Archive for October, 2011

Encouraging and sustaining marriage in Singapore

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Disclaimer: I admire Singapore and follow events there fairly closely. But not being Singaporean, any observations below are my opinions only and may be challenged by those with a better or closer knowledge of my favourite Asian country.

Singapore has a low birthrate at the moment, and a current average marriage age that is relatively high. The Singapore government, always thinking of the future (but often getting it wrong) is going to promote new and innovative ways of getting Singaporeans to marry and stay married.

When HWMBO was growing up in Singapore, there was a government-sponsored social club into which all young Singaporeans were enrolled, designed to urge them to pair up and eventually get married. This club was the object of much derision among many young Singaporeans and I believe it has gone out of existence (but may be wrong).

As for a history of misplaced Singaporean futureology, one might point to Lee Kwan Yew’s fear of overpopulation on the relatively small island of Singapore which led to a policy of encouraging one child only several decades ago. This has been replaced by a policy of encouraging Singaporeans to marry early and breed often, since the island nation has a shortage of native talent for its industrial and financial organisations. This has led to a surge in immigration, both temporary and permanent, and this surge has also produced discontent in the average native Singaporean.

This discontent at rising immigration is not confined to Singapore, of course, but the Singaporean version has some fascinating characteristics. Many immigrants to Singapore are from the People’s Republic of China, and some native Singaporean Chinese feel threatened by this influx of Chinese (forgetting, like some modern Irish Americans, that they themselves are the children or grandchildren of immigrants) and point out how “common” the immigrants are. A reluctance on the part of the immigrants to learn English (Singapore’s lingua franca) is also a source of irritation. Overcrowding on the MRT (Singapore’s state of the art rapid transit system) is becoming a great source of discontent.

I recall a recent case where a family in Singapore that often cooked its native dishes (some kind of pungent curry) was irritating a neighbour, who took them to court to force them to tone down their cooking. I recall people in America complaining about the smell of cabbage boiling in Irish households, or the garlic that infused the cooking of Italian families.

The government’s encouraging Chinese Singaporeans to speak Mandarin Chinese only has raised a generation of Singaporeans who cannot communicate with their grandparents except through their parents, since the younger people cannot speak the grandparent’s dialect (Hakka, Hokkien, Cantonese, for example) and the grandparent never learned Mandarin or English. So much for honouring one’s ancestors and transmitting cultural values down through the generations.

I suspect that this program will not have much effect on the tendency of Singaporeans to marry late and divorce frequently. Making it easier to conduct an integrated and family-friendly life by reducing hours spent at work would probably be more fruitful in this area. I don’t see that happening soon.

Not my best work…

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

…but the news about Canon Giles Fraser resigning from St. Paul’s Cathedral because of the deliberations about using force against the Occupy London protesters has occasioned a higgledy-piggledy.

Higgledy piggledy
Canon Giles Fraser
Protected the people
who camped near St. Paul’s

The funny thing is that
Camping in churches
Is for canons in stalls.

It also puts me in mind of the old limerick, slightly altered here, collected by Gershon Legman:

The venerable old Dean of St. Paul’s
said, “Concerning them cracks in the walls,
Do you think it would do
If we filled them with glue?”
The Bishop of London said, “Balls!”

Stabbie is VERY cross

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

As you may know. Stabbie’s feet are not in very good shape. In fact, today Stabbie toddled off to Kings College Hospital on Denmark Hill for a pre-op evaluation. Next Wednesday they’re going to put Stabbie under, cut the end of his fifth left metatarsal (the bone behind his little toe), and clean up the ulcer, in hopes that it will heal. Stabbie has never been under general anesthesia before, and he’s pretty well worried about that. In addition, it looks like the hospital will want to keep Stabbie in for a couple of weeks, just to keep him from walking about.

Stabbie has also had some kind of bronchitis for the last four days or so. This is pretty annoying, what with the coughing all night and the aching diaphragm. So sleep is precious.

At 3 am, the phone rang. Stabbie can’t get up fast enough to answer it, so HWMBO did, and the person at the other end asked for Stabbie.

Stabbie groggily took the phone, and the voice asked, “Stabbie?” “Yes, this is he” said Stabbie. “London Stabbie?” “Yes. This is he. Who is this?” “Kathy.” “Kathy who?” “You know, Kathy K.” The name is redacted to shame the guilty.

Kathy is Stabbie’s first cousin once removed. She, like Stabbie, is interested in geneology. She is Stabbie’s grandmother’s great-granddaughter. We have corresponded in the past, but fell out of touch during the SARS scare when Stabbie proposed to visit Toronto and then visit her. She said she was too afraid of contagion so Stabbie decided it wasn’t worth it to keep up a connection, so quietly let it die.

Stabbie politely told Kathy that it was 3 am here in London and that he had a hard day at the hospital ahead. She said, “It’s really 3 am there?” Stabbie assured her that the time zone system extended either side of Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific and that we were, indeed 5 hours ahead of her (Kathy lives in New England).

She apologised, hung up, and Stabbie tried to go back to sleep, without much success.

This is not the first American friend Stabbie has has to point out the time difference between North America and London. Stabbie’s brother’s girlfriend once called at 1 am. But Stabbie would like to pay particular attention to the math and social studies teachers in the United States who seem not to be aware of the time zone system. If said teachers don’t start impressing their students with the fact that not everywhere on Earth is in their time zone, Stabbie may be at the next National Association of Teachers convention, and it won’t be pretty.

And to those Americans who feel that the sun, moon, stars, and all things belong to THEIR time zone, Stabbie points to Big Ben and assures them that, when and if it topples over, Stabbie will try to make sure they are in the vicinity asking their spouse, “Mabel, do you think that clock is leaning a BIIIIIIT? EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

Odds and Sods

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I still have a hacking cough today, so I gave the free ticket to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to HWMBO, who is enjoying it right now as I type. I am just hoping that the cough improves enough by tomorrow (it’s a bit better today) so that I’ll be passed fit for my operation next week. Thanks to the Atlanta Circumciser, who is a dear friend and a great lunch companion, for the ticket. Maybe someday he’ll let me buy lunch.

I am apprehensive about this preop assessment tomorrow. I always hate being in hospitals, and I’m apprehensive in particular about continuing infection and the possibility of picking something virulent up while I’m in there.

I think it’s unlikely that Michael Ipgrave or Giles Fraser will be appointed as Dean of Southwark next week, for various mechanical reasons. If there is no announcement next Tuesday, Michael will be back in the picture.

I have been slothful today, and only ventured as far as the mailbox to pick up our post. This is bad, as I’ve been alone and brooding about the impending operation.

I am listening to Evening Prayer for the feast of St. Alfred the Great, by Fr. Jonathan Hagger. It’s quite good, and if you appreciate eclectic worship, go on over there and have a listen.

I’m about to go to watch Sir David Attenborough’s latest, Frozen Planetabout the poles. He didn’t travel much for this one; he mostly narrates from the studio. But I’m told that everyone thinks it’s first rate. And his voice is something else; I would listen to him read the phone book (do we still have them?) just to hear his voice. He reminds me of Alexander Scourby in that his voice is suited to his work. I kept thinking “Alexander Schreiner” but he was the organist for the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and didn’t have a “speaking” part. Does anyone remember either Alexander these days?

I enjoyed Frozen Planet—it was, of course, formulaic. We had the obligatory sex scene (between two polar bears) and the obligatory death scenes (wolves after a bison, and killer whales after a seal). But the photography is stunning. I do have a bone to pick, in that they don’t use the whole hour. In order to tailor it for the US commercial market, they end it at 48 or 49 minutes and then have a “Making of” feature showing the photographers doing their thing. One presumes that the “Making of”s will be packaged as an additional hour (plus commercials) in places that show commercials.

I am tired; it is time for bed. Tomorrow will be stressful, being an entire day at the hospital. I do not look forward to it.

Today’s religious video

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

When your son comes home from college and says that he’s “found Jesus”, beware.

Foot update

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I’m reminded that I haven’t given y’all an update on the foot situation for a while.

The ulcer on my right foot is scar tissue only, and they hack away at it every few weeks. The scar tissue is permanent, they say. Oh, well, at least I have my right foot.

The ulcer on my left big toe has healed; there is still some rough skin on it but that will slough away in time, if the podiatrists don’t hack it off next week.

The ulcer on the left side of my left foot has gone down to the bone. You may remember that the one on the right side of my right foot did too, but it healed before my name came up on the waiting list. This one seems to be infected (although not too seriously), so they have given me amoxicillin, flucloxacillin, ciprofloxacin, and metronidazole. These four antibiotics seriously kill nearly every bacterium known to man, and probably a lot more besides. They affect my digestion, but I will draw a veil over that. Flucloxacillin has to be taken on an empty stomach 4x daily, so you cannot eat one hour before or after taking it. Ciprofloxacin is interfered with by calcium and iron preparation, so you can’t have milk or Tums-like medications two hours before or after taking it, 2x day. Metronidazole is taken 3x daily, and you cannot drink alcohol while you are taking it. Amoxicillin is pretty easy: 3x daily and no dietary restrictions. I am down to a daily routine that manages to observe all these restrictions. I’m amazed.

Two Mondays ago I went to the clinic and got looked at by an orthopedic surgeon. They quacked over my X-rays. The podiatrist told me they were exciting: I guess that her life is a bit dull. The bone behind my little toe has twisted so that the end of it is protruding from the left side of the foot preventing the ulcer from healing. What they propose to do is shave off the end of that bone, wire the joint up temporarily, and stitch up the ulcer. I am unsure, but they may also put my left leg in a cast. I will be left with that well-known medical condition, floppy toe. I told them that I can hardly move it anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

Yesterday I got the note from the hospital: I’m to go in for pre-assessment this coming Thursday (it conflicts with a Foot Clinic appointment so I will have to call them on Monday to see what to do), and then make myself ready for admission on Monday November 1st, and surgery on Tuesday November 2. I am assuming it will be under general anesthesia. I need to put down a list of questions to ask the surgeon beforehand. I think that I will be released either November 3rd or 4th.

So, next week, wish me luck! If all goes well, I think my feet will be in OK shape within a month or so, assuming that I don’t go around walking miles and miles and rubbing the skin to create another ulcer… 🙁

Today’s Wagnerian Video

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Thanks to Ron’s Log, I have heard the Ride of the Valkyries played on a magnificent pipe organ in St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, which is northeast of Minneapolis and obviously a rather wealthy community, judging by the pipe organ. The quality of the video is a bit grainy: sometimes it looks like there was water in the lens. But the most interesting factoid is this: the organist confessed that, as it would take three organists at the console to play his transcription, he merely fed the MIDI scores into the organ console and used it as if it were a player piano…er…organ.

I enjoyed it; there is something of the plodding of a herd of horses mechanically galloping down the road in this transcription—not hysteria, or wildness, just the inevitability of the march of time and calamity that is to come.

Looking at the church’s website, it seems as though it wouldn’t be very welcoming to the likes of me, and the offer of contemporary worship makes me shudder, but at least they have an organ suitable for the highest worship style.

Sic semper tyrannis

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Among others, those were the words that John Wilkes Booth shouted as he leapt from the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre after mortally wounding President Abraham Lincoln.

Over the more than a century and a half since that day in 1865, political figures from Presidents of the United States, Kings, Archdukes, dictators of all sorts, and leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. have been assassinated.

Today we have learned about the capture of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi, the deposed leader of Libya, and his subsequent death, either as a result of wounds suffered during his capture or from a subsequent gunshot. This has been the inevitable conclusion of the events begun by the uprising in Misrata in February.

The scenes shown on CNN and the BBC News Channel are of Gaddafi, alive, being taken away in a truck, and of Gaddafi, dear, sometime later. We see jubilant Libyan fighters waving their guns in the air and shooting off celebratory rounds. Other fighters are flashing the “V for Victory” sign, or boasting that they were the one who found Gaddafi in his drainage pipe hideout and dragged him out to be shot. Women and children are waving signs and ululating in victory.

Why then do I feel uneasy?

I suppose that not having lived under a tyrant I have a jaded view of deaths of tyrants. The video of Saddam Hussain falling through the scaffold’s trap door to his death was pretty awful. The death of Osama bin Laden, while not accompanied by pictures or videos, was fairly squalid as it was described. The scenes of Egypt’s Mubarak, being brought into court on a stretcher, obviously ill, aren’t very pleasant either. Going back in time a bit, the suicide of Adolf Hitler brought the Second World War in Europe to a swift end in 1945. Stalin’s apparent death was celebrated by his closest aides, until he was found to be still breathing; his end had to be hastened by a pillow (reportedly).

Death has a way of being both an ending, and a beginning. The death of Gaddafi has brought his rule in Libya to a pretty bloody closure. But is it the beginning of a new, democratic state of Libya where democratic rule of law will reign over its people? We do not know. We can only hope.

But I must confess that I do not feel easy today. I am not sad at the end of a brutal dictatorship. I am, however, sad that the Libyans arrived at this end through yet another killing. Death, whether of a child in Ethiopia or Somalia from famine, or of a dictator in Libya, or of a close friend, does not bring me any joy.

I do not mourn his passing; however, I do not take joy at the manner in which it happened.

And, lest we forget, death will visit us all, without exception. No one will live forever (nor would anyone want to, I believe). Death has taken the Colonel. However, death will take us too.

It is said that the Rt. Rev’d Mervyn Stockwood, once Bishop of Southwark, remarked on the longevity in office of various elderly priests with, “Where there’s death, there’s hope.” I think that in the Colonel’s case we can only trust that this saying was right. May all the victims of tyranny worldwide rest in peace and rise in glory.

Tom Lehrer—Genius!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

For some reason I was drawn to look at and listen to the multitude of YouTube animations of Tom Lehrer’s song “The Elements”. Only a genius could have written and sung that song, and I comment it to your most serious contemplation.

But more important is a relatively new collection of music videos showing Lehrer himself singing various of his hits of the 1960’s and 70’s. I remember my physics teacher at St. John’s Prep introducing me to Tom Lehrer, and I was absolutely smitten. Had I actually seen a performance, my smittenness would have been complete. While no one can sneer in their music better than Tom Lehrer, but when you actually see him singing, the sneer becomes complete.

Below you should find a YouTube embedment of “Wernher von Braun”, one of his masterpieces. Watch the sneer!

Lehrer ended his singing days at the behest of his academic superiors (actually, they were his inferiors, I think), and ended up a professor of mathematics at CalTech. He is still alive, in his early 80’s, and long may he wave!

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, Political Department, Tory Division

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

We’ve been here before, of course. In many countries, and in many situations, politicians who are gay or bi feel the need to conceal this fact in order to be elected. One might remember Senator Tapper McWidestance, the Idaho senator who was caught soliciting in a men’s lavatory at Minneapolis airport. Senator McWidestance…er…Craig repeatedly denied he was gay, in spite of a large body of evidence that pointed to a history of involvement with rent boys and the like.

The Secretary of State for Defence in the coalition government, Dr. Liam Fox, is married. To a woman. His best man, a gentleman named Adam Werritty, has been a close friend for years. Mr. Werritty handed out a business card saying that he was an “Advisor” to Dr. Fox.

The news broke last week about Mr. Werritty’s connection with Dr. Fox, and the Tories formed a circle firing outwards. Werritty was not an official of the government, was not paid by the government, and was most definitely not an advisor to Dr. Fox.

However, Werritty has been claiming that he was acting for the Defense Secretary’s office when booking hotel rooms in Dubai. He has been taking many trips with the Defense Secretary, and has been present at official meetings (there is photographic evidence). He has no current visible means of support, despite living in a ÂŁ700,000 flat in London (with a female flatmate, it should be said). He was the director of a charity called Atlantic Bridge that was set up by Dr. Fox, and has now been wound up.

Atlantic Bridge, according to another article, has links to the Tea Party in the United States. So you Americans are also concerned in this.

And, finally, this morning it has been revealed that when Dr. Fox’s home was burglarised last year, a man was staying in his flat with Dr. Fox. The man was an overnight guest, says Dr. Fox, and was not Adam Werritty.

Now, taken separately, all these facts would be innocent. And an interview with a political analyst on BBC Radio 4’s Today program just now suggests that the innocent explanation was that Dr. Fox felt that he was isolated in the government, and that civil servants were undermining him. In those circumstances, it was only natural that someone that Dr. Fox trusted (ie, Mr. Werritty) would be tapped to assist him in talks with foreign officials and defense companies worldwide.

So we have an impasse. Dr. Fox is being prevented from doing his proper job by the drip-drip-drip of information and, to be frank, gossip that is appearing in the news media. I think that he will end up having to resign because the news media will make it impossible for him to evade or wave off these accusations. If he is not gay, the gossip is malicious and wrong. However, in politics appearance is everything. If it appears that a politician is dissimulating about his own personal circumstances in any way, he (it’s often a male politician, but not always) can wave goodbye to his political career.

I would not venture an opinion as to Dr. Fox’s sexual orientation. And the assumption that a person is straight unless otherwise specified is still very powerful. But I’m disturbed that politicians seem to think that the possession of a private life (which is important) means that they can separate that private life from their public persona.

Honest integration of one’s private and public lives is a good thing. It means that when asked a question about something in one’s personal life, a person can answer honestly and truthfully. There is no need to go and hide something just because it’s at odds with one’s public life. There would be no need to conceal anything, and the news media would have to go find gossip elsewhere.

There will always be an England, Ecclesiastical Department, City Section

Friday, October 7th, 2011

As is my wont, I began reading the Church Times, that notorious organ of the Church by law Established, from the back, looking at the advertisements for parishes and dioceses, then the Gazette, which is where movements of clergy in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland Anglican churches are chronicled. I came across this entry:

CROSSLEY. The Revd Jeremy Cross­ley, Rector of St Margaret Lothbury and St Stephen Coleman Street with St Christopher-le-Stocks, St Bartho­lew-by-the-Exchange, St Olave Old Jewry, St Martin Pomeroy, St Mil­dred Poultry and St Mary Cole­church, Director of Post-Ordination Training, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands, to be also Priest-in-Charge of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth with St Nicholas Acons, All Hallows Lombard Street, St Benet Gracechurch, St Leonard Eastcheap, St Dionis Backchurch and St Mary Woolchurch, Haw, London (London).

The Rev’d Mr. Crossley must be a very busy man indeed, running between all those churches to take services. I do hope he has a few curates or priests with Permission To Officiate to help him, or even a Reader or ten. He is in my prayers.

Today’s Religious Phone Call

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

…is taken from a friend’s blog in Singapore.

Me: Who was that on the phone?

Mum: (Sigh) A very religious lady.

Me: OMG these religious Jesus nuts! They are just too much! They are at it at every given opportunity! Force feeding the bible down your throat, do they stop to think or ask if you want to listen to their gospel? No! They just go on and on disregarding not to mention disrespecting other beliefs and support systems! There really should be a law preventing this from happening! By the way how did she get your number? This is an outrage I think we should…

Mum: You done?

Me: No I am not! We need to do something about this…

Mum: (cutting me off) It is not the church lah.

Me: Oh?

Mum: It’s the lady from the Buddhist temple downstairs.

Me: Oh I see…err So how is church these days?

Today’s Unfortunate Quotation

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

As most if not all of you know by now, Apple’s Steve Jobs died last night. Aside from all the encomia emanating from the technorati such as Stephen Fry, there is the complicating factor of the announcement of the iPhone 4S.

The Inquirer is one of the sassier tech news sources around. However, in its article about the iPhone 4S launch, it included a last paragraph that made me sit up and take notice:

Let’s just say, whatever Tim Cook has up his sleeve, it better be good. A firm that has become celebrated for its innovation could be slipping behind. Is it time for Apple to bring back Steve Jobs?

Now, Apple has done many great things. But bringing back Steve Jobs is unlikely to be one of the great things Apple does.

Today’s language joke

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

…is ruthlessly pinched from Erika, a commenter on Bishop Nick Baines’ blog.

“A Swiss man, looking for directions, pulls up at a bus stop where two Brits are waiting.
“Entschuldigung, können Sie Deutsch sprechen?” he asks.
The two Brits just stare at him.
“Excusez-moi, parlez vous Français?” he tries.
The two continue to stare.
“Parlare Italiano?”
No response.
“Hablan ustedes Español?”
Still nothing.
The Swiss guy drives off, extremely disgusted. The first Brit turns to the second and says,
“Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”
“Why?” says the other. “That guy knew four languages, and it didn’t do him any good.”

My new porn name

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Nearly every gay man at some time or other has been christened with a so-called “porn name”. This is the name one would take if, by some miracle, one’s body was in shape enough to act in porn.

I never took one, as I never had any illusions about porn and my place in it (as an occasional consumer, not as a producer of same), but I have come across the best porn name ever, and I’m taking it.

From now on, my porn name is Salty Cumming. The below advertisement was cribbed from the Live Journal vintage-ads group. I hope they don’t mind…much.

To my Singaporean friends

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Congratulations on the impending opening of the rest of the Circle Line MRT stations! I am looking forward on my next trip to Singapore to meeting all of you first, then travelling on the new Circle Line!

Letter to her husband

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

My darling husband, Before you return from your business trip, I just want to let you know about the small accident I had with the pick up truck when I turned into the driveway.

Fortunately it’s not too bad and I really didn’t get hurt, so please don’t worry too much about me.

I was coming home from Wal-Mart, and when I turned into the driveway I accidentally pushed down on the accelerator instead of the brake.

The garage door is slightly bent but fortunately the pick up came to a halt when it bumped into your car.

I am really sorry, but I know with your kind-hearted personality you will forgive me. You know how much I love you and care for you my sweetheart.

I am enclosing a picture of the damage for you.

I cannot wait to hold you in my arms again.

Your loving wife.

P.S. Your girlfriend called.

Today’s Thing that makes you say “Huh?”

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This is taken from Rev’d Leslie’s blog, which is always thought-provoking.

Today’s anniversary

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

I suddenly remembered the moment that I decided to attend my first Integrity/New York eucharist, more than 23 years ago. St. Luke-in-the-Fields was two blocks north of where I worked, and the service was at 7 pm (I seem to recall). They put an ad in the gay rag in New York, and every week that ad nagged me to go to church. I had not been to church for many years at that point, as a former RC I preferred to eat doughnuts and read the New York Times on Sunday morning.

So I walked north to St. Luke, and instead of going in I walked around the block. When I got to the front door again, I walked by it and around the block yet AGAIN. I finally walked in the front door on the third try, and was greeted by the most wonderful man I have ever met in the church: Nick Dowen, then the president of Integrity/New York. He welcomed me in, sat me down, and was very kind. I had to leave right afterwards as the speaker at the coffee hour was someone I knew from another context who wasn’t very nice. I returned the next week.

And thus, today, October 2, is the 23rd anniversary of my reception into “this branch of God’s Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”, as my certificate (on my wall) says. Every journey starts with a couple of laps around the block, it seems.