2009

Gu nàdarrach, this is not a description of 2009 as it was. This is a description of 2009 how I saw it – or rather, how I perceive it now, looking backwards.

The two things I care most about in my life are my closest friends and Scotland. These days, those of my best friends I’m still in contact with fall into three groups: those I met at the Tech, at the Yaird and in this city. I had already met my Tech friends once again last year, but only this year I took part in another traditional “bummel” – and man, did I enjoy it. Of my Reid Yaird friends, not only do I keep in touch with Dànaidh – without whom, after all, this site would never have existed in the first place – and Lùc, but I also quite unexpectedly met Silas again. Only Seòras is perhaps lost for me forever. Of those I know from this city I live in, I usually meet Pokič for a couple of hours in some pub when he comes back here for some time from Switzerland. I’m seeing less and less of Rob, for whom this was certainly a hard year. However, this has happened before. I don’t think we’re growing indifferent to each other. Not yet, at least.

As regards Scotland, it was of course the Homecoming Year. I myself haven’t been there, and occassionally the homesickness gets almost unbearable. But I have earned enough money to go next year, and go I will. Also, I guess I’ve learned as much about it within the year as I used to during a decade before I got connected to the Net.

My love for Scotland is closely followed by my love of languages. I admit my English was getting worse over the year. I had more interaction in it than ever before – but by no means was it always interaction with native speakers, and I’ve been grossly neglecting literature. On the other hand, cha chreid mi nach deach a’ Ghàidhlig agam a leasachadh cho mòr rè na bliadhna ‘s a deach i air feadh nam bliadhnaichean uile roimhe sin – taing mhòr do na “litrichean” aig Ruairidh MacIlleathain ‘s dhan Fhòram! Agus, bho 30mh octobre, j’apprends le français.

The statement of neglecting literature doesn’t mean I was ignoring it altogether. I bought several books and I did read some – some of them even for the first time in the original, including two of my favourites, Cat’s Cradle and The Flying Inn; and Breakfast of Champions I read for the first time ever. I also bought a considerable – by my standards – amount of music CDs, in addition to the YouTube explorations (of which there was less than the preceding year). As I’ve got Room to Roam and Bridge Over Troubled Water on cassettes as well, the one which I’m the happiest about having acquired is The Traveling Wilburys Collection.

That I’m mightily interested in GLBT matters goes without saying. On this front, 2009 looks like a year of many small victories and many small defeats, especially with regard to official partnerships. Hardly a week passed without some new legal proposal in this area being either passed or rejected. A good summary of the year’s ups and downs is given by the Stonewall website. Notwithstanding, should I name a single event, I suppose this would be the year of Scott Rennie for me.

Much of what I’ve already talked about was in one way or another connected to the Net. Indeed, I believe I spent a greater part of my leisure hours sitting behind my notebook than by anything else (sleeping excluded). I see nothing wrong with it. It enabled me to have more fun, to learn much more and even to grow both more relaxed and more decisive, in other words, more mature than if I didn’t – and to meet people I esteem I never would have met otherwise, like Akerbeltz and Morris.

When I say Net, for the first part of the year this mostly means Wikis. Wiktionary, the ‘pedia, the Gaelic ‘pedia… But although I don’t regret I had got so involved, I don’t regret I quit and only returned after some time under another identity with a much more reserved attitude and behaviour. I may have lost some possible future friends like this, but then, I’d lost actual friends galore before. The way I worked there was making me too busybodyish; I was constantly biting off more than I could chew (and consequently was depressed because “I can only do so much and there’s so much to do!”); but possibly the greatest mistake was working a good deal with my so-called native language. The final straw was the (pretty good, no false modesty) article in its Wikipedia’s version. Since then, I avoid the language as much as I can, unless it’s used by people for whom I’ve got a soft spot of some kind anyway. Can one get sick of his own mother tongue? Apparently, one can.

And of course, there were things which an account of this year would be quite incomplete without, even though they don’t exactly belong into any of the above-mentioned paragraphs, like the two Reid Yaird repeat stays, playing table-tennis again, beginning to grow a moustache (for the first time in my life) and having both the contract of my digs lease and contract of eployment prolonged; also things I wasn’t directly involved in, like the first Isle of Lewis Sunday ferry, Mike Perham‘s solo sailing around the world, ratification of the Lisbon Treaty… and watching Top Secret! after all those years!

Glè math. But generally speaking, Keith – was it a good or a bad year?

A very good year. Not as great as those unsurpassable Tech&army ones, but as good as 2008 – which is to say, definitely better than most of those in between.

 

BBC’s outraging debate

BBC World Service’s debate first titled “Should homosexuals face execution?” and after a storm of protests renamed to “Should Uganda debate gay execution?” was naturally also commented on by Adrian Tippetts and Peter Tatchell.
Tippetts: BBC’s Gay execution debate was murderous breach of impartiality
PinkNews: Tatchell says BBC ‘invited’ homophobia
For once I disagree with Tippetts. In my opinion any question is legitimite, including “Should homosexuals face execution?” and some of those he and Tatchell made up like “Should slavery be reintroduced?”, “Should disabled people be euthanised?” and “Should the people of Darfur be massacred?” There are no evil questions, although there are zillions of evil answers (and the EHRC simply just sees another possibility of promoting political correctness for the sake of freedom of speech). That said, I see no reason why the BBC should host any debates of the Have Your Say format at all.

 

The greatest New Testament abomination

If you’re a Christian, brace yourself for the worst. I’m not after what the book might consider the greatest abomination; I’m after what I consider the most abominable part of the book’s teachings.

It might be expected that, being gay, I’ll have the most quarrel with Romans 1:26-27 (“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”) or 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”)

Not so. By the time I got to Paul I no longer cared too much about what Jesus’ followers advocated. Jesus lost his cause with me by his own words. (If, of course, they were his words. If, come to think of it, we know anything he actually said, rather than what his followers said he said.)

It’s been many years though since I read the Bible and I was growing more and more unsure. Is it really written the way I remember it or is my memory betraying me again? I wasn’t even sure any longer it’s really in either Mark or Luke and not, say, Matthew or Acts. So I tried to Google it up – and was amazed to find out that I’d probably got it the other way round. In Mark 9:40 it says: “For he that is not against us is on our part.”

This was food for thought indeed. Despite much mental and logic gymnastics, in the end I had to admit that while that statement is certainly one fit more for a politician than a sage, I can’t with clear conscience exactly call it revolting.

But I still couldn’t stop turning it over in my mind. Could a nitpicker like me, even over all those years, turn the meaning to such an extent? Moreover, I still recollected what my surprise when reading it for the first time was based on: I used to ascribe the slogan to some Communist leader, because with the plural pronoun “us” it was often used by the commie regime. (I was yet to learn how many Christian technologies of controlling people Communists adopted.) So a few days later I tried again, this time through Wikipedia, and unexpectedly quickly I found what I was looking for. It’s in Luke all right – and for that matter, in Matthew as well:

Luke 11:23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”
Matthew 12:30 “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

That was that back then, and that’s that still. I can’t accept somebody stating this abhorrent principle as a moral authority any more than, say, somebody teaching the principles of “My country, right or wrong” or “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”.

 

Election TV debates

The BBC and the three main UK parties agreed to hold pre-election TV debates of their leaders while excluding leaders of all the other parties including the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the UK Independence Party.
BBC: SNP and Plaid threaten legal action over TV debates
Not only I agree that such a format would (will?) give an unfair advantage to the three main parties and that inviting Clegg but not Salmond is anticipating the outcome of the election. I also agree that such debates overemphasize the leaders in the context of a voting system in which one is supposed to vote for a local MP rather than for his party leader.

 

Top Secret!

Not this post. The film. For one of the groups of friends I was a member of back in ’91 it was a cult film. We considered it the best comedy ever filmed. Several parts of it became our catchphrases (“Souuuvenirs, nooovelties, paaarty tricks…”) or even nicknames for other things, so that for some time we’d sooner say “Oh boy, had fourteen 98-octane gasolines yesterday” than “fourteen 5% lagers”. And so on.

I haven’t seen it once since those days. But I mentioned it this year to my sister, duly praising it, and the other day I unexpectedly received it from her on a CD. So the night before the last I watched it, slightly afraid: will I still like it? Or has my memory exaggerated its enjoyability too much? Will I be disappointed?

In the end, I wasn’t. I’d no longer say I’ve never seen any comedy as good (I’ve seen Life of Brian, for one, in the meantime), but I still declare I’ve never seen any funnier film. Ay, Brian may be presenting a few serious thoughts in addition to humour, but even the Pythons weren’t able to pile gag upon gag as abundantly as it’s been done here. And 99% of the gags really work – at least with me. (And I don’t even understand half the allusions!)

I even saved it on my hard disc, just in case. (There’s only one small question seeing it again brought about, the answer to which I’ll never learn: did I fancy Val Kilmer back then, as I did watching him now?)

And if you wonder what the ‘pedia article means when talking about a “scene […] filmed with the actors moving entirely in reverse and then played backwards in the movie”, on the YouTube you can find it for example here. Another classic bit is this. Or… oh, I guess I’ll watch it again pretty soon!

 

Team sports heroes coming out

In October, Donal Óg Cusack came out; two months later it was Gareth Thomas. After which MaxClifford advised footballers to keep shush because of fans, but John Amaechi retorted it was the coaches, executives and club owners who were really to blame.
PinkNews: Irish sports star Dónal Óg Cusack reveals he’s gay
BBC: Irish sports star says he is gay
BBC: Ex-Lion Gareth Thomas reveals he is gay
PinkNews: Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas reveals he’s gay
PinkNews: PR advisor Max Clifford repeats warnings over ‘vicious’ homophobic football fans
PinkNews: Gay basketball hero says clubs, not fans, are to blame for homophobia in sport
John Amaechi’s blog: Gareth Thomas – and the gay in sports/gays in society discussion
There are several sentences to which I could subscribe with all my heart.
Cusack:
That’s the way I am. I live with it and I am fine with it.
Thomas:
I thought I could suppress it, keep it locked away in some dark corner of myself, but I couldn’t. It was who I was, and I just couldn’t ignore it any more.
Just because you are gay, it doesn’t mean you fancy every man who walks the planet.
I’d love for it, in 10 years’ time, not to even be an issue in sport, and for people to say: ‘So what?’
Amaechi:
It is because of the certainty of heterosexuality that so many straight men in sports, armed services, fraternities and stag parties can behave… well, so gay.

Incidentally, there is a (tragi?)comic strip related to the last one, even though it comes from a straight context.

 

Happy Xmas? (Wars Aren’t Over)

One of the Christmas clichés is an article, newspaper column, essay, blog &c, in which the author explains he or she doesn’t like the idea of people being extremely kind to each other – but only during Christmastime. Not to add another unoriginal version on the theme, I’ll just embed here the video for a John Lennon hit which radio DJs mistakenly take for another White Christmas. Warning: it’s the most macabre, the most horrifying video I’ve ever seen – and all the pictures are real-life ones.

Don’t enjoy.

 

No legally binding deal in Copenhagen

Despite anxiety about sheer survival on the part of some small island states and poor African nations, the Copenhagen talks achieved nothing more than an “agreement about some future agreement”.
BBC: Copenhagen climate deal meets qualified UN welcome
The reporter asks at the end of this video, “do these underwater pictures represent an image of the past, or the future”. Why, both.

 

US gay students for opposite-sex room-mates

Apparently some GLBT students in the US prefer sharing their college dormitories with students of the opposite, rather than their own, sex, and in 50 universities they already can (under the name “gender-neutral housing”).
PinkNews: Gay US students want mixed-sex dorm rooms
I can imagine two good reasons for such a wish: fear or homophobic bullying and fear of being unable to cope with one’s own desire. All the same, what I absolutely can’t imagine is myself “feeling more comfortable living with someone of the opposite gender”.

 

Verbosity

This is one of the things in which I’m making less progress than I would like to.

I don’t mean I’d like to be taciturn. In fact, I’ve a suspicion that many people I know think I am; but that’s because the things which interest me and the things which interest most of my acquaintances very seldom overlap. I mean I’d like to be succinct.

That’s why I like quotations so much. The vast majority of my favourite quotations (there are dozens of these) didn’t impress me on first reading by telling me something enlightening, but by expressing something I already knew or thought as briefly and pregnantly as I could never achieve.

Of course, part of the problem is exactly the fact that I have very seldom an opportunity to talk things I want to talk, so when I get that opportunity I can’t get enough. An exacerbating factor is my tendency towards exhaustiveness. A tendency to list all the exceptions to the given rule, all the variations of the given theme, things like that. (I’m trying hard just now not to make this paragraph self-illustratory.)

One of the reasons of creating my then LiveJournal blog was exactly this: practising conciseness. Only it appears that so far I’m more likely to write too much (due to being used to talking too much) than to not say too much (due to being used to not writing too much).

My e-mails and the posts I make in Net discussions are even far worse than my blogs.

Still, there is a little progress. After less than a year at it I’m already usually able to sooner write a paragraph as long as a common sentence than a sentence as long as a common paragraph. (Not so long ago a single sentence stretching over eight or twelve lines was nothing exceptional with me, I kid you not.)

Conclusion: Although the process seems almost intolerably long, perhaps I’m slowly but surely getting where I want to get.

 

Quotation(s) for this week (20 – 27 Dec 09)

And it wouldn’t be very difficult to get in touch with Christine. It was only that he felt it would be too late when he did. But, anyway, he’d met her and talked to her a few times. Thank God for that.

Kingsley Amis: Lucky Jim

By which I refer to the fact that just a few whiles ago I unbookmarked the LiveJournal blog of one of the people I like the most from those I’ve met on the Net. For certain reasons we’re no longer in any contact and it’s quite possible we’ll never be again. I felt more and more like I was prying on him (he doesn’t know this Net identity of mine), while at the same time his posts were getting less and less interesting for me. I’ll say goodbye to you, Ruakh, a charaid, with a quotation I reckon pertinent for more reasons than one:

Aye free, aff han’, your story tell,
While wi’ a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel
Ye scarcely tell to ony.

Robert Burns: Epistle to a Young Friend

 

Ireland fighting the recession

Government figures say the Irish economy is getting out of the recesssion, with the GDP rising by 0.3% compared to the previous quarter, less than a week after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced one of the most severe budgets in the Republic’s history.
BBC: Irish Republic out of recession as GDP grows
BBC: Tough 2010 Irish budget unveiled
I wouldn’t read too much into the statistics until this is repeated a few times, but I respect the budget effort. The fact that the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, will have his pay reduced by 20% doesn’t impress me; what does is the fact that the cuts on the public sector pay bill and on social welfare may well lose the next election for him. Or are the Irish hardy enough to go for the old blood, sweat and tears, even in a much milder version?

 

Alternative rock my foot

One of the many things I’d never know of without the Net is how much good music comes from Scotland. I knew Auld Lang Syne of course, and thanks to Nokia I knew the melody (but not the lyrics) of Scotland the Brave, but had no idea there was Flower of Scotland. For that matter, I didn’t even know there were The Corries. I had several Burns’ lyrics in a Penguin Classics paperback I didn’t know the tunes for, such as For a’ That, and a’ That – I only learned the tunes via YouTube. I knew Donovan, Rod Stewart and Annie Lennox, but only knew Franz Ferdinand existed, never heard them, and, cub’s honour, I didn’t even know that Nazareth were Scottish. And though I had the Capercaillie Sidewaulk CD, I’d never heard of Runrig.

Not that I spend all my time with oldies but goldies. In addition to Franz Ferdinand I also discovered Idlewild and Glasvegas. The latest even released their first album when I was already on the Net. After seeing their It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry and Daddy’s Gone I bought the whole disc. And it’s really good.

What surprised me, however, was the fact that Wikipedia calls them an alternative rock band. What’s alternative about it? It’s simply rock at its best. So I digged a bit deeper and went to the page on alternative rock iself. With no small surprise I saw there a quotation characterising it as “guitar music first of all, with guitars that blast out power chords, pick out chiming riffs, buzz with fuzztone and squeal in feedback” and even Britpop classified as a subgenre. So don’t let yourself be deceived by the label. The adjective “alternative” is just an advertising gimmick, and in fact they simply mean pure rock.

 

A’ chiad sneachda

An dèidh obair feasgair Dihaoine, dhùisg mi anmoch an-dè, agus bha mi a’ leughadh san leabaidh (Chesterton: The Defendant agus Eco: Ainm an Ròis) airson greise eile. An dèidh dhomh èirigh mu dheireadh thall, choimhead mi a-mach air an uinneig – agus bha e a’ cur an t-sneachda! A’ chiad sneachda dhen gheamhradh seo sa bhaile far a bheil mi a’ fuireach, ged a bha e air tuiteam aig pàirtean eile dhen dùthaich mar-thà. Seadh, bha an sneachda a’ tuiteam gu mall agus bha e a’ dèanamh aiteimh cho luath ‘s a bhean e ris an talamh, ach nuair a dh’èirich mi an-diugh, bha breath thana dheth an-siud ‘s an-seo mu thràth.

Tha sin a’ còrdadh rium glan. Tha a h-uile rud a’ coimhead nas sèimhe a-nis, agus tha mise a’ faireachdainn nas sèimhe cuideachd. Chan eil cabhag orm idir, ged a tha mi a’ dèanamh tuilleadh is dìreach laighe san leabaidh is leughadh. Co-dhiù, chan eil ach seachd no ochd latha ann gus an tòisich na saor-làithean agamsa… Bha mi meadhanach dìcheallach rè na bliadhna, agus faodaidh mi ga “cur gu crìoch” ann an dòigh gu math slaodach ‘s cofhurtail.

 

Innateness of being gay (with sideswipe at Uganda)

An interesting interview with Dr Qazi Rahman (assistant professor in Cognitive Biology, Queen Mary, University London) by Adrian Tippetts was recently published, in two parts, on the PinkNews website:
Gay by nature: Part one
Gay by nature: Part two
It clarifies the “gay gene” myth, refutes the possibility of changing one’s sexuality &c, but it also implies that a gay male brain works more like a female straight (as opposed to a straight male) one, which is something I still find hard to accept. Just as I find it hard to accept that “people can detect sexual orientation within a couple of seconds”, as all my experience speaks against that.

Whatever the truth, it’s certainly an interview worth reading. I even quickly skimmed through the comments, which I almost never do unless there are fewer than ten. I was glad to see somebody mention the fact that whether or not sexuality can be changed is of secondary importance only, as there’s no rational reason to do it even if it can be done. (Unless, of course, you’re living in Uganda or some such Naziland, and fear for your life. Yes, it seems they’re about to drop the worst, but only after Sweden threatened to stop giving them the alms they’re accustomed to getting.)

 

16 extra years so far

The title refers to the fact that on the 10 December, sixteen years have passed since the day I committed my one and only and… indecisive? suicide attempt.

Indecisive isn’t the proper adjective to describe what happened. I can’t think of any better. Half-hearted? Lukewarm? Hesitant? Half-way? Uncertain? They’re all somewhat off the mark.

Matter is, unlike those who just go and blow their brains out with a gun; unlike those who stand on the window sill, but let themselves be talked into not jumping; unlike those who do jump in the end; unlike those who just fake a suicide, overdosing after making sure they’d be found in time to be rescued; unlike those who genuinely try but survive by some miracle, I arranged things so that I went to sleep with a 50% probability of waking and a 50% probability of not waking the following day. Or what I thought was one.

Perhaps I should have used undetermined.

I suppose it was also weird, and the reason was weird too. It wasn’t because of being unable to win the one I loved. It was because, having had decided never to fall in love again, I failed, and found myself in love with this guy who I knew from the very beginning I couldn’t win. Neither was the reason consequent frustration. It was the fear of going once again through the depression following the day when our ways would part, as I knew they would. (They did.) I thought it might be better to stop it all before that happened.

Anyway, I lived, and never regretted I did. (Though somehow I don’t regret the Saltire which is forever cut into the skin on my left forearm either.) I fell in love again, several times, at least twice even more strongly, never with any more chance than then, but haven’t once seriously considered the idea of taking my life again.

If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.

 

Climate change impact on the Cairgorms

The two things which are both among those most often associated with Scotland and among those most endangered by the global warming are said to be the Scots pine and the Atlantic salmon.
BBC: Climate change sparks Cairngorms fears (text)
BBC: Climate fear for Cairngorms (video)
The greatest danger, however, is that within a few centuries Scotland might cease to exist altogether, with only the highest peaks being still above the sea level… Not that we’re not trying to do something about it.
BBC: Green technology to harness power of waves

 

PinkNews grammar

I’m very glad that this page exists and that I’ve discovered it, as they’re informing me on what’s going on in regard to GLBT matters the world over, with emphasis on the Anglophone part of it and the UK in particular – just what I’m interested in. Moreover, about one third or one fourth of their articles seem interesting enough on the homepage to click on and read through – which is a very high percentage, when you think of it. And even though now and then I come across a bit of tendentiousness, there are always people like Adrian Tippetts, for whom equality doesn’t mean superceding one discrimination for another. And so on.

Yet I would prefer less mistakes made probably in haste and without the editor’s reading the article after themselves. A comma misplaced occurs to everybody, though it looks there are more typos than on other pages of this high profile, but what is it I’m reading here?

The country will impose a one-year blood donation on all people having “risky” sex, which includes gay sex.

Of course it’s quite obvious from the article what they meant to say, but still… ;-)