketch show, maybe with a combination of live action and pre-recorded, but that's not essential, that features funny people performing well-written, funny sketches and ridiculing those who deserve to be ridiculed. Let's have good impressions of Russell Crowe, John Howard, Marcia Hines etc. It can't be that hard, can it? Are we just going to assume that when Magda, Jane and Gina finally leave us for the big stand-up gig in the sky, it's the end of funny Australian performers as we know them? Surely there's a bunch of funny and cute Melbourne Uni Law Revue performers itching to take their place. If not, how about a reality TV program to weed out the funny guys and gals? Search for an Australian Sketch Comedy Performing Artist? Judith Lucy could be the Dicko, Tony Martin the Mark Holden and Magda the Marcia earth mamma. I'd watch that. Maybe.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tickets, Money, Passport!

How's this for an Edina moment: Was on the bus the other night, doing my daily Euro to do/done mental checklist.

Accommodation: check.
Train tickets: check.
Luggage: check.
Contacted Euro friends: Check.
Maps, guides etc: Check.
Euro-hopping plane tickets: Check.
Sydney-London ticket: Oh shit.

I've bought it, of course, I just realised it's still waiting to be picked up from Flight Centre. I determined it would be a good idea to leave it in their safe hands right up until just before I was leaving. Considering I had completely forgotten about this determination, I think that was a very good (forgotten) idea of mine. Would have just loved rocking up to Kingsford-Smith next week and realised I wouldn't have been able to leave the country.

Sometimes I struggle to keep up with myself. Like when Homer wants a donut but when he opens the box all he finds is a note: "Dear Homer, IOU one donut, signed Homer." Bastard! He's always one step ahead!!

I still can't believe that this time next week I'll actually be boarding the Royal Brunei plane. I feel like I should be a lot more panicky, but apart from minor bumps along the way, like forgetting my ticket, I'm really not sure what's left to do other than what I've done or what I've listed to do. I bet I'll remember shitloads as I'm showing the flight attendant my boarding pass, however.

Jesus Saves...Penguins...With Wooly Knits

And it's about damn time, too.

So the girls up at the Coffs Harbour ... branch? diocese? franchise?! ... of the Church of JC of Latter Day Saints are knit one, pearl two-ing their little tushes off to send a new line of penguin jumpers to the Phillip Island Nature Reserve. Fairy penguins' flippers are not waterproof, you see, so when the lads get oil on them they get heavy and, umm, drown. The jumpers, as well as keeping them warm, absorb the oil and the penguins can eventually return to the wild.

I guess with Christianity having colonised almost the entire planet at some point, there's very few human heathens left to save. So now they're after the penguins, many of whom, let's not forget, are "fairies" in more ways than one. I wonder if this charitable donation of nice khaki knits comes with a secret spiritual price tag?

Still, credit where credit's due. Phillip Island isn't even in the same state as Coffs Harbour but here in Sydney you can feel the love channeling through between the two.

My only other major concern is the design of the knits. For penguins I personally envisage black, slimming turtlenecks to conceal their expansive waistlines and give the impression of body length. I'm not sure Latter Day Saints knitters share my vision, however. I see lots of little fairy penguins getting around in olive green and mustard colours, with "Jesus Loves You" sprawled across their bellies. Still, if this important message gives a leopard seal a moment's pause to re-consider devouring him/her alive, then it's a seasonal trend with which I'm comfortable.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Here's To You, Miss Bancroft

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Anne Bancroft, 1931 - 2005

One of the few remaining Hollywood class acts is gone at 73. Most will remember Bancroft as cimena's definitive MILF (that's "mamma I'd like to f$%k", for those who haven't seen American Pie) Mrs Robinson in Mike Nichols' The Graduate:


"I'm not trying to seduce you..."

But this role doesn't not nearly encapsulate her talent, beauty and versatility. I am fortunate that the most recent AB film I have seen and still clear in my mind, is The Miracle Worker, for which she won her Best Actress Oscar playing Helen Keller (Patty Duke)'s bull-headed (and partially blind) Irish teacher, Annie Sullivan. Duke and Bancroft had created these roles on Broadway and played them out dozens of times before the movie was released, but their scenes together still pack an enormous punch. Bancroft also added an Emmy along her career path to the Oscar and Tony she earned for Sullivan role (she had already won her first Tony starring opposite Henry Fonda in Two for the Seesaw).

Like Katharine Hepburn or Susan Sarandon, Bancroft was an actress who seemed to become more beautiful the older she got. In fact, she won some of her greatest roles over the age of 40 after years of relative anonymity as young Hollywood contract player "Anna Marno" (as with so many Italian performers in Hollywood, she was very quickly given a nice Anglo pseudonym). Whether she was playing dramatic (mother superior in Agnes of God, script-reader in 84 Charing Cross Road or Harvey Fierstein's Noo Yawk Jewish mutha in Torch Song Trilogy) or comical (To Be or Not to Be), Bancroft radiated indefinable elegance in all her roles.

Bancroft also deserves kudos for another Hollywood rarity: a star wedding that lasted over 40 years. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft would probably still have to be on paper one of the oddest combinations of marrieds, but against all the difficulties of their industry they stayed together till death did them part.

"When Mel told his Jewish mother he was marrying an Italian girl, she said: 'Bring her over. I'll be in the kitchen - with my head in the oven'."

Also interesting is to speculate on roles Bancroft could have played but turned down for one reason or another. Along with Shirley MacLaine, she was offered the role of Linda Blair's slightly stressed mother in The Exorcist but turned it down due to being pregnant with her only child, Max. She was also the leading choice to play Aurora, Debra Winger's mother in Terms of Endearment, with the role going to, interestingly, MacLaine. I also read somewhere that she and eventual Exorcist mum, Ellen Burstyn, were both considered for the role of Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Not to take anything away from Louise Fletcher, but Bancroft would have been horrifyingly good in that role.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Don't Snap My Head Off, Carmel

Those evil homosexualist engineers in the Education Department are at it again - this time, they're - horror - getting kids to imagine a world that is not heteronormative. Our Edumacation Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, has stepped in to ban future use of the teaching resource "A Guided Journey" by US author Brian McNaught, apparently known as the "Godfather of gay sensitivity training", after one - one - "outraged member of the community" made one complaint about the use of this book in one school to Brendan Nelson.

I guess I had higher hopes for Carmel - ALP woman who I assume is from the Left (her husband and federal Left headkicker Anthony Albanese certainly is) - but as someone who, according to insider sources, has banned all use of the word "empathise" in any of her press releases, pandering to homophobia's not such a great leap.

Once again, however, the media reporting of this story is more offensive than the events themselves. First I heard on the radio this morning Ron Wilson's dulcet tones infused with distress when reporting on "outrage" to the "promotion of the gay and lesbian lifestyle". So once again we're a lifestyle, not a natural occurrence in the biological world. We're Megan Gale getting in a bit of tanning before she hops on her latest sugar daddy's private jet to Catalina. We're Lillian Frank supervising the renos on her Toorak pad. What a privileged lifestyle we lead.

Then, how do Rupert minions report the story? First line: "Students as young as 14 have been asked at school to place themselves in an imaginary world dominated by homosexuals and lesbians during lessons." 14? Oh, please, won't somebody THINK OF THE CHILDREN??!! The queer mafia really does want to recruit your children, so watch out.

This "controversial lesson has been branded as 'brainwashing and social engineering' by education experts", although as far as I can see from the article, the "experts" in question are the said "outraged member" (no pun intended, much) and Kevin Donnelly, the former Chief of Staff to RRR cheerleader Kevin Andrews. And if this opinion piece is anything to go by, Donnelly's reaction here was always going to be a fill-in-the-blanks, anti-queer sound byte. But I guess that's what news.com's "journalism" is all about. Gay and lesbian issues must always be reported from the same template: blow the issue out of proportion, use unnecessarily emotive adjectives, throw in the odd quote from a long line of willing homophobes and don't even bother to quote anybody who might defend this course of action. At least Nova had the decency to get in a response from David Scammell.

News.com leaves us with no ambiguity, however; parents should be outraged, and if they aren't, then they're not proper parents anyway, in fact they're probably those abominable same-sex parents who should be sterilised and have their children rescued from their sinful hovel of depravity and placed in a wholesome Hillsong home instead.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

%^&* - Botswanan for FUCK!!!!!!!

QP is still not getting any better. I realise I'm more of a blog addict (or should we just be called "bloddicts"?) than I assumed, as being unable to post - or being able to post, but not really able to see my words on my site and/or reply to visitors - is really giving me the McShits.

I'll fly blind and get this posting up, only because Nik has requested this of me and I thought it would be rude not to reply.

01). Total volume of music files on my computer? I actually believe this question is more of a masturbatory pissing contest designed to find out who has the biggest hard drive (and yes, in this regard - and this regard only - mine is quite small). As I'm operating from a near-dead 98 machine I only have about 500-600 songs. New laptop is on the post-Euro To Do list.

02). The last CD I bought was...Best of Eurythmics.

03a). The last song I listened to before writing this was...Infernal, "From Paris to Berlin". It's a smite gay.

3b). Song playing right now: Only in my head - the Elgar Cello concerto as played by Jacqueline du Pre.

04). Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me.
1) See 3b
2) Barber - Adagio for Strings (and because I don't want it to count as another one: Albinoni's AFS)
3) Garbage - You Look so Fine
4) Portishead - Roads
5) Planet Funk - Chase the Sun (extended version)

05). Which five people are you passing this on to?
1) harley
2) sjusju (who's done the book one but would still be interested to see her moosic too)
3) munchy
4) Rodney
5) Occasional Screaming Queen

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Weeping Penguin

Weeping because again QP is non-operational, or at least freezing for minutes on end from my work computer, so I've been unable to post. Apologies. I'll try and do something about it. My flatmate mentioned something about caches and proxies last night. Might see if I can seduce one of my company's IT boys, even if they're not exactly an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.

More news as it comes to hand...