Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Old Year Passing

The year is almost over for us—less than eight hours to go. For some reason, people like to take stock at year’s end, and then plan (or promise) for the new one about to begin.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I think it just sets people up to fail, and we all have plenty of failures in our lives without adding more of our own creation.

Instead, I make some general goals for the year, things that are, perhaps, only “would be nice” rather than “must do”. I also set goals and targets low enough that they can be reasonably achieved, freeing me to make newer goals.

The annual stock-take is another matter. I just can’t keep myself from looking at all that went right in the year and, of course, what didn’t. I mean that in the broadest sense, not just about me and my life (though, hey: This is my blog, so here at least it is all about me!).

I won’t re-hash the year’s news since there are plenty of other places that will do that far better than I could, so I certainly won’t re-hash
America’s election; I pretty much said all I wanted to about that already.

This year there’s not much in my life that disappointed me, and certainly nothing that I think is big enough to call a “failure”—an incomplete success, as the military and politicians like to say, but not a failure. I think that alone makes this outgoing year a pretty good one.

But there’s been much to feel good about, too. My friend
Jason came for a visit, the first American visitor in seven years. It was great. My partner and I had a trip to Sydney, which was a lot of fun, too. So, a lot of good times were had this year, and that’s always a good thing.

I also rate this blog as a positive thing in my year. It’s the first real hobby, if that’s really the right word, that I’ve had in many, many years. It’s provided me with a writing outlet whenever I want it. Through it, I’ve encountered some really interesting people, like Adam (This Boy Elroy), or Jeffrey (
The Gay Expat) or Lost in France or Kalvin (Hello Waffles) and most recently GayProf (Center of Gravitas). I expect to meet even more in the New Year and I look forward to that.

A lot of people look down on blogs and blogging as being nothing more than a kind of verbal public masturbation. Sometimes they are. But sometimes, too, they’re much more than that, a way to use technology to make human connections that never would have been possible before. I know I’ve benefited from the journey, and I hope some visitors to this blog have, too.

Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Holiday Time

The Holiday Season in New Zealand is much longer than it is in America. I’ve talked about that before. With the double-up of double holidays this time of year, it’s very easy to have a long break around Christmas and still have time leftover for later in the year. This works really well for a lot of people.

The pace this time of year slows: Buses run on reduced schedules, shops sometimes have shortened hours and rush hour traffic is minimal. There’s a pleasant feeling in the air, regardless of whether the weather cooperates or not.

This year on Christmas Day my partner and I hosted 14 of his family members (he has a large family): His Mum, some siblings, some nieces and nephews and even a grand nephew (even though we’re far too young for a title like “great uncle”). This amounted to about half the immediate family. It was a lovely day.

My point in mentioning this is that basically our holiday break, complete with BBQ, was typical of many families in New Zealand—extended families getting together to share food, drink and good times. Our extended family gets together—in whole or in part—quite a lot, actually.

This year it struck me how lucky we are: We’re lucky because we have each other and a family that embraces us. Many gay couples don’t have that, for a variety of reasons. But we’re also lucky to be living in a country that recognises our humanity both legally and socially. To be honest, for most people in New Zealand the fact that someone is gay is no more an issue for them than the colour of a person’s eyes.

I’m keenly aware of how different this is from America because things there were very different in every area: Less time off at the holidays, less acceptance of gay couples legally, socially, or even in some families (my own being a notable welcoming island).

I wish I could wave my magic fairy wand and make every country realise the importance of fostering family connections within and among all families. I wish I could make
America give workers more time off to be with their families, and I wish I could make all families open, accepting and loving.

I can’t, of course. Still, as more gay couples take their places as welcome and cherished parts of families, the general situation with improve. It won’t be fast, it won’t be dramatic, but it will happen. Together, families can do anything.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Gerald R Ford 1913-2006

When Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan died, I felt nothing. No sadness, no nostalgic recollection, no sense of loss. If anything, I thought the televised mourning of Reagan was well and truly over-the-top. I couldn’t stand his presidency, so there was no way I was going to pretend that I was saddened by his death, though I felt sympathy for Nancy in particular. As for Nixon, I only thought about how completely he’d screwed up without ever acknowledging it.

With the death of former president Gerald Ford, it’s different for me this time.

Gerald Ford provided
America with “a time to heal,” as he called it in his autobiography. It was what America needed after the height of corruption by the Nixon White House during the Watergate scandal. Ford, while far from perfect, was what America needed at the time.

It’s almost impossible to remember now what things felt like in August, 1974, but at the time it seemed there was no way Americans could ever respect the president again. Ford went a long way toward changing that. It was enough to make me support him in 1976, despite pardoning Nixon.

Henry Kissinger, himself no saint, summed it up when he said in his 1999 book
Years of Renewal:

“With Ford, what one saw was what one got. Providence smiled on Americans when—seemingly by happenstance—it brought forward a president who embodied our nation's deepest and simplest values.”

Ford could never be president these days. For one thing, he wasn’t conservative enough for the far right that now controls the Republican Party (which is ironic for me because I would now find him too conservative to support).

But the main trouble is that this is an age in which focus groups and media handlers determine everything. It’s difficult to imagine Ford putting up with all that nonsense, much less succeeding. For all his faults, Ford was too “real” to succeed today.

It’s been said many times about many different people, but it’s nevertheless true: We’ll not see his kind again. Perhaps that’s the real loss.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Zealand’s Christmas

I took this photo Friday morning in Birkenhead in North Shore City, which is across the harbour from Auckland City. The photo on the left side is of the Auckland Harbour Bridge at Northcote Point, also taken Friday morning.

One of the main features of New Zealand around Christmastime—apart from the fact it’s summer—is the Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), often called the New Zealand Christmas Tree because its red bottle brush-like blooms appear around Christmas (give or take a few weeks).

Apparently, early English settlers cut the branches to place in their homes for holiday displays, only to discover that they instantly dropped the red bristle-like fibres from the blooms. Perhaps the story is a myth, because you’d think they’d have noticed the red carpet on the ground under Pohutukawa trees this time of year.

Pohutukawas are primarily a coastal tree in the North Island, though they can grow inland, too. A member of the myrtle family, they’re related to the eucalypts which are the favourite food of Australian possums. Therein lies a major problem.

Australian possums were imported into New Zealand in the 19th century in the hope a fur trade could be established. The effort failed and the possums, with no natural enemies, reached plague levels. They munch their way through native forests with reckless abandon, destroying trees and with them the habitat and food for native birds.

Possums are now trapped and used in many ways. Their fur is used in a variety of products, such as being mixed with merino wool for woven clothes that are lightweight, warm and extremely soft. The skins are used to make things like golf gloves that are supposedly the best in the world. Ironically, these terrible pests that we can’t get rid of are endangered in some parts of Australia.

Not so very long ago, Pohutukawa were threatened. An effort called Project Crimson was created to encourage planting of Pohutukawa and the related Rata. The effort was extremely successful, aided in part by official protection given to Pohutukawa trees over a certain size, along with stepped-up possum eradication efforts.

The trees are truly magnificent, often forming a massive trunk, maybe two metres in diameter, and reaching heights of about 20 metres. When there are huge old Pohutukawas along a sea shore, the site is nothing sort of awe inspiring.

Pohutukawas are one of the main benefits of having Christmas in New Zealand’s summer. So I decided to post these photos on this Christmas Eve, to send a little New Zealand warmth to my friends and family in the Northern Hemisphere.

Merry Christmas.

This close-up photo of a Pohutukawa bloom was taken at Mt Eden, Auckland by Kahuroa. It can be seen on Wikipedia, which also has a good article on the trees.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Our Christmas Message

The second thing about Christmas in New Zealand that was different from America (the first was the weather), was the annual Christmas message from Her Majesty the Queen. Elizabeth II is Queen of New Zealand (and Canada and Australia) as well as the United Kingdom and, as sovereign, is New Zealand’s Head of State.

In general, New Zealanders respect her (some more reverently than others, it must be said). But to be very honest, watching her annual message isn’t necessarily on anyone’s “must do” list at Christmas.

This year, it’s very easy: Anyone can subscribe to the Royal Podcast (that’s really what it’s called) and hear the Queen’s message anytime from 1500 GMT on Christmas Day. Subscribing involves receiving other official speeches released as podcasts (currently, that means only the Queen’s message on her 80th birthday in which she quotes Groucho Marx. It’s a must-hear). But it’s possible to download just the Christmas message.

So, anyone with an Internet connection can listen to the Royal Podcast, whether a citizen of the
UK, a Commonwealth country or any one of several countries for whom the British monarch was once the sovereign (like the United States), or any other country. Best of all, you can listen when it suits, and not be dictated to by the tyranny of time zones.

For information on the Royal Podcast, go here.

For the official site of the British Monarchy, go here.

This blog not for hire (unless…)

The mainstream media has suddenly discovered that some blogs are actually just ads. Surprise!

Commercial blogs (also known as “flogs”) are sometimes set up by companies to promote their businesses. Other times, a regular blogger will publish a favourable review of a product or service without disclosing they were paid to do so.

Anyone who’s spent any time looking at blogs has encountered flogs. In Blogspot, for example, if you keep clicking “next blog,” sooner or later you’ll find a commercial site.

Apparently, not all flogs are upfront about it (gee, my surprise about all this is becoming too much to handle). An AFP story (via Yahoo! News) reports that companies such as Wal-Mart and the American division of Sony have recently been caught out with flogs that weren’t disclosed as such (at first, anyway).

The article also reports that Technorati is tracking 63 suspicious blogs. One major problem with flogs in America is that if they don’t disclose their commercial connections, the “blogger” could be violating rules of America’s Federal Trade Commission.

For the record, I’ve never accepted any money for anything I’ve ever said for or against any person, place or thing. In fact, I generally don’t mention product names specifically so I can avoid any promotion. Generally, the name doesn’t matter in what I’m saying, anyway.

Still, if someone really wants to pay me for a promotion, I’m negotiable. Easy finance terms are available.

Holy cow

An AFP story carried locally by The New Zealand Herald, reports that the US religious right is all in a froth because Keith Ellison, a Muslim congressman-elect, plans on having a private swearing-in ceremony using the Koran. It will take place after the collective ceremony on January 4.

The story quotes a Republican Congressman called Virgil Goode who says stricter immigration rules are needed or else:

“…there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran …eroding the country's traditional values.”

There you have it:
America’s “traditional values” are finally proven to be exclusively Christian. You would think that the Goode congressman would want to form an alliance with fundamentalist Muslims, with whom he would agree pretty much all the time on social issues.

Yet Ellison is no fundamentalist, and that may be the real cause of Goode’s foaming and frothing. Ellison summed it up my feelings on the subject when he said:

“I think we need to not focus on what religious text any Congress member might want to use. Let's focus on the text that binds us together. That's the Constitution.”

Amen to that.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Summer Day at last

The skies cleared, the sun came out. I'm happy. I took this photo this morning looking toward Auckland from Birkenhead on the North Shore. There will be more over the summer, no doubt.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

No religion, too?

An interesting trend in New Zealand is the decreasing importance of religion. The December 23-29 issue of New Zealand Listener magazine carries an article on this phenomenon and how Christmas in New Zealand is mostly secular.

In the 2006 census, slightly more than half of all New Zealanders were nominally “Christian”. This means they self-selected one of several Christian denominations, or merely the word “Christian”, to describe themselves. However, this says nothing about whether they ever go to church or do anything else to actually practice their stated religion.

In fact, 36 percent of New Zealanders declared they have no religion. This growing secularisation is seen especially at Christmas. For example, as I mentioned before, no one in
New Zealand really takes much notice of the word “Christmas” itself.

But there’s more to the social shift than mere secularisation. When combined with the increasing percentages of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, it means that by the time the next census is taken in 2011, self-identified Christians are likely to be a minority in this country.

On one level, I think that fact is just interesting, nothing more. As a former Christian who veers ever closer toward atheism, I really don’t care what people believe or don’t.

However, I do care about what some people believe, namely the fundamentalists of any religion who seem so determined to use their faith as a weapon to beat non-believers into submission—or to death, if submission isn’t forthcoming. Gay people have long been victimised by fervent religiosity (as have women and many other parts of society, for that matter), so I’ve developed an instant distrust of overt religiosity, especially of the fundamentalist variety.

So, if the current trends mean an increasing secularisation of New Zealand, I think that’s great. But if it means that we’re merely switching to new religious oppressors, then it’s not a good thing.

Still, I prefer to be an optimist and hope that whatever their religious belief or non-belief in the future, New Zealanders will continue to live in a society free of the religious conflicts other nations suffer—like my homeland, for example. At this time of year, even with a secular Christmas, “Peace on Earth” is the basic wish shared by many of us, religious or not. I hope we all live to see it.

Addendum 24/12/06: A few days after I posted this, the Guardian published the results of a survey of Britons that found that "
82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree." The survey also found that "A clear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious—including more than half of those who describe themselves as Christian." Clearly secularisation is a trend elsewhere, too.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

That’s harsh…

In announcing that “Blogger beta” is now just New Blogger, Pete on “Blogger Buzz” compared Old Blogger and New Blogger thusly:

Battlestar Galactica with Lorne Green: Old Blogger

Battlestar Galactica with Edward James Olmos: New Blogger

Poor Lorne isn’t even around to defend himself, though I kinda think they’re right—especially if New Blogger doesn’t start saying “By your command” every time it does something.

Rich Kiwis buy American businesses

What a way to end a business year, eh? The NZX index went over 4000 for the first time today. And, defying all “expert” predictions, the NZ dollar remains high and house sales are strong.

Now comes news that two mega-rich Kiwis are on an international business buying spree.

The NZ Herald website reports that
Graeme Hart is spending some $3.5 billion for packing companies around the world, including the packaging business of International Paper from who he bought NZ company Carter Holt Harvey. If successful in his plans, he’ll become one of the world’s largest players in the packaging industry.

Meanwhile, according to the Stuff website, Eric Watson is leading an affrot to buy American Apparel for NZ$355 million, which will give the company cash to expand. Watson plans on keeping American Apparel’s controversial chief executive, Dov Charney.

Since they’re so busy throwing money around, I’d be happy to accept some of it. I’m both Kiwi and American, so it looks like I’d fit their portfolios quite nicely. Perhaps their people will call my people.

I think I probably have a better chance of becoming an “expert” business commentator.

Where did summer go?

I’ve been talking recently about summer, which started just about three weeks ago. But where has it gone?

The weather has cooled off, the sun is hiding and I’m not happy about either. And now I see that there may be snow in parts of the
South Island, perhaps down to 600 metres.

This is all a very long way from where we live and I still expect a warm Christmas. Will we get it? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What the?

An Indian runner who won a silver medal at the Asian Games was stripped of the medal when she failed a “gender test”. Apparently, the tests revealed the runner “appeared to have ‘abnormal chromosomes’ …the test revealed more Y chromosomes than allowed.”

Meanwhile, The AP reports that a rapist is attacking young men in the
Houston, Texas area. According to the report:

“Some victims may be reluctant to come forward because of their ages and ‘a pride thing’ that makes men more reluctant to acknowledge being the victim of a sex crime.”

Could that be because the media insists on reporting sex crimes and rape in particular as crimes of sex instead of violence? If so, could it also be, just possibly, that the media makes it harder for men acknowledge being a victim of this sort of crime?

And why is it that I suspect that what the cop is getting at isn’t “truth” when he says of the rapist, “I think he just sees one that he prefers…” The only "preference" involved in these crimes of violence is that predators seek easy targets—young men and women in particular. Maybe that’s what the cop meant to say and suggest.

What both these stories demonstrate is the continuing trouble the mainstream media has in reporting anything it doesn’t understand, especially if it deals with gender or sexuality. It would be nice if they at least tried to understand what they were writing about.

Monday, December 18, 2006

To meme or not to meme

This morning I checked my email and favourite blogs, as I do nearly every day. I found that The Gay Expat had taken part in a meme on things one doesn’t know about him (I’m avoiding the exact title so it doesn’t end up in search engines) and tagged me as one of the people to continue it.

For the non-blogger or uninitiated, there’s some variation in the definition of a meme. To me it’s basically the blogging equivalent of a chain email. A blogger makes a post and others continue it in their own blogs. In this case, bloggers were tagged, like in the children’s game, but this doesn’t always happen (and it’s why this one especially reminded me of a chain email). Memes are generally meant as good-natured fun, and they don’t carry dark warnings of bad luck like chain emails do.

Except maybe this time it should have.

It turns out that the originator was a guy who was doing it, as near as I can make out, for purely commercial reasons. Folks associated with Vlog Europe caught on and their angry responses are probably as interesting as meme answers. For example, read the response by
The Gay Expat, who has links to other responses.

As a non-vlogger, I only have a vague idea what they’re on about, but I’m glad it was over before I ever got to actually passing on the meme.

These connected and aware people were “taken in”, if that’s the right way to put it, because of the respect they had for others, though not the originator. It could happen to anyone—I would have done it, too, for the same reason.

But it kind of makes me wonder what hope we “ordinary” people—newbies, uninitiated or merely innocent—have of avoiding some of these pitfalls. But, then, no one said the Internet would be easy.

At any rate, I thought I’d better mention all this since the link on Jeffrey’s site is still active, despite the strike-through. I didn’t want anyone thinking I was just ignoring the meme or refusing to play. I just never got to the starting blocks.

Catholics might not go to Hell

When easily-offended religionists hand me the opportunity to make fun of them, who am I to refuse? But who could have guessed that condoms from Hell (Pizza) would still provide entertainment?

An editorial in a catholic newspaper has called for catholics to “abstain” from purchasing products from Hell Pizza because of its distribution of condoms as part of a promotion for its Lust pizza. According to an NZPA story published on the NZ Herald website:

The editorial said the promotion was more cynical and offensive than a TV campaign because it robbed parents of the chance to stop their children from being exposed by changing the channel.

Apparently, the Advertising Standards Authority agreed, because it ruled against Hell Pizza, which I blogged about at the time. What more the catholic newspaper hopes to achieve, apart from publicity for itself, is beyond me.

However, while the catholic newspaper provided an opportunity for a good chuckle at its expense, the advertising agency responsible for the campaign responded by saying some probably unfortunate things:

Kirk MacGibbon of Cinderella Marketing, the firm which handles all of Hell's advertising, said if Catholics decided on a boycott there wasn't much Hell could do about it.

Okay, fair enough—but then he went on:

“I'm not sure how many Catholics buy from Hell, anyway," Mr MacGibbon said.

Perhaps he meant conservative, easily-offended catholics, but that’s not what he said.

“When we did research we found... it’s people like the Catholic church who are giving people advice that condoms don’t work in protecting you from sexual diseases and the best course is abstinence. That is a load of rubbish.”

He’s absolutely right. But some might ask if it was in the best interest of his client to actually say that. Not to worry. He added:

"(T)he company ha(s) a loyal customer base and sales wouldn't be affected by a Catholic boycott."

Personally, I find it refreshing when someone takes on the nonsensical activities of religious crusaders. And honesty from an ad agency would seem to be a welcome change. Whether Hell Pizza or its new owners agree will determine whether MacGibbon was being forthright or foolhardy.

My guess is that MacGibbon will find out soon if the pathway to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Footnote: In my original post, I made fun of the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, talking about how their name was pronounced “spuck”. A reader pointed out that, in fact, that nickname refers to the anti-abortion group “Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child” (SPUC). “Spix” just wouldn’t have worked in the post, for a whole variety of reasons. Still, one shouldn’t let a joke get in the way of accuracy, and I apologise for mucking that up. I’ll be more careful in future, and will be sure to link to the original source material, where available, so readers can make up their own minds about the subject.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness

Okay, it’s not at all unbearable, this lighter later time of year. It’s just that this year summer has come creeping in on cat feet, so I hardly noticed the days getting longer. This year I’ve found it suddenly getting late before I had any idea it was happening—dark when I thought it was still early.

The summer solstice is in a few days, but—being so far south—our summer days don’t actually start shortening until the New Year. In parts of the southern South Island, it stays light quite late and until well into summer. When I was a kid, I was allowed to stay out “until the streetlights come on.” I wonder what rules Kiwi kids have.

Staying light well into the evening is a good thing for Christmas shopping. But it’s also a good thing for those of us who just love summer days.

Chicago—the podcast capital of America?

Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts I don’t normally download, just to see what’s available, and also because I’ve been thinking about the genre (partly because of what some podcasters have been saying). So far, I’ve mostly stuck to podcasts connected in some way to ones I already listen to—recommended by them or maybe they’re a guest, that sort of thing.

And then it hit me: Every podcast I listen to regularly and most of the ones I’ve been “trying out” are connected in some way to
Chicago, hence the title of this post. Yes, I’m well aware there are many great podcasts by people without even a remote connection to my old hometown. I’ve even listened to some of them. But consider my normal list (links on the right of this blog):
  • Feast of Fools – Chicago-based
  • Real Men Wear Pink – One host is from Chicago
  • The Gay Expat – He lived in Chicago for a time
  • This Boy Elroy – Adam’s the other host of Real Men Wear Pink (okay, so this connection is the weakest)
  • Windy City Queercast – As Chicago as it gets
  • Yeast Radio – Largely Chicago-based, though Madge gets around a fair bit
Maybe this has something to do with the affection I still have for the city. After all, I didn’t leave it (or America, for that matter) to get away from it, but rather to go to something and someone.

But could there also be something about
Chicago that makes its people try new things? For all its “city of broad shoulders” muscularity, Chicago has a creative side that’s often overlooked and misunderstood by the rest of the country—and by much of the city, actually.

But that—and more discussion of podcasts—is for a future posts. Right now I have some more listening to do.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Reflections on Australia

I was going to post something about our recent trip to Australia but I just didn’t have the time. Originally, it would’ve been a travelogue, but I realised that that sort of thing can be found anywhere (you can check out my photos on Flicr if you want more of a travelogue; the photos have captions and such).

The thing is, it’s odd being born in one country, living in another and visiting a third. In travelling to
Australia, I couldn’t help but look at the place through two prisms.

I last visited
Australia eleven years ago, immediately before I arrived in New Zealand and found a job, which set everything in motion for me to move here to be with my partner. Both times I thought that Sydney is a good place to visit as a tourist because there’s a lot to see and do.

However, I couldn’t live in
Sydney: It’s too expensive, too crowded, too hectic, and too aggressive. On weekdays, and even on weekends, parts of Sydney’s CBD are as busy and crowded as Manhattan. Sydney’s streets and footpaths are much narrower, which makes things feel more crowded than they actually are.

This crush of humans is, I think, the cause of noticeable aggressiveness among people. Pedestrians and drivers alike push hard and fast, often paying little or no attention to the law, let alone common courtesy, as they hurry their way around the city.

We picked up a rental car so we could drive up the
Central Coast. We crossed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and I was surprised to see that there was no median barrier, not even a moveable one like we have on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Little wonder the lanes on either side of the centre line are called the “suicide lanes”.

But the real surprise was that on the other side of the bridge, the motorway ends: To head north along the coast, you have to drive through pretty ordinary city streets. This, the Pacific “Highway”, is the main road north and yet the only way to get through it is to put up with slow moving traffic held up by the sheer volume, traffic lights, and the fact it’s just a street, not a highway in any sense of the word (apart from ironic, maybe).

Central Coast is beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live there for two reasons: Spiders and snakes. But that’s just me.

To me,
Australia is a combination of energy, enthusiasm and pride. Unfortunately, this veers too often toward jingoism, nationalism and xenophobia. Their prime minister, John Howard, is almost more George Bush than George Bush. He once famously described Australia as America’s “deputy sheriff”, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently described Australia as a staunch ally of America.

Howard is a lot like Bush in his conservative politics, and, like Bush, he’s frequently used fear and division as campaign tools. He may have over-played that, just as Bush has, and like the US Republicans’ losses in Congress, Howard’s conservative coalition may lose power to an Australian Labor (they spell it the same as America) Party now led by a “centrist” Christian.

America, the safety of gay and lesbian people and of racial and ethnic minorities varies widely from place to place. Howard’s government hasn’t exactly been a friend to these communities, but he’s probably been slightly better than Bush has been toward America’s minorities. That’s mostly because Australians are generally more laid-back and less fevered than Americans can be, especially on issues like gay rights (though Howard went out of his way to outlaw same-sex marriage).

And yet,
Australia is not America. Its culture is different. Like America, its traditions may have descended from Britain and other parts of Europe, but when they took root in the Southern Hemisphere they changed and became distinct. It’s part of what makes Australia so interesting.

I’m not going to compare Australia and New Zealand, mostly because I do that from time to time when talking about specific subjects. However, one apt way of pointing out the differences in this context is this: Suppose the US asked New Zealand and Australia to become part of the US. New Zealanders would laugh and tell the US, firmly, “no”. Australians would think about it.

By all means, visit
Australia. Spend a lot of time there. But make sure you spend time in New Zealand as well. You won’t regret it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

What I forgot to say: Thanks, Georgina!

I could kick myself (again)….

When I made my last post about Georgina Beyer, I was busy getting ready for my partner’s work function at our home. That’s no excuse for leaving out what I meant to say, but didn’t:

Thank you,
Georgina, for being you and standing up to all those—including within the Labour caucus—who would have preferred that you just shut up. You stood up for your issues, something that too many queers won’t do. You’re a hero if for no other reason than that.

Best of all, in my opinion, is that
Georgina wouldn’t just shut up and go away. How many people—gay, straight or simply progressive—can say the same?

World’s first tranny MP to retire

Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transgendered person elected to a national legislature, will step down as a member of the New Zealand Parliament in February, according to the New Zealand Herald and stuff website. The former mayor of Carterton was first elected to Parliament in 1999. She’s the second Labour MP to leave Parliament as the party seeks to freshen its caucus in the lead-up to next year’s Parliamentary elections.

With Beyer’s departure, Parliament will have no transgendered MPs. The Labour caucus has three openly gay men and one lesbian. Together with Beyer, they were known as “Rainbow Labour”. The opposition National Party has one openly gay member of Parliament.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Goodbye Qantas? Good Buy Qantas?

Australia’s national airlines, Qantas, is being taken over by a consortium of equity funds who will de-list the airline, taking it private. They say they won’t be breaking up the airline or making any other drastic cuts.

The Melbourne Age quoted the consortium’s leader,
Bob Mansfield, as saying:

“We have a longer term perspective than the day-to-day equity market.”

If that’s true, and they really do offer “patient capital” as they claim, it would have to be something of a world-first among such firms. The whole point of equity firms is to maximise returns for shareholders. They won’t care about unions or even preserving the national identity of Qantas, they’ll only pay attention to their returns.

Qantas and Air New
Zealand twice tried to stitch up deals together, but both times they were rebuffed by regulators in both countries. It’s probably inevitable that both airlines will disappear one day, probably after being acquired by bigger companies.

So, Australians are probably kidding themselves if they think their airline can go on forever owned by equity firms. If it does continue long term, it would probably come as the result of another buy-out by local investors. Personally, I doubt that’ll happen.

More fun facts to know and tell for my American friends: The name Qantas is an acronym from the company’s original name,
Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service, which is the market it initially served.

100 not out: My first century of posts

This is my 100th post on this blog. Some of those posts were short announcements and some—well, they weren’t as short.

The title of this post is—for my American friends—a reference to cricket,
New Zealand’s summer game (and the only truly national sport in Australia). Some Americans (you know who you are) have said to me that watching cricket is like watching paint dry. Clearly, they thought I was talking about golf tournaments. I admit, though, that test cricket isn’t an easy game to love if you don’t grow up with it (or, probably, even if you have). It’s played over five days and may result in a draw.

One Day Internationals, however, are another matter altogether. They have much of the excitement of a professional baseball game, and take about the same amount of time. But they’re nation v. nation, unlike baseball, so it has a certain additional excitement just because of that.

But the truly important factor, of course, is that cricket has a higher percentage of attractive players than
US baseball does. Actually, that’s true for rugby v. American football, too.

Americans may not realise it, but cricket has influenced American culture. One may say a difficult situation is “a sticky wicket”, or if something’s not proper, “it’s just not cricket”. Lesser-known cricket references are used in
America, too.

US also has a national cricket team, and if most of the players’ names seem to have their origins in India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, they nevertheless are playing for America. There are also local cricket clubs in many parts of the country.

I quite like cricket now but, to be honest, it took me awhile to understand it. Well, sort of—I still don’t understand all the rules, and some of the statistics the commentators drag up are truly bizarre: “He’s the first player with a two-syllable surname to ever play on a Thursday of a month with an “M” in it and hit for six after having a mince and cheese pie for lunch.”

The phrase I used in the title of this post—100 not out—is usually used to describe someone who’s hit 100 runs and is still able to play, even if the side isn’t (like play has ended for the day, or more likely, the side has completed its overs). Put more simply, it means the batsman has done well and isn’t out. One hundred runs is called “a century”, which is where the other part of the title comes from.

So when I say “100 not out,” I’m really saying that I’ve completed 100 posts, but I’m not out yet. Hopefully, I’ll hit a few sixes with future posts, but sometimes I’ll just have to be happy if I avoid a duck.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Black Caps are about to take on
Sri Lanka for the second in a two test series. Rest easy: You won’t be reading a report on that match in this blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Scurry for the meaningless

Four cents a litre is a great deal of money when you’re talking about petrol. It must be, because people whinge and moan when the price goes up by four cents a litre, and many act as if they’ve won lotto on those rare times it goes down by that amount (rather than the more common one or two cents a litre).

Awhile back, one of New Zealand’s supermarket chains began offering vouchers to customers entitling them to petrol discounts of four or six cents a litre (depending on how much they spent at the grocery store). The catch was that it could be used only at one brand of petrol station, and specifically only at those few locations that had a mini-version of the supermarket attached.

While we were in
Australia, we noticed signs up at petrol stations promoting grocery discount vouchers. They seemed to be everywhere.

When we got back to
New Zealand, we found out that a competing supermarket chain was offering four-cent-per-litre petrol discounts with another, much more accessible chain of petrol stations. Shortly after that, another petrol chain announced it would accept all grocery store discount vouchers.

Now, anyone who’s successfully completed primary school can work out that four cents a litre adds up to very little on each fill up. The other day I filled up and was asked if I had a voucher. I just happened to have one in the car. I saved a whole $1.50!

If someone refuels a few times a week over the course of a year it starts to add up. But I don’t drive all that much or far, and my fuel-efficient car isn’t very thirsty, so I fill up maybe once a month or so. Saving $20 or $30 a year would hardly seem worth the effort.

And yet I know I’ll use the vouchers. Part of it is simple human nature, I suppose: Wanting something for nothing (or something for somewhat less than normal, anyway). But the other reason is that I know this gimmick will mean the petrol companies won’t lower the price of petrol any time soon. Personally, I’d rather just have lower prices, but it’s not up to me.

So, even though I know it’s all a meaningless have, I’ll keep my discount vouchers handy. I guess sometimes—despite all the knowledge and wisdom we gain over time—one simply must scurry for the meaningless just like everyone else.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time off at Christmas

Summer is great. Of course it is. Summer holidays are even better, and summer public holidays are better still. New Zealand has plenty of them.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 26) are NZ Public Holidays, followed a week later by New Year’s Day and January 2. It only gets better from there:
If one of these days falls on a weekend, workers get the following Monday off instead. If both days fall on a weekend, they get Monday and Tuesday off. This means that more years than not both the Christmas and New Year holidays are four-day weekends—one right after the other. How cool is that?

A lot of people take some of their annual leave (“vacation” in Americanese) around this time, and who wouldn’t if they could? This year, for example, by taking off the days in between the Christmas and New Year holidays you’d get eleven days off and only use of three of your annual leave days. Add the three days following New Year and you’d get two weeks off but use six annual leave days (instead of ten).

My first Christmas in
New Zealand wasn’t quite so exciting, however. The company I worked for shut down over those days, but I’d only just started with them and wasn’t yet entitled to annual leave. So, I had to take off time without pay, not that I really minded all that much.

Annual leave in
New Zealand is very different from America. All full-time workers are, by law, entitled to three weeks annual leave per year (most employers allow you to use days as you accrue them, which is one and a quarter days per month). That’s about to go up to four weeks, which may be short by some European standards, but way ahead of many Americans.

When I left
America I had three weeks vacation per year, but that was because I’d stayed with the same employer for five years. In New Zealand I got the same entitlement immediately.

But for me, whether I had additional time off or not, it was the Public Holidays on Christmas and New Year that I really enjoyed. That, and the fact they happen in summer.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cultural Imperialism

We’ve recently had America’s Fox News Channel inflicted on us. It had been offered overnight on one normal channel, but now the whole sordid channel has been added to our pay TV line-up. Yippee.

I’ve been lucky in that so far I haven’t seen the worst of it. Most of it has been shallow and superficial, but not the foaming-at-the-mouth fascist propaganda I’d been led to believe was their standard fare.

Nevertheless, I can’t stand the channel. Absolutely everything that happens is accompanied by some sort of sound or music effect. It may range from a loud synthetic drum and music to whooshing and whirring sounds as words sweep across the screen. All very distracting to me, but for others I imagine it works like a kind of hypnotic drug, luring them into staring at it for hours.

The channel’s shallowness means that for me it’s pretty much at the bottom of the spectrum of the news channels we receive. The next tier up is occupied by CNN International and Sky News
Australia. I often call Sky News “news for parrots,” after the Monty Python sketch, because nearly all their reports deal in some way with Australians or Australia. At the top tier is BBC World Report, which consistently does a better and more thorough job of reporting that any of the other channels.

But, maybe I’m just prejudiced against Fox, especially after the other day.

There are no commercials on the channel here, so where commercials run in
America we get “Fox News Extra”, some brief report about not much of anything. The one I saw was about people choosing exotic locations for weddings. The one they were showing was New Zealand.

Now, most Americans can’t pronounce the name of the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori. Most Americans—like the Fox reporter—say “may-OR-ee”, which isn’t even close to being correct. Without giving a whole lesson in the Maori language, the word is pronounced more like “MAWH-ree”. That’s not quite correct, but it’s close.

However, she went on to say that during the ceremony the couple would have a love song sung to them, and then it would end with “a war dance, the huh-KAH.” She was referring to the haka (pronounced “HAH-kah”). It isn’t a war dance, but it does represent a challenge (again, I’m vastly over simplifying it).

The point here is that she and Fox made no effort whatsoever to find out the correct pronunciations, much less use them, and they didn’t try to accurately reflect Maori culture. The overall tone of the report was condescending and insulting, with an arrogant “look at the primitive natives” attitude throughout it. Actually, I think that she didn’t just insult
New Zealand or Maori people in particular: She insulted Americans by making them look crass, crude, ignorant—and damn proud of it.

Is that really the image
America wants projected throughout the world?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I’m dreaming of a warm Christmas

When I moved to New Zealand, there was nothing that was harder for me to get used to than this: A warm Christmas.

I come from a long line of “Northerners”—people born and raised in the northern tier of US States. We’re a people for whom “winter” must mean snow, ice and cold. Christmas there doesn’t always have fresh snow, but most years there’s snow on the ground (even if it is grey or yellow, if ya know what I’m sayin’), so it qualifies as “white” (in our opinion, anyway).

Then I moved to
New Zealand where Christmas is a summer holiday celebrated by many people with a BBQ and maybe a trip to the beach. A barbecue on Christmas? If I believed in hell, then surely that would be one of the signposts on the road to it.

As it turns out, a summer Christmas is great—if you have a houseful of people they can be outside as well as inside so no one feels crowded. And a barbecue is much easier than a typical roast Christmas dinner. Entertaining and get-togethers, then, are much easier with a summer Christmas.

Still, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. Without the snow and cold I can’t quite get into the mood. More years than not, I can’t even be bothered putting up a Christmas tree.

This isn’t entirely a bad thing, I must add: Since I don’t “feel” Christmas, I don’t miss my friends and family who are so far away. Instead I can just enjoy the time I spend with my in-laws, even if a headache the next day is the price I pay.

I’ve often said that if I’d grown up in a milder climate in
America the transition to a New Zealand Christmas wouldn’t have been so jarring. But I didn’t, and it was. After eleven years, I think I’m beginning to get that hang of a summer Christmas, even if it means sacrificing the snow, ice and cold. Hm, I think I can live with that…

We now resume normal transmission

A thousand cheers plus one! I finished my last project of the year, so I’m free to resume “normal” blogging. Thank you for your patience. As all bloggers know, sometimes life interferes with really important things, like blogging.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oh, Canada…

The Canadian Parliament voted 175-123 against reopening the marriage debate in that country. The bill sought to restrict marriage to heterosexuals, while permitting existing same-sex marriages to remain. Conservative Party Prime Minister Stephen Harper had promised the vote during the Canadian election campaign last January that saw his party take control of Parliament.

Experts said the only way Parliament could have outlawed same-sex marriage was to invoke the notwithstanding clause of
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, essentially allowing Parliament to do whatever it wanted.

Interestingly, the margin defeating this bill was larger than the one that legalised same-sex marriage last year. It would seem that most Canadians, politicians included, have moved on. Pity the frothing right can’t.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Open Thread: Podcasting

Do you listen to podcasts? Why or why not? What do you like about them? Are they getting tedious?

Like a lot of people, apparently, I’ve cooled a little to podcasts. The only two I still listen to regularly are This Boy Elroy and
The Gay Expat. To be honest, part of that is because the others listed on the sidebar of my blog are released too often. I can’t keep up. The other reason is that I just like those two in particular (a subject in itself, I suppose).

So, what do you listen to, if anything, and why?

I'm going to do a post on this soon and I'd like to know what others think.


I’m nearly done with my last project of the year, but it’s crunch time: Near the end, with time running out. So, I don’t have time for a proper blog post.

Instead, I thought I’d recommend a couple posts in other blogs. Check them out, leave a comment if you like (I’m sure they’d like…), and feel free to leave a comment here to let me know what you thought of them.

The first post I’d like to recommend is by my friend
Jason, who today started reading the Baker-Hamilton Report and posting his reactions to it. Is there any way out of the quagmire in Iraq? Jason offers reasoned opinions and it’s well worth the time.

The second, completely different, post I’d like to recommend was put up a few days ago by Kalvin at Hello Waffles. The post is called “Self-reflexive” and Kalvin discusses “passing” and “covering”—basically, not seeming “too gay”. He makes some really good points that I’d post about if I had the time.

More soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Those Clever Kiwis

Scientists at the NZ government-owned agricultural research centre AgResearch have developed a way to detect explosives in airport luggage. And all because they wanted to find bad cheese.

The new technology can, apparently, tell the difference “between soap and plastic explosive.” The institute hopes to have the product ready for market after about 18 months more research and development.

AgResearch is primarily engaged in research benefiting agriculture, which remains
New Zealand’s largest industry. If the new technology proves successful, profits will go back to fund research. Just goes to show, you never know what positive spin-offs can come from basic research—especially when done by clever Kiwis.

Peep Hole Magazine

I’ve been too busy to mention this before, but what the hell was People Magazine thinking?

In an online article reporting that
Lance Bass and Reichen Lehmkuhl have ended their relationship (yawn!), was this:

“Bass, 27, first revealed his relationship with Lehmkuhl, 32, when he admitted (emphasis added) he was gay on the cover of PEOPLE in July.”

Admitted? Excuse me? This is the twenty-first century you morons, we don’t have to “admit” anything. Joe.My.God (who provided the link) sums it up:

“We shouldn't have to tell you this in 2006, but instead of ‘admitted’, try one of these: disclosed, confirmed, revealed, declared. And stay the fuck away from ‘confessed.’

I couldn’t agree more. Back when I was an activist, we constantly had to remind journalists that their choice of words often carried multiple meanings. Some things haven’t changed,

Apple iTunes FINALLY in New Zealand

We were beginning to feel like the kid no one would play with—isolated and alone while all the other kids whooped and laughed and ran amok.

Not any more: Today Apple Computer finally launched its iTunes downloading service in
New Zealand, the 22nd country to get it. Slow negotiations for local rights is said to have held up the launch—for a very long time.

Whatever. Now we get to play, too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Australasian Union?

Should New Zealand be part of Australia? It’s a fair bet that plenty of Americans think it already is. Some Australian politicians think the two countries should pursue union. In fact, the Australian Constitution includes New Zealand in its definition of states:
The States shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called “a State.
So, what gives?

In the late 1800s, the colonies listed above started talking about uniting. That effort culminated in the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. New Zealand, however, declined to join the new Commonwealth, though the door was left open for it to join in the future.

There are many reasons New Zealand remained separate, including especially a growing sense of nationalism, though in the context of being part of the British Empire. Richard “King Dick” Seddon became Premier in 1893, and he was opposed to joining with Australia.

Seddon dreamed of an Imperial New Zealand, and had designs on territories in the Pacific. He wanted Hawaii (and was angry with Britain for allowing the US to take it over), and he argued that Britain should claim Samoa so New Zealand could manage it. He was successful in getting Britain to allow New Zealand to annex the Cook Islands, but the Imperial dream ended there. Seddon died in office in 1906.

New Zealanders and Australians found a sense of family, for lack of a better word, in World War One, especially after the disastrous landing at Gallipoli in 1915, which both nations still commemorate on Anzac Day. There has never been much of a formal push toward union, however.

Now a committee of the Australian Parliament has issued a call to form a common currency, and a joint committee of the Australian and New Zealand parliaments to look at formal union. Neither is likely to happen any time soon.

The current Australian government has previously said it won’t drop the Australian dollar, and New Zealand’s government won’t adopt it. New Zealand, however, would consider forming a new, joint currency.

The two countries have worked to align their laws, particularly on business and commerce. Australians and New Zealanders can visit, live and work in each others’ countries without visas or permits. However, neither country seems overly eager to unite, either in a new country or by New Zealand becoming an Australian state (Kiwis in particular are cool to the second option).

So, it’s unlikely that New Zealand and Australia will even talk about union, much less do anything to make it happen, any time soon. But personally, I wouldn’t rule out some movement in that direction coming one day, perhaps a European Union-style federation in the South Pacific.

For the time being, most of us are quite happy with things as they are.

For further reading:

The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King (available on Amazon)
Te Ara — The Encyclopedia of New Zealand (online)
Seddon profile in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (online)
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia (online, Parliament of Australia)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Up in smoke

Just to show that the stupidity of politicians knows no borders, comes this: The National Party MP for Northcote, Dr. Jonathan Coleman, got punched for smoking a cigar at a corporate box at a recent U2 concert in Auckland. The box was sponsored by British American Tobacco.

While there are differing versions of what happened, apparently Coleman lit a cigar offered by the BAT hosts, and he was punched by someone after he allegedly blew smoke in a woman’s face. He hasn’t directly denied that, but admits “words were exchanged”.

Coleman is a former GP, so he should be well-aware of the damage smoking causes and the dangers of second-hand smoke. Wouldn’t a medical doctor think twice about going to the corporate box of a tobacco company? Apparently not.

As it happens, last week National Party leader John Key promoted Coleman to associate health spokesperson, despite knowing about this incident. Key told the media, “He is a new MP, still learning to live his life under a microscope. Let's keep this in perspective.”

Coleman himself said, “As a first-time MP I'm living life in a goldfish bowl and it is a bit of an adjustment.”

So, accepting corporate gifts from a tobacco company wasn’t wrong, smoking in public wasn’t wrong—getting caught was the mistake. Typical.

One thing the media has been silent on is whether Coleman broke the law in lighting up. Smoking is banned in most public places now, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. Was he in an outside area when he lit up? If he was inside, that would seem to me to be a violation of the law.

One oddity in the coverage: While most mainstream media reports quoted
Mark Peck, the head of the Smokefree Coalition, criticising Coleman’s lack of judgement, the New Zealand Herald felt it needed to point out that Peck is a former Labour MP. Curious, that: They don’t seem to feel the need to point out the National Party affiliations of critics of Labour MPs.


I’ve completed one of the two projects, a little later than I would have liked, but that happens. I now only have one more project to complete this week and I’m done work for the year. Pretty strong incentive to work quickly.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Goin’ on a Summer Holiday

Summer stayed around another day today, not that I had time to notice: I’m flat out with two projects—one to be completed tomorrow, the other by the end of this coming week.

So, I won’t have much time for blogging over the next few days, but I have plans for posts I’ll put up after the projects are all done (yes, that’ll include finally posting my impressions of
Sydney and all that).

In the meantime, feel free to have a scratch around the archives. I've added labels to my old posts, so it should be easier to find posts on particular subjects.

As always, feel free to leave comments—don’t be shy! Or, send an email to my address in my profile.

More news as it happens…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Summer Day

December first is considered the start of summer in New Zealand, but lately the weather—rainy and cool—has been more like spring, and sometimes more like winter.

Not today.

It was finally warm and sunny. The blue skies had those white puffy clouds floating around, moving their puffy shadows across the hills below. It was great.

We headed out to visit family in Paeroa and Thames, an hour and a half or so away, leaving for home around 6. There was still heat in the sun, but all the clouds were gone. It was as good driving back to Auckland as it had been away from it this morning.

There’s supposed to be more of the same tomorrow, then the rain is to return tomorrow evening. The good weather was a hint of what will soon be here, a free sample of the larger serving with all the trimmings.

Summer, you see, is my favourite time of year.

Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. Begun in 1988, the day is meant to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS with an eye toward prevention and raising funds for research and care.

Prevention education in America today is frustrated by the insanely absurd (or is that absurdly insane?) Bush junta’s anti-sex policies. Here are just two of many examples: Appointing a fundamentalist Christian opposed to all contraception as the director of the federal office in charge of distributing contraception (including condoms) and information. And then there’s the plan to force states to promote sexual abstinence until age 30 (or heterosexual marriage).

Others have talked about these and other Bush idiocies far better than I could. They’ve pointed out the futility of policies based on peculiar religious belief rather than reality.

Of course, every sane and rational person knows that you won’t prevent HIV/AIDS infection (or other STDs or unwanted pregnancies) by pretending that the only permissible sex is between one man and one woman married to each other. The real world is far more complicated—and, I think, far more interesting—than the simplistic monochromatic world promoted by the Bushies.

Which is why Bush and his arrogance really pisses me off.

I get angry at the thought of all the young folk who will become infected with HIV/AIDS because their pResident doesn’t think they’re human enough to warrant the least little effort to help keep them safe. I get angry that he can be so self-righteously arrogant as to assume that what he and Laura apparently have done in bed at least once is the only legitimate form of sexuality, that anyone who doesn’t make babies is heading toward some sort of damnation.

I get angry that he and his cronies are so filled with hate that they can’t even consider the possibility that other types of love not only exist, but are legitimate and deserve to be treated with respect. They don’t “approve” or “like” it? Who’s asking them to? No one needs their approval, just for them to get out of the way.

If Bush & Co feel revolted at the thought of two men having sex, here’s a news flash: The idea of any of them “doing it” is pretty revolting to the rest of us. But that’s no reason that sex education programmes shouldn’t cover all possibilities, and not just focus on “abstinence until marriage”, which—thanks to Bush and the RepubliCONS—would mean all same-sex American couples would have to remain forever celibate. They wish!

One wonders sometimes if much of anything has changed in America since the 1980s. Certainly the situation for prevention efforts is far worse. The current Administration is hell-bent, as it were, on avoiding any responsible, reasonable and—let’s be honest here—rational HIV/AIDS education, or sexuality education in general. Little wonder, considering how utterly afraid of sex the current crop of Republicans are.

So, until America gets regime change, I’ll take it upon myself to offer simple, easy-to-remember safe sex education, a slogan from ads run by the New Zealand Ministry of Health: “If you ain’t got the rubba, there’ll be no hubba hubba” (to see the commercials, go here).

This post is dedicated to the memory of two friends lost to AIDS: Chris Cothran, who taught me the newspaper industry, and Al Wardell, who taught me to be an activist. Each of them helped me on the road to where I am today, and I won’t forget them nor let their memory fade.