Friday, July 29, 2005

Not Great News

I don't mean to be a negative Narrelle or anything, but seriously, the results of the Australia Insistute's survey into homophobia are not encouraging.

While I appreciate the efforts of the G&L Rights Lobby, as well as my own SX editor, to put a positive spin on the results, it's hard to avoid the reality that, of a survey of nearly 25,000 Australians, which you could safely assume is a big enough sample to be truly representative of the Australian population as a whole, one-third believe homosexuality is "immoral". Nearly half of New South Welshmen believe homosexuality is immoral. At least 30% of the individual state populations, men and women combined, believe homosexuality is "immoral". I think I could actually hear the collective ejaculations of the AFA, Family First, Christian Democrats etc when these figures were first released. A vindication? I'm sure they're of no doubt.

As Gary Fishlock rightly points out, the word immoral is very loaded, although my understanding of the AI is that it's not a particularly right-wing think-tank (in fact I've always assumed they were a little lefty) so I don't think they had an agenda to discredit homosexuality and queer law reform through this survey, even though it will now be an undeniably effective weapon for all our community's enemies.

I don't know what I expected. Maybe I thought by now, with nearly 40 years of visible homosexual activism, the figure would be closer to 20%. It's encouraging to see this is closer to the mark for 18-24 year-olds, but then almost half of teenage boys aren't fans of ours, so whether or not we'll have this pleasant, rosy once the over 50s and their bad attitudes have died off future is speculative, especially when we have a new generation of neo-con babies that make Reagan look like Trotsky.

What I wonder is how many of these 8,000 or so folk who believe homosexuality is immoral actually have some kind of close relationship with a queer person? Are they saying to that person's face they have no problem with them, but then sitting in quiet judgment of their "immoral" lifestyle and willing to admit to this only in an anonymous survey? And if so, do they also harbour secret contempt for their immoral friends, family members, neighbours, butchers etc, or does this manifest in pity and fear for the health and well-being of their poor, unfortunate acquaintances who have to live this sad, godless lifestyle? It's a distinction I believe is worth noting since, as I have seen first-hand, people can assume an all-encompassing "lifestyle" (for want of a better word) or community is immoral, but not necessarily all its participants. Or as the good Jesus folk say, hate the sin, not the sinner. It's hypocritical bullshit but a common way to reconcile one's own prejudices when confronted so directly, and it's a distinction that wouldn't be recognisable in this sort of survey.

There's all sorts of respondent breakdowns in the survey - check it out - but it's too simplistic to say it's the men, or the outer suburbanites, or the less educated, or the socio-disadvantaged who are the most homophobic. The survey clearly indicates too many tertiary-educated, inner-city latte folk also share these views. Perhaps the main difference is that the former are more honest about it. I would say as an example, however, that, in Sydney, it's no coincidence the gay Metropolitan Community Church is based in inner-city Petersham while Hillsong sings for JC in Baulkham Hills, way out north-west. Without generalising too much, suburbanism is definitely not a friend to the gay man and his dyke flatmate. This survey offers no surprises there.

The Catholics as the least homophobic denomination definitely caught me off-guard, however. Even though two of my exes are Catholic and I know George Pell upsets as many Catholics as he does everybody else when he opens his trap, I assumed the indoctrination (read brainwashing) process of the Catholic kidlets at Sunday school would have lead to a much higher percentage of Catholics believing homosexuality is immoral.

Overall I guess this is a survey of surprises, some good but many worrying. It's certainly going to come right to the forefront when the government introduces its same-sex overseas adoption ban and I can already see the smirks crawling across the faces of Albrechtsen, Devine, Akerman, Bolt etc as they take Bic to paper.

Maybe Australians just suck.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bob Down

So Bob's gone, abandoning what is arguably a sinking ship with enough time to swim to shore and hide before he gets blamed for it.

Broggie reckons he would've beaten Bob in 2007 and he's probably right, and that's probably why Bob's exiting now with relative dignity (for a politician).

As I moved to Sydney in early 2003 I only caught first-hand the tail-end of his reign, but I came to develop a sneaking respect for him. An intellectual homo - oh, woops! Why did I type that? Of course he's not gay. Bad typo - who could still market himself as a man of the people, people who voted for him to be Premier 4 times. I guess a hopelessly incompetent Opposition helped with that, too, but still.

I believe his best skill was his populism, not pleasing the most amount of people all the time, as few pollies can do that nowadays, but displeasing the fewest amount of people. I don't imagine many pollies can receive ringing endorsements of interest groups and individuals ranging from John Laws to the G&L Rights Lobby to Christian Democrat LC Gordon Moyes to peak business groups to environmental lobbyists, but that's what always struck me about him - he was the consummate politician. Like John Howard, but less evil.

This isn't to say Bob wasn't also shamelessly ego-driven. He obviously stayed in the last twelve months solely to surpass Neville Wran's record as longest-serving Premier, and in that period his boredom and apathy while waiting for the milestone was obvious. I remember him hanging Michael Costa out to dry last year as CityRail moved from comical to pure farce, making no attempt to defend him against angry commuters and basically saying it was totally understandable and acceptable for people to be furious and wanting to vote against them at the next election. That's when I realised Bob wouldn't be there when it happened.

I don't hold out much hope for our next premier. Andrew Refshauge has probably gone further than any Left faction member in NSW could dream of going within the party by winning Deputy Premier but he's under no illusions that he could get the numbers to go for the top position, so he's out. That leaves us with Right faction boys Morris Iemma, Carl Scully or John Watkins. In all three cases I'm literally yawning with anticipation. None will be able to replicate the undeniable Carr magic so we can look forward to the dangerously born-again NSW Liberal party winning government in 2007 and reversing the queer rights achieved under Carr's reign, not to mention running our trains and hospitals even further into the ground.

My inner Margaret gives the Bob Carr movie 3 and a half stars; my inner David 3. I hope Bob enjoys his retirement being ruggedly heterosexual with Helena.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Case of the Shrieking Sheiks

It's a bit of a quagmire. On the one hand, Melbourne Sheik Mohammed Omran is causing headaches for John Howard, and when you operate on the principle as I usually do that any enemy of Howard's is a friend of mine, a smug little smirk may creep across your face.

Then, you read Sheik Khalid Yasin, executive director of the Islamic Teaching Institute, saying that university "intellectuality" compromises one's true Islamic direction (maybe not a great attitude for a teacher to have), "disobedient" wives should be beaten and homosexuals should be put to death - "it's not our law, it's the Koran" - and instantly you're reminded that these men could never be true allies. Yasin especially is just another extremist, twisting the words of a sacred book to justify his own hate-filled agenda, as shamelessly as does George Pell or Peter Jensen.

Omran's automatically on the conservative hit-list because he's mouthed that Theory That Cannot Be Named - namely, that the US government was itself responsible for the S11 attacks as part of a long-term strategy to whip up resentment against Islam and invade, bomb and murder accordingly without too much international reprisal. Gasp! What sort of pinko, Commo, Nazi, un-Austrayan, lezzo terrorist could even think such a thing? After all, we all know the only folk who kill their own to further their own cause are those darker-skinned throwers of Children Overboard, right? Oh, that's right, that wasn't actually true. That was just our government lying to us.

And maybe Uncle Sam has told his citizens the odd whopper or two along the way as well? When you remember that earlier TTCBN dating back to the 1980s, when the CIA brought in Columbian cocaine and used Contra agents to distribute to African-American children in the LA ghettos so that they could finance their war in Central America, is it really such a huge leap to even consider the possibility that maybe, perhaps, Omran, or indeed any of the Muslim clerics who have accused the US of the S11 attacks, might be onto something?

I guess the counter-argument to this is to ask where we draw the line on speculating who has been responsible for the subsequent attacks following S11. Are the Australian or Indonesian governments, for example, responsible for the Bali attacks? Or the British government for the London bombings? I don't think so, or at least I strongly hope not. But who knows, perhaps I'm being very naive.

Now, onto Yasin's colourful interpretation of the Koran.

As with the Bible, I haven't read this book from cover to cover or been to a book club meet where it's the novel of the week, so when he insists the Koran states that homosexuals should be put to death, I cannot immediately contradict him. Here, however, is a useful resource on the many contradictions of the Koran, especially with regard to homosexuality. One passage reads:

If two men among you is guilty of lewdness, punish them both...

But then you have these passages which, with all due respect, could be considered soft-core homoerotica on a good day:

(Koran 52:24) Round about them will serve, to them, boys (handsome) as pearls well-guarded.

(Koran 56:17) Round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness.

(Koran 76:19) And round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness: if thou seest them, thou wouldst think them scattered pearls.

The author of the website argues that "Mohammed could not make up his mind about Sodomy. He prohibits it on earth, but then he says that Muslims can enjoy homosexuality in Paradise."

He/she then concludes, in a passage that encapsulates perfectly my personal views on the Bible:

"(T)he Koran is full of contradictions. It is obviously not from God. The contradictions and the difference of writing styles evident in the Koran force us to make the conclusion that either this is a work of an incoherent and delusional individual or the work of not just one, but many people."

As with the Bible, however, this argument is essentially futile and irreconcilable. Some will be able to quote passages that illustrate their beliefs perfectly; others can quote from the same book to illustrate their counter-beliefs just as well. And if you believe Reverend Lovejoy, if we followed the Bible to the letter, "technically we're not allowed to go to the bathroom".

So how do you solve a problem like Yasin? Rodney Croome says we should go straight for the jugular and prosecute the guy under the Anti-Discrimination Act, even though he himself acknowledges that it's virtually impossible for religious leaders to be prosecuted as provisions of the Act allow religious persons and bodies to espouse such hatred without being liable to prosecution. This is why we've successfully been able to go after John Laws, Steve Price and Sam Newman but Jensen, Pell, Nile and now Yasin can continually get away with inciting fear, prejudice and violence.

Croome argues that if a case against Yasin failed there would be a strong argument for law reform, but again I'm very cynical that will ever happen as neither the Coalition or the ALP is about to tell Western churches what they can or cannot teach 'n' preach. Not in NSW anyway. I'm glad there's no legal sanctuary in Tasmania for these people but it's going to be a long time before the mainland follows suit.

I prefer Croome's more touchy-huggy approach of "a full-hearted attempt to win over Islamic opinion to social and sexual pluralism". Islam and homosexuality are not oxymoronic - think of Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble with Islam Today". And yes, the number of death threats she received subsequent to that book being published demonstrates how far we still have to go, but hey, it's the first step of a million-mile journey.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bits n Bobs

A couple of things: A slightly belated cheers, thanks a lot to John over at Seeking Englightenment, for his absolute courage confronting Bill "Bash-em high" Muehlenberg from the Australian Family Association in an intelligent and dignified manner. A true class act, John. I salute you.

Okay, now back to me.

I've just had a couple of Euro pics scanned (yes, yes, burn the heretic at the stake who still doesn't have a digital camera).

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Here's me at the Fontana di Trevi. I guaranteed my return to Rome by throwing a Euro into this fountain, as well as finding my life partner by throwing in another two (although being Rome where Catholicism works so hard to eradicate and deny homosexuality, it probably just means I have a guaranteed wife. Oh the irony.)

If you haven't yet noticed one very wrong thing about this photo, allow me to elaborate: as often happens, I have no freakin eyes and look like a contented zombie. But still somehow this is the best one of all those taken of me when I was in Europe. Grrr.

This is why I don't like appearing in photos all that often. And why some might consider me shallow.

Friday, July 22, 2005


So it would seem I've gone the way of Today Tonight and quoted someone entirely out of context.

In this posting way back in January on the new wave of neo-con extreme right Young Libs in NSW, I quoted Amy Keenan-Dunn (well, as she was quoted from The Mercury) as moving an amendment to condemn single parents, saying she believed it was "far more harmful for a child to grow up with a single parent than it is to grow up with homosexual parents", as part of my argument that Victorian YLs could be just as stinky as their NSW counterparts when it came to poof and single mum-bashing.

Anyways, while I was in Europe I received an email from Ms Keenan-Dunn, who had come across my posting while Googling her own name at work one day (don't pretend you haven't done it once or twice) and wanted to set the record straight.

She wrote:

"While I appreciate that your comments in relation to me were simply drawn from the tiny article which appeared in one of the Sydney dailies (I can't even remember which) and were made without malice, perhaps I would recommend that you read the recent article on the YL conference in The Monthly.

It gives a better understanding of the sarcasm of my amendment, and the rest of my comments (including what I whispered to the person sitting next to me during the debate). My amendment was about taking the p*ss out of the NSW right and their race to out 'right-wing' each other with increasingly offensive comments about the traditional 'conservative' topics, abortion, homosexuals, single mothers, indigenous australians etc etc etc. My amendment and my comments were not reflective of my personal views.

I believe that when the state is the guardian of a child, it has a responsibility to place that child into a home in which it's needs will be met, both materially and emotionally. I don't believe that any two families are the same and believe that these decisions need to be made on a case by case basis. Therefore, I don't believe that any type of family should have a 'right' to adopt, but rather that all families should be *considered* for the privilege of adopting a child.

Please feel free to email or call me for further clarification, but please realise that I'm anything but the homophobic, pretentious brat that you described in you blog."

I was pleased to receive this email as it partially re-ignited the tiny spark of hope I have that there will always be moderate Libs to keep them from shifting to the polar right, although I do believe the battle is truly lost in NSW.

I also apologise to Ms Keenan-Dunn for any misrepresentation.

It's a valid point she raises about determining the placement of children into homes on a case-by-case basis. It is probably true that sometimes queer activists will get carried away talking about the "right" to adopt and forget that's more about what's in the best interest of the child, but the only reason this happens is because it is still so difficult for same-sex couples to adopt children. Yes, in the ideal world all would be "*considered* for the privilege of adopting a child", but this statement implies it's already a level playing field between hetero and homo couples when possible foster homes are considered, and this just isn't the case. In fact, things will only get worse when this government, now it has total control of both houses, re-introduces and passes its failed legislation to ban same-sex couples from adopting children from overseas, re-inforcing the message that queer people are inappropriate parents and dragging out the old "all children deserve a mum and a dad" chestnut.

Anyways, my apologies once again. I must always remember my maxim for Young Liberals: "hate the sin, not the sinner", and never forget that there is always scope for them to be saved.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Food, Glorious Food

The inventor of TV dinners has died, aged 83.

I must have failed one key subject of Homo 101: cooking. I can dress well on a low budget, appreciate fine minimalist interior decorating when I see it, know the prices and location of most of the inner-city Sydney gyms and I've just finished a Felice Picano novel, but unlike most of my sorority I will struggle with gazpacho, potato croquettes or anything that involves a reduction. It's my secret shame that's often kept me at the fringe of true homosexualism - that and the fact that I can't afford the Clinique men's skin care line.

However, since I returned from Europe I've been struck by the culinary equivalent of Cupid's arrow and am feeling this bizarre urge to cook when I return home of an evening. Perhaps it was all the airline food I had to eat - and indeeed Thomas claimed that the inspiration for TV dinners "came when he was visiting a distributor, spotted a metal tray and was told it was developed for an experiment in preparation of hot meals on airliners" - but now the thought of every second night tucking into a Lean Cuisine lasagne suddenly doesn't make my mouth water. Not that pre-packaged nuked food ever really did, but my tolerance for it seems to have vanished and been replaced by a desire for fresh and, heaven forbid, nutritious food. I will, however, re-assess this born-again Cookianity should an expanding waistline result.

It will still be a while before I'm hosting Ted Allen-esque dinner parties, especially while I'm still living in an apartment where the presence of more than 4 people at the same time can cause literal friction, but I had practice cooking for a friend and my flatmate - at the same time, no less - on the weekend and unlike previous occasions, it didn't end in tears, heartbreak and burnt rice.

I may yet receive full my initiation into Alpha Fagga sorority house...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Censor Senseless?

Here's my SX column for the week.

Oh, and just an aside: Don't you just want to stick anthrax-laced porcupines into Lleyton Spewitt's mouth? I do. Here's why. Fuckin' infant.

A censorship battle looms again, and again opponents of legitimate artistic expression are quick to launch blind offensives, condemning movies before they’ve had the courtesy to at least watch them first.

This time, the movie in question is Mysterious Skin, the latest work from gay filmmaker Gregg Araki, whose previous works include The Living End, Totally Fucked Up and The Doom Generation. Mysterious Skin tells the story of two youths coming to terms with sexual assault at the hands of their baseball coach.

Everybody’s favourite anti-queer lobby group, the Australian Family Association (who, incidentally, never lobby on behalf of two-mum, two-dad or single parent families, to name a few), are basing their desire to have this film banned on the bizarre notion that “being able to get hold legally of a DVD where (potential paedophiles) can play the scene (of the coach fellating an eight-year-old boy) over and over again…could prove very helpful to some paedophiles”. This is despite the fact that the film has initially earned its R18+ rating because the Office of Film and Literature Classification concluded that “the film takes the victims' viewpoint and presents the dark and bleak nature of the abuse to which they are subjected, and the resulting impact on their lives”.

It would appear, however, that the OFLC’s judgment is not enough for our federal government, with Attorney-General Philip Ruddock seeking to review the film’s R rating after his South Australian (and, sadly, ALP) counterpart, Michael Atkinson, contacted him having himself been lobbied by the AFA and the Festival of Light, SA’s answer to Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats.

And this is how the current political climate for a battle between artistic freedom and censorship varies from previous battles: our government is now, perhaps more than ever, willing to listen to, work on behalf of and appease ultra-right fringe groups who speak only for a tiny minority of extremist, “Christian” wowsers. Even though our Prime Minister is on record saying he doesn’t believe governments should ever act too much as a “nanny” to its citizens, as always his actions and those of his government stand in stark contrast to his own words.

Paedophilia is of course reprehensible and any film that may proport to legitimise abuse of minors as a valid sexual expression should be strongly resisted. However, one must wonder how the AFA could have determined the malevolent intent of the filmmakers to provide a “how-to” manual for paedophiles, based solely on reading a synopsis of the film.

It is more likely Mysterious Skin came to the attention of the AFA because it was directed by a gay man whose previous films have been confrontational and provocative on the subject of homosexuality, and as such lobbyists often believe paedophilia is synonymous with homosexuality, they have automatically assumed queer filmmakers like Araki will condone or even endorse paedophila in any film they may make where this is a major theme. For shame.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Part 13: I Left My Heart in Sitges and my Credit Card at Paddington Station

16/7/05, 11:00am, Woollahra, local time

And so I'm right back where I started from. Thankfully, unlike most holidays, it feels neither like I just left nor that it was over too quickly. In fact, I was more than a little relieved to get out of the UK on the last day.

I spent my remaining weekend in Leeds, an old-school mining town gradually getting tizzed up a la Newcastle (ours, not theirs) that reminded me a fair bit of Adelaide in terms of size, outlay and people, not to mention the looks of horror you receive from non-Leedsters when you tell them you're visiting there. As if it wasn't freaky enough living down the street from Liverpool Street Station only days before the bombs, however, what would be the odds that I'd also be staying two streets over from the residential homes of the alleged bombers that were raided in Leeds, on the day the raids took place? In this regard Leeds was less like Adelaide, with the helicopters, armed policemen everywhere you looked, bomb threats and robots detonating bombs. I was staying there with my friend Liz (whom I forgot to mention is the single greatest freestyle club dancer in the Western hemisphere, as I found out and neglected to mention during my London adventures), who kindly took me around the sites of Leeds (OK, that didn't take so long), the moors of this gorgeous little hamlet further along the train line called Ilkley (I resisted the urge to bust my Kate Bush moves and cry out "Heathcliff!" and such), and out for a crazy night in Manchester, only very little of which I remember, including but not limited to lying almost unconscious in the middle of Manchester station at about 2am. Staying in a city full of people who naturally sound like Marjorie Dawes was a thrill, and I reciprocated the novelty with my Kath Knight nee Day impersonations as the second season of K&K had just commenced there.

A nice, relaxing (sort of) way to wind off the trip, the bastard Heathrow Express train ticket machine at Paddington station devouring my credit card notwithstanding (I thought hey, if that's the greatest drama of my trip I've done pretty freakin' well).

Touching back down in Sydney yesterday morning was of course reassuring, surrounded by familiar languages and accents and taxis, but also felt a little like coming down. I can only begin to imagine how it's felt for my friends in Europe who've had to return to Australia after 8-10 months, let alone one. Europe was a tremendous high and reality is a spiteful, smug sort of mistress. I know I'd like to get back to the other side of the world ASAP and hopefully for an extended period of time. For now though, it's back to the Local People whom I've missed lots, and cuddling up at night with the million new memories I now have safely tucked away. I have my definitive psychological happy place to which to take myself as the need arises and I feel a lot more confident of what I take can on prior to this trip. So ciao, au revior and see ya later Europa. It's been fab.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Part 12: Moral of the Story

Homer (not Simpson) once said: "After the event, even a fool is wise". So here's a few things this foolish little penguin has learned from his first trip to the magnificent and crazy continent that is Europe.

Politics is a universal language. Whether I was hearing activists speaking at Rome's Gay Village or in front of the Place de la Bastille in Paris, in both cases though I comprehended very few of the words they were saying, I could still understand their meaning and feel their passion. Such desire for justice and true equality easily transcends linguistic barriers.

Australia is not the relaxed, she'll-be-right-mate country as which we like to market ourselves, especially when it comes to the love that dare not speak its name. How often would we see two men holding hands in a public area, other than perhaps in front of Stonewall? Why is it that while over 70% of the Western European nations provides its queer citizens with the options of marriage or civil unions or registration, our Federal government works so hard to deny such relationships even exist?

Queers play an integral part in making the world beautiful. I genuinely appreciated this when staring up gawp-eyed at Michelangelo's work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, as well as his David in Florence. Today this appreciation was strengthened by seeing the many bouquets and poems lovingly placed at the tomb of Oscar Wilde at the Pere-Lachaise in Paris. As is the case today, the queer sexuality of the world's greatest artists may be quickly denied or suppressed, but this will never stop them from offering us their masterpieces qnd to help shape humankind.

Other lessons I have affirmed rather than learned include: American tourists are universally obnoxious, no matter what the country; CityRail and John Howard are disgraces on an international scale; non-English keyboards are a pain in the arse (this is an easy lesson to learn when typing one's magazine column); German men are great lovers and the best things in life don't always come with a 10 Euro cover fare or one-hour queue.

See you back home next week.

Part 11: Enchante

7:10pm local time, Mary's Hotel, Le Marais

So after the shaky start here in Paris (hrm, I think every major city I've been to has involved some kind of shaky start actually), I soon came to understand why this city is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the world. There was a gentle rain and a cool breeze which, though unusual in the middle of a European winter, played into my dream of experiencing Paris in the rain.

On my first evening I was fortunate to meet a very handsome engineer from Munich, Gunther, who took me to dinner at an exey restaurant overlooking the Seine and with the Eiffel Tower bursting into a light show orgy on the hour. Although Gunther had to return to Germany and (of course) his boyf the next day (I mean, do I have "home-wrecking whore" tattoed on my forehead or what?), he was wonderful company for the first night.

The next day was spent covering all the Paris standards - Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle, Place de la Bastille, Champs-Elysees, Les Jardins and Le Palais de Luxembourg (both magnificent), as well as ascending the Eiffel Tower and L'Arc de Triomph for some spectacular panoramas. In between all this I minced around Le Marais district with all the other homos for good measure.

Today, I supplemented yesterday's visit to the Picasso museum with ones to Le Louvre and Musee d'Orsay. It was a thrill, up there with visits to those museums in Florence, to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Whistler's Mother etc along with the masterpieces of the Impressionists, although to be honest I think I and my feet could do with a break from museums and galleries.

So the French are nowhere near as unpleasant as I anticipated. I am under no delusions that I speak French very badly, but I make the effort where I can and have not suffered too many sniggers or dirty glares for it. As with the Spaniards and the Italians, all they seem to want is not for you to automatically speak in English or ask if they do so, which seems fair enough to me.

Having said this, my second night out in Paris and the first on my own was a little disappointing. I had a fantastic dinner at a friendly, attitude-free cafe called Equinox, but found the bars afterwards to be too uncomfortably reminiscent of Sydney bars, in either extreme of unfortunate-looking people and bad background music, or the so so beatuiful it hurts so don't look the fuck at us filthy urchin sort of crowd. Not really being able to communicate with anybody only compounds the sense of isolation. I'm hoping tonight will be a little better.

Although I've enjoyed being on my own again, Paris at times has felt a little lonely. It's very much a city you want to be lucky enough to share with somebody special (ideally one who'll actually return home with you). It is nice, however, not to have to co-ordinate with anybody else's schedule or be constantly thinking of other people.

Be warned - I think Paris might be more expensive even than London, despite being a Euro country. 10 Euros yersterday for 2 cold criossants and 2 coffees? Honestly.

I wish I had an extra day to take in the Catacombes, Rodin Museum and Montmarte - I guess these are all excuses to come back here again, as is the fact that Paris is absolutely gorgeous. In fact for me Paris surpasses Barcelona for aesthetic pleasure. I can't wait to get back here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Part 10: Holy Shit

I had just arrived in Paris after a fairly harrowing ordeal negotiating the way to my hotel from a "Paris airport" that is as much in Paris as Newcastle is in Sydney, only to discover the hotel doesn't open for a couple of hours. I headed onto the streets for something to eat in the meantime and saw on a cafe's TV news of the bombings in London. I only understood a fraction of the report but the images were enough to tell me that something had gone horribly wrong.

I was staying around the corner from Liverpool Street station, using it as my starting and termination points every morning and evening I was there. I travelled through Kings Cross and Edgware Road stations on more than one occasion.

I am meant to catch a train from Paris to London on Sunday and then another connecting train from London to Leeds at Kings Cross. Somehow I have a feeling this will not happen. For the first time ever on this trip I feel unsafe, disoriented and scared instead of excited about what the rest of this trip may hold.

I may be over-reacting like a drama queen here. I guess this is just one potential dilemma not covered in Lonely Planet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Part 9: Firenze, Padova, Verona e Venezia

2pm Barberini, local time

It's been a welcome change to get in some European countryside as Rome can become a little bit too much too soon.

Firenze - Florence

David, living at the Galleria dell'Accademia, is well worth the 1.25hr queue. As I stand in awe of him, I feel guilty looking away for a few moments to jot down my thoughts, as though each second I'm not looking at him I'm doing an injustice to his majesty. Truly, Michelangelo was a man who appreciated the male form better than any other homosexual before or since.

I am struck by the size of his hands and feet, and specifically his fingers. Even for a bloke of over 5 metres tall they seem disproportionately huge.

Seeing his flaccid member in all its glory makes for a nice change from the eunuch figures of the Sistine Chapel (all the *bits* were sawn off there?)

I'm sure I'll burn in hell for saying this, but D has this gay look in his eye. A combination of "I know I'm hot shit" with a delicate sensitivity, even a vulnerability, as though the victory against Goliath still hasn't quite vindicated his own sense of self-worth.

He sure would look hot in a pair of Diesel low-riders.

To paraphrase one of our great female lyricists: He's not a boy, not yet a man. Is he the beauty of youth immortalised forever?

As I sat near the peak of the Giardino di Biboli, with a panorama of Florence almost equalling that of Barcelona from the Parc Guell, I wonder if the view would have been so different 500 years ago. This is a city frozen in time. Church bells ring in the distance to remind me you're never too far from the Big Man in this country. I know appreciate why people have such strong faith in the Catholic Church. The art, architecture and churches I have seen in the last few days are so incomprehendingly magnificent that could fairly conclude God were using man as a technical vessel for His will, whether it be Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or his David or Boticcelli's Birth of Venus, there is certainly a suggestion of inspiration greater than mortal humanity.

This is not my road to Demascus; I remain a humanist and I'm still yet to be convinced of the presence of God. But maybe after living a few years in Italy I could see the light and be saved after all...


Adrian and I arrived here Monday with me knowing a maximum of 8 Italian words and our hosts, A's aunt and uncle, knowing even less English. Here I discovered another universal language: food. A's zia assaulted us remorselessly with the best schnitzels, pasta, lamb and tiramisu I've ever eaten in my life.

It is both alienating and liberating to be surrounded by a language that is incomprehensible to me. A was understandably reluctant to be always translating so I largely communicated with his lovely family through lots of "si"s, "gracie"s and "bella"s coupled with the odd mime. But when food so heavenly was served there was no need for dialogue.

Padova itself is a pleasant, non-tourist northern Italian town but my only real experience there was to buy a last-minute thank-you bottle of vino for my hosts.


Due to delays in our travels we only managed a couple of hours in fair Verona, but I did get in some shots of the casa de Giulietta, the legendary Romeo and Juliet balcony and me guaranteeing the longevity of a good sex life by touching Juliet's bosom (unfortunately I couldn't take a full-fledged nose dive).

Verona is an enchanting village, although sadly following the path of so many towns in this region and losing its unique charm as locals flee in fear from the extortionate prices local shopkeepers charge as the tourists (guilty as charged) keep flooding in.


With gondola rides starting at 60 Euros that dream quickly dissipated, but we did get in a lot of meandering around the canals as well as fighting off millions of pigeons in the Piazza San Marco. We'd had a little rain beforehand so the infamous Venice hot weather stink was absent.

A took me off the beaten tourist track across the waterways to an adorable little hamlet called Buramo - like Venice with the canals but much smaller and without shitloads of Americans or overpriced boutiques.

I had a moment's pause to reflect that this was the remotest, furthest place I have ever been from home. If I ever do rob a bank or assassinate Howard or some other minor crime, I think this is where I'd relocate.

Early flight to Paris tomorrow morning, so arrevaderche (?) Roma. It's been sweet to stay in one place longer than a week although my body doesn't quite seem fully recuperated - maybe at 90% operation.

I have a date with a beautiful young man called Francesco with whom I played at the Gay Village a few nights ago. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The only thing yummier than authentic Italian cuisine is an authentic Italian man.

Ciao xo

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Part 8: Universal Languages

4:30pm Fontana di Trevi, local time

I hope never to be unsympathetic to a non-English speaker in Sydney ever again. In Rome I am limited to: counting to five, please, thank you and fuck you (that was taught to me by Adrian's new boy. I'm sure he believed he was being cute when he got me to say it to a couple of other people).

In the meantime, I begin to appreciate which languages can be understood no matter where in the world you might be.

begging The gypsies here are quite tragic. These otherwise gorgeous dark-haired girls come up to you on the train or in a restaurant to rattle a cup under your nose. Sometimes, they might dance or sing but this won't make their cup spilleth over. People easily turn a blind eye.

If only I hadn't just got off a train where three gypsy women were allowing a small boy to ride his bike up and down the car - as the train was moving (they perhaps might not have been smiling so much if the doors had opened and he rode out into the tunnel) - and then laughing at him when he crashed into the wall and started to cry. Honestly, what is that about?!

queueing 40 minutes for the Vatican musuem (when I was finally allowed in, third time lucky), 1 hour 20 for the galleria dell'Accademia (home of Michelangelo's David), 30 minutes for the Galleria degli Uffizi (Botticceli's Birth of Venus, amongst his other, and Raffaelo, Rembrandt, Leonardo's etc masterpieces) and then 1 hour for the Gay Village last night (in Rome, almost all the gay bars close over summer, and the Gay Village comes to life, two outdoor dance floors, stalls and kittens and puppies for sale). Thankfully the Gay Village queue at least had no Americans to deal with.

dancing and snogging These are givens.

American English Apart from the magificent Americans who read this website, none - at least in Italy I have seen - seem capable of appreciating the fact that people who don't live in American are not, in fact, Americans. How is it so many of them can be coming to some of the most beautiful and educational sites in the world, and still the country on the whole is insular, parochial and utterly disrespectful of other cultures?

I have finally managed to sort myself out in Rome and seen some remarkable architecture without drama. The Colosseum is especially humbling and not a little bit unsettling, the tortured ghosts who inhabit its decaying walls screaming silently to you as they do in Port Arthur.

I've also thrown a Euro into the Fontana, which apparently guarantees your return to Rome. That's reassuring.

More to write about my day trip yesterday to Florence and by almost religious epiphany there.