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8 entries from November 2009

This Wedding Needs More Sex

Dear Abby,

I’m about to witness a major social gaffe.  An etiquette atrocity.  A crime against the peace, order and good government provisions of the Australian Constitution .  Proof that the universe is imploding.  A herald of the Rapture. 

My number one fag hag, Miss Betty Ford, has decided to tie the knot.  That’s not the gaffe, though.  The wedding plans look exquisite.  Miss Betty always gives good wedding.

It's like this. Our dear Betty is the Angelina Jolie of fag hags.  She will adopt any nancy boy with a sob story.  If you've been orphaned by your fag hag when she got a cat/hobby/boyfriend/life, call Betty.  She'll let you cry big, manly tears on her shoulder.

I much prefer crying into her bosom, actually, since her bosom is supremely comfortable. Yours Truly is the only man, apart from her beloved, to whom she grants pillowing priveleges. 

Betty often remarked that for a gay chap, I am oddly fond of a good tit.  Then she met my mother, and recognized that two of the moons of Jupiter nursed me.  She has since supplied her chesty charity in many moments of need.

P1140863 The Wedding Dress.  *sigh*

The problem  has to do with her bachelorette party, you see.  (In Australia, they call it a hen's night.)  Thanks to a heady mix of Facebook and Renmano Sauvignon Blanc, Betty invited all her gay buddies.  Ever the generous soul, she imagined they might enjoy the...um, entertainment.

Now, Betty's Matron of Humour is the splendid Arizaphale, who's crafted a loving tribute to the bride.  She has written heartfelt toasts, assembled mementos of their shared youth, and concocted amusing parlour games which would reveal how much each guest knows about Betty's past.  She thought up several witty puns about hens. But it soon became apparent that she had arranged no...um, entertainment.

Oh my god.  Oh. My. God.  Oh! My! God!  

When confronted with her faux pas, Arizaphale pleaded ennui.  "We good ole girls aren't exactly spring chickens," she wrote, warming to the hen's night theme.  "We've seen enough cock to last us a lifetime, and therefore are less than impressed with it anymore."

I can make neither head nor tail of that sentence.  Surely, the phrase "enough cock" is logically impossible. 

The question is, Abby, should we gay boys take matters into our own hands? (And if we're lucky, mouths?) 

Is it best to be subtle?  Perhaps a hired hunk might stroll past and casually drop trou, maintaining it was a coincidence that he was overcome by a heat rash on his buttocks at that very moment? 

Should we damn the torpedoes and get the guy in the cop uniform to do the whole who's-been-a-naughty-girl routine, even if handcuffs cost extra? 

Or ought we do the job ourselves, arriving naked to ensure there are some ornamental genitalia on display? 

Further, the couple's beloved dog will act as ring bearer.  Technically, she's a member of the bridal party, too.  Should we rent a Great Dane or something?

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Anxiously awaiting your advice. The party is tonight, and the wedding approaches!

The Honourable Husband
Serial Wedding Guest


A very occasional occasion

 Where is he gay today? Adelaide, South Australia.

Grange Hermitage

Today, I am the guest of my good friends Lady Sonia McMahon and Lord Denning

Some very fine news arrived during my stay, and they decided to throw a party in honour of it.

They served some very fine wine.  The wine was older than several of the guests.

Penfold's Grange Hermitage (or nowadays, simply Penfold's Grange) ages better, perhaps, than any wine in the world.  Few buyers wait for its prime; they'll quaff the stuff after a mere decade.  If you want the best vintages, and want to drink them now, you'll need to fork out a pretty penny.

My hosts are smart, rather than extravagant.  They know a good deal about wine, and being of a certain vintage themselves, they managed to pick the right years to buy Grange at the cellar door.  Further,  they had the patience to wait.

Sometimes, conoisseurs such as my hosts will keep an eye on auctions and deceased-estate sales.  You can pick up well-aged Grange for a (relative) song, from punters who never quite made it to their last tipple.  It pays to be patient with wine, but not too patient.

Unusual among wines of such quality, Grange has no terroir.  That is, the vineyards which supply the grapes vary from year to year.  Further—quel horreur!—Grange is a blend.  

Years of drinking too much, too-cheap wine have given the Honourable Husband a crude palate.  But here is how I understand the genius of Grange.

Grange is mostly shiraz.   World oenophiles know the variety as the French syrah, or under the appelation hermitage.   Disguised with a mildly-phony Arabic nickname, the shiraz grape adopted Australia as its spiritual home.  

Generally, the winemakers start with a base of strong, mid-bodied Barossa shiraz.  To this foundation, they add a limited amount of cabernet—less than 15%, I understand. 

Cabernet is a small, severe grape, which gives your mouth a real wallop: lots of tannin, pepper and mineral.  Long, hot Australian summers, though, allow the grape to develop a sweet side, with fruity blackcurrant flavours.  

In Grange, the fruited-up cabernet complements the gentler spice of the shiraz grape, making the result rich and berrified.  Nonetheless, it still maintains a strong hint of—I love this expression—the cigar-box

To find these two (arguably) competing flavours in such abundance, in a single mouthful, is rare.

Cabernet, though, can have a difficult, strident personality.  It takes a long time for the edge to wear off.  The more easy-going shiraz, in this case, calms the cabernet while it chills out.  On the other hand, the cabernet keeps the shiraz alert.  Like a good marriage, it takes a long, long time for them to learn each other's habits.

I have drunk Grange before—Husband is a man of the world, after all—but seldom of this vintage.  It was exquisite.

And seldom had I tasted it, or any other wine, in such good company.  Love and congratulations.  Many, many thanks.


Vegemite: Operating Instructions

Where is he gay today? A Qantas lounge, somewhere on Earth
P1150018

Dear World,

We're sick of telling you how to eat Vegemite.  Every tourist who gets breakfast on a Qantas plane opens the little pack of Vegemite, scoops up a mouthful, tastes it, and gags.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!  Vegemite must be eaten as carefully as the fugu fish!

So, for the last time:

  • Vegemite cannot be eaten on its own.  You must spread it on something.  Most Australians prefer buttered toast, but Vegemite has dressed everything from an avocado to a well-done steak.  That's Australian cuisine for you.
  • Be sure you butter your toast.  Vegemite loves oily or fatty foods.  Without lubrication, it will adhere to any surface: teeth, tongue, or throat.  Melted cheese is also popular.  
  • By the way, the manufacturers recently introduced a version of Vegemite with the cheese already in it.  It caused a national uproar, mainly because it had such a dumb name—iSnack 2.0.  
  • To make this clear for Americans, it would be like Oscar Mayer calling a hot dog iMeat 2.0 with integrated ketchup. For Brits, the equivalent would be iFish 2.0 with inbuilt chips. So they had a contest to choose a new name. 

 

  • The winner? Vegemite Cheesybite.  "None of the above" came a close second, we understand.
  • Spread Vegemite THINLY on your buttered toast.  Vegemite is powerful.  You only need a little.
  • The combination of the melted butter, the salty, nutty flavour of the Vegemite, and the bulk of the toast makes the perfect hangover cure for those with a queasy stomach. 
  • Mothers also make Vegemite sandwiches with cheese as a kiddie snack, because of the high calcium and vitamin B content.  It might be partly responsible for our national addiction to salty, cheesy snack foods.  If you're lucky, we'll let you have a Cheezel

Yours Sincerely

Australians

P.S.  We eat kangaroos, too.

Vegemite on Foodista


Interview 2009: Surfing to Serenity

Experiment2
Neil Kramer takes blogging seriously. And he wants you to take it seriously, too.

That's why he used his blog to create the Great Interview Experiment, in which he invites his readers to interview each other. Last year's Experiment was so successful, that A Free Man ripped it off paid tribute. Neil has repeated the Experiment this year.

As readers of this blog will know, I share their belief that the stories we write online are a new form of folk wisdom.  The oral tradition has become a digital one.  Social historians wish they had such rich material from the past. That's why I participate.

This year, Neil's blog revealed an intriguing writer, who calls herself Long Story Longer.  An astonishing woman. 

If you zip over to her blog, you'll that her current preoccupation is learning to surf, as an adult.  She writes about it with calm and poise. 

She writes about surfing with such thoughtfulness, that any question I might ask about it would seem superficial.  So I checked her back catalogue. 

I'm glad I did. It turns out she and I were both expats in Japan at about the same time.

In my experience, there are some expats who "get" Japan, and love it.  Others find it a frustration and a misery.  I asked her what makes a successful expat in Japan.

"Hmmmm. I think the thing that makes a successful expat in Japan is close to the same thing that makes a good international traveler in general - an openness, a curiosity, an appreciation for things that are different from what you know," she began.

"Having said that, Japan is pretty weird! I've done quite a bit of traveling, and Japan is one of the weirder cultures I've explored. I think it can take an extra bit of openness. I think there's some discrimination and misogyny that runs pretty deep in Japanese culture (for many reasons), and you just have to be really open to the "different, not wrong" idea.

"I adore, adore, ADORE Japan. It's an easy place to visit and to live as an expat, and after almost four years I felt like I could have explored and enjoyed it for a dozen more years without it getting old. It was very hard to leave. I've always said it's an easy place to feel peaceful. I miss it often."

It changed her life so much, that she actually felt some reverse culture shock. 

"My transition back to the States from Japan was difficult in so many ways," she replied.  "I just felt lost. I remember not being able to figure out the credit card machines here (Japan is a cash-based society; I basically went 4 years without using my credit cards), the ubiquity of advertising almost gave me panic attacks, cell phones suck here; just so much.

There were logistical issues - driving on the opposite side of the road (this still gets me—it makes so much more sense to drive on the left!).

More important than the practical side, LSL felt some ennui on returning to normal on her return.

And then the emotional issues—feeling displaced and lost. I'd figured out how to "do" life in Japan. It took me a long time to figure out again how to do life here. I could go on and on. I think the toughest part is that no one in the US knows what you've gone through. I didn't talk or blog very much about my transition because you don't even know where to start. Repatriating was a lonely process. Therapy helped me a great deal."

If the feelings were so strong, why not work abroad again?

I would LOVE to work overseas again and hope very much that I get to do so at some point. I have a feeling I will. I'm particularly drawn to service in the Peace Corps.

However, I was overseas for almost 4 years before, and there is a degree to which it can really put your life on hold. I didn't date while in Japan, and I missed my family a great deal. It can also be difficult in small but irritating ways. I've been back for 3 years and I'm still regularly thankful for the conveniences of living in the States and for being in close proximity to my family.

Every westerner who lives in Japan has a tale of karaoke triumph, or of karaoke disgrace. I asked her about her greatest moments in front of the "Ghost Orchestra".

"Unfortunately, I don't have many fun karaoke stories. I ADORE karaoke, but I was such a sick workaholic in Japan that I only went a handful of times.

Each time, each song involved both triumph and disgrace. Isn't that part of the fun? I do remember singing Leaving on a Jet Plane with a group of Americans once. I remember thinking about the transitory nature of our lives in Japan and getting a little choked up. And I do remember bombing enthusiastically on a Backstreet Boys song. Man, I stunk. But I love karaoke. I miss those private rooms, and the phone that brings you more beer."

Though not a uniformed soldier, LSL's job in Japan was on a military base.   I suggested that Americans hold the profession of "soldier" in greater respect than many other nations around the world.  It is almost assumed that one becomes a soldier as a moral calling, rather than just another highly dangerous job.  I asked for her take on the subject.  Do people become soldiers for the wrong reasons? 

"This is such an interesting subject to me. I knew very little about the military before taking this job...managing banking offices on multiple US military bases. I learned a lot about the military, and the people in it through my position.

My guess is that people join the military for a lot of different reasons, and probably few do it to fulfill a moral calling. However, once they're in, I have a feeling it all changes. I don't know if it was the Vietnam experience or something else, but I think Americans do hold military members in high respect in general. I feel that way. It's such a tough, tough job. I couldn't do it. I take issue with a great deal about the military, but I do have deep respect for those that volunteer."

Since she knows  so many of the US bases in Japan, I asked why the ones on Okinawa have such trouble getting along with the locals, in a way that, say, Yokosuka (near Yokohama) and others don't?

"Regarding the bases issue, I think some of it has to do with the type of base (Marine, Navy, etc.) and the age of the military members.

I had some young, tough bases and those kids were getting in all kinds of trouble. It's understandably very tough on the local population."

LSL takes a strong stance against homophobia.  I asked her if it was a stance she took on principle, or is there a personal connection?

"I have personal connections to equality issues and the gay community, but I guess you could call it a stance on principle. I don't know if I'll ever understand the discrimination that goes on against GLBT people. The short answer is this: I like to hope that if I had been alive during the civil rights movement in the 50's and 60's, I would have been on the right side of that fight.

I try to take an active role in decreasing homophobia and supporting equal rights for gay and lesbian sisters and brothers because I believe it's the right side of this fight. If I say more, I won't stop for pages and pages! This is a hot button for me."

This positive and principled attitude pervades LSL's blog.  It led me to suspect she might be part of a programme like Al-Anon—she confirmed this in her About pages.  It was obvious from her subject matter: the serenity about life, the pleasure in the moment, the heartfelt gratitude for experiences both good and bad.  It's against Al-Anon traditions to tout, and against the fundamental principle of anonymity to reveal too much about yourself or qualifier.  But I was curious to hear about her personal response to the programme.  What was step one, where she decided that trying to control the uncontrollable (like your relative's drinking) was futile?

"Thanks for saying these nice things. I've been going to Al-Anon off and on (mostly off lately - I need to get back) for at least 15 years. I love step one! However, I never had a single step one experience. I have step ones over and over, sometimes multiple times a day. For some reason, admitting that I'm powerless over something and that my life has become unmanageable is so easy for me. I don't have to look very far to see evidence of that. It keeps me humble and reminds me that I can't do it alone, which is a core belief of mine - no one can do it alone. That's part of the challenge and the fun."

Learning to surf in middle age?  I asked LSL if this were a response to a mid-life crisis.   Lots has been written about mid-life crises for men, but little about the mid-life for women, lest it merely concern biological clocks and such.  Is there a difference?  Will it perhaps result in changing career?

"You know, I would say that I'm going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, but it's pretty normal for me. I've been going through a mid-life crisis since around age 8; it's just how my brain works. I'm constantly (daily!) evaluating and reevaluating my personal happiness, my beliefs, my ability to bring meaning to my life and the lives of others. It's just who I am. I'm walking mid-life crisis."

If you haven't clicked the link already, I urge you to visit Long Story Longer.  When you're feeling down, or troubled, or just jaded, her optimism is a tonic.  And to LSL, a hearty どうも有り難とう.  Long live The Phone that Brings You Beer.


Make money, change planes, or get out.

Where is he gay today?  Frankfurt Airport. Fraport 1
Frankfurt might once have been a fine city.  Today, it's a pimple on the rump of Frankfurt Airport.

More than half the people who land at Frankfurt Airport don't actually want to go to Frankfurt.  They change planes to get to nicer places.  Today, I'm one of them.

I have passed through Fraport (as they call it) many times.  But I never stopped to think what effect the airport had on the city itself. 

With a population of around 600,000, Frankfurt is a provincial capital that nestles into the larger Rhine-Main conurbation.  It's a little over half the size of Adelaide, South Australia—another provincial capital, and my ultimate destination. 

Six million passengers a year pass through Adelaide Airport.  Fifty-three million pass through Frankfurt. 

(Adelaide Airport rather pretentiously calls its main building Terminal One, ignoring the fact that there is no Terminal Two.)

A giant airport, that can get you to pretty much anyplace in the world, attracts businesses with a high fly-in-fly-out factor.  Technology, pharmaceuticals, finance.

Frankfurt is the only German city with a real skyscraper district. A city with only 600,000 inhabitants doesn't really need to build skyscrapers.  But all those banks and ad agencies feel more at home in them.

From Wikipedia, licensed under Wikipedia Commons Manhattan am Main

Fraport authorities try to keep up with increasing terminal traffic, endlessly building extensions and renovating older structures.    The result is functional, if not thoroughly efficient.  And a bit soulless.

Compare it to Singapore's Changi Airport, where I'll change planes.  Changi has indoor tropical gardens, waterfalls, free cinemas, a butterfly  house, and several Rodeo Drive's worth of luxury shopping. 

Travel thrills people.  But you'll find no thrills in Frankfurt Airport.  Here, flying is all business—the aeronautical equivalent of a cubicle farm. 

An uninspiring place to start a vacation.  But things will improve. 

Fraport 2


Fake, But Sincere. Part One.

P1130859

The Expat Bloggers's Meetup in Munich came around in September.  And it posed a paradox.

Several visitors  said they would look forward to seeing Munich from the locals' point of view.  The real Munich.  Not the Munich of alpine kitsch and cutesy schmarm.  Not phony tourist traps with a gingerbread facade, and schmuck hanging from every eave. Not the fake Munich.

As one of the locals, a little shiver of panic went up my spine.  I mean, Bavarian culture actually is kitsch, even by German standards.  Take away the the Alps, the classic beer gardens, the palaces and the churches. You're left with....um, I dunno. BMW Welt?  The Hauptbahnhof?

Maybe I exaggerate.  Munich is a powerhouse of high tech, and a hub for avant-garde art in middle Europe.  The splendid Munich Daily Photo captures much of the city's extraordinary, vibrant culture.  A culture which integrates both heritage and modernity.

P1130974But the visitor's eye is drawn, inescapably, toward classic symbols.  The impossibly large beer steins, the lederhosen-clad people on the street, the ornate archtecture, the statuary, the noble boulevards.  And yes, the kitsch.

 None of that is fake.  People do wear Tracht as an alternative to business attire.  They tell time with cukoo clocks. They build houses with steep-pitched roofs, white walls, oak parquet and impossibly-fertile window boxes. They really do drink beer by the litre, and they sure as hell put cheese on everything.

Most cheesy, fairy-tale fakery in the modern world is modelled on the cheesy, fairy-tale reality of Bavaria.  Southeastern Germany exports many things, and the most  prominent is a mental picture of what cute should look like. 

Peonies aplenty

An actual, not-fake hotel in Oberammergau.

Compare the actual Bavaria in the photo above with America's best phony Bavaria, below. Leavenworth, Washington, bids visitors a Herzlich Wilkommen on arrival and a hearty Bis Bald when they leave. And you know what?  They almost pull it off.Leavenworth, Washington, as snapped by Long Story Longer

Close, but no Zigarre.

Fake credentials.

Anyway, The Honourable Husband is the wrong person to judge what's real and what isn't. 

First, I work in advertising. 

Second, I'm an American of sorts, and I have a Japanese partner.  Both nations, from time to time, seem to prefer a good fake to the real thing.   Just ask Umberto Eco.  

What's up with this authenticity fetish?  Why do we look down on fakes?  Just because it's fake, doesn't mean it's wrong. Right?

Let's take a brief dip into the world of the fake.

Godzilla's Dildo.

A copy is a chance to improve on the original.  When Tokyo needed a TV transmitter in the late fifties, they built one in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.  Bucking the Japanese instinct for miniaturisation, they made it 13 metres taller.   And painted it orange, for safety's sake.

Tokyo Tower. No mistaking it for the original, right?

When we lived in Japan, Master Right and I could see the tower from our home.  How lucky we are to live in Tokyo, I thought!   We could enjoy this handsome, hazard-free landmark, rather than having to suffer the scrawny, colourless original, as we would if we lived in silly old Paris. 

When a fake fakes a fake

Neuschwanstein Castle weaves a perplexing tale of  false authenticity.

Most visitors to Bavaria want to see the "real" building whose image has been seared into our brains as the archetypal mediaeval fortress.  One in which fairy-tale characters frolicked, fought, or found love.  Disney acknowledges Neuschwanstein as inspiration for its theme parks. 

A story circulates about a Californian family visiting Neuschwanstein.  Standing before the drawbridge, the mother declared "There it is! Sleeping Beauty's palace!"

Her ten-year old son shook his head skeptically.  "Does Disney know about this?" he asked.

Neuschwanstein, getting a touch-up from the Imagineers

Neuschwanstein, getting a fakeover

And ask, he well might.  This castle is no more mediaeval than Groucho Marx, Sigmund Freud or Charlie Chaplin.

Completed in the late 1880s, Neuschwanstein was one of the many follies of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. 

(Yes, that king.   Texts describe him variously as manic-depressive, autistic, or gay.  Of the three, only one was considered a mental illness in the 19th century. Guess which?) 

P1140025_2

A fake Ludwig, waiting to be installed at Oktoberfest 2009

The castle surprises visitors with its modernity.  Its kitchen would be considered up-to-date well into the twentieth century.  Wiggy even installed central heating—he planned flush toilets, too, but never lived to see them. 

In spite of it all, Neuschwanstein feels mediaeval; you expect a dragon to fly in and perch on a turret. 

Nobody can pin down which actual mediaeval castle served as the model for Neuschwanstein; the Burg Eltz comes close.  But somehow, the imitation seems as genuine as the real thing.

The picture below, of the marvellous Arizaphale and her Baby Angel on New Year's Day in 2002, is faked.  It was not taken at the real Disneyland.  It was taken at Tokyo Disneyland.  Which makes it a doubleplussgood fake.

DSC00137

The picture does not show Sleeping Beauty's castle.  It shows Cinderella's Castle, since Tokyo Disneyland is not a fake Disneyland, but rather, a fake Disney World

The Japanese designers chose to fake Cinderella's castle because it is larger than the original Sleeping Beauty's castle, which is in turn smaller than the original original at Neuschwanstein, which is much larger than the original original original at Burg Eltz.

(Interesting aside: check out the Cinderella Castle Suite at Disney World—here are some pictures of it.  Now that's fake.)

When it came time to design EuroDisney outside Paris, the tables turned. 

Every French schoolkid knows that Sleeping Beauty is a version of LaBelle au bois dormant, written by Charles Perrault in 1696.  The real Sleeping Beauty's Castle is the Château d'Ussé

According to Wikipedia —and why would they lie?—the designers of EuroDisney felt it necessary to fake more carefully.  In Europe, castles are, y'know, like everywhere.  They sought influence from more diverse and sophiticated sources, such as the monastery at  Mont San Michel.  Do French schoolchildren snigger when they visit EuroDisney, knowing that the Imagineers faked the wrong thing?

Faketabulous

Drag queens.  Are they not the ultimate example of fakes which are always often better than the originals? 

Like the city in which they live, Munich drag queens really lay it on with a trowel.  I caught this grande dame at the Hauptbahnhof, on her way to Fasching in 2008.

 Fasching Drag Queen
Ah, one could go on.  But for that, you'll need to wait for Part Two, where we trace another path of fakery from Bavaria to Japan, and back again. Bis bald.


Photo Friday: Three

 The sign on the men's room at Marks and Spencer, Oxford Street

The Simple Graphics Man often tells us much more than his employers intend. 

To a gay chap who's been around the block a few times, this sign on a door might indicate more than a men's room.  It could suggest a meeting place for (from left) bears, twinks, and uptight straight guys.

Security at Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street, where this sign hangs innocently outside the lower ground floor lavatory, should take note. 

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