Free Boy George!

I haven't blogged yet about the whole horrible Boy George situation.
OK, I know that the Boy is not exactly blameless in this embarrassing circumstance, but the fact that the judge took the word of a suspect foreign rent boy over George is highly questionable. The whole situation sounded farcical, and the sentence itself was an example of homophobia in the legal system. Boy George is a freak, and the British establishment is never happier than when taking down fabulously creative freaks a peg or two. Think of what it did to Oscar Wilde (who, interestingly, was also brought down by the testimony of questionable rent boys).
Poor old George has been in and out of trouble since the mid 80s, when his stellar career as the world's favourite pop-star came to a spectacular finish because of his spiralling drug addiction and the subsequent court cases.
I was going through some old things and came across this old edition of the National Enquirer that I'd saved from 1986 because of the Boy George story. It's a wonderfully trashy "expose" filled with spurious suggestions and dodgy testimonies from desperate hangers-on.
George has never been anything but honest in his summation of his own faults and foibles. He discussed his drug use candidly in his wonderful autobiography Take it Like a Man, and in an intriguing documentary made a few years ago called The Madness of Boy George he was perfectly candid about his fondness for male prostitutes. Which is why I have believed George's version of events surrounding the most recent run-in since the very beginning. George is a man almost addicted to disarming honesty and frank self-appraisal.
Anyway, George is in prison now, where he will shamefully stagnate for at least another 12 months. The whole trial was a farce, and will be a blight on the history of British law.
Free Boy George!

Annie Lennox


I'm a big fan of Annie Lennox.
I've loved her since back in the day, but really became a solid fan around 1987 when The Eurythmics released I Love to Listen to Beethoven. I was something of a theatrical back then, and in my humble opinion what Annie was doing had gone beyond being a mere pop star and had moved into the realm of performance art, putting her up there with such legends as Kate Bush and Marianne Faithfull.

I saw The Eurythmics perform when they visited Sydney on 1989, and they were simply brilliant. Even better, the friend I went with came clubbing with me afterward, and as we were strolling the streets of Sydney we found ourselves crossing the streets with Annie and her entourage, late in the night. She smiled at me, and I nodded coolly. Never accuse me of being an autograph hound. Whenever faced with a celebrity my policy has always been to pretend I don't recognise them. Only twice have I ever broken this rule and confessed my undying devotion - once with Maggie Tabberer and once with Lorrae Desmond. But who wouldn't dissolve in the presence of those two empresses of Australian celebrity?

I love the way Annie wears her heart on her sleeve, and all of her songs seem to be detailing a sad and squalid lifetime of romantic disappointment and increasing bitterness. I just wanna give Annie a great big bear hug and say "Come on honey, it can't all be that bad..."

Churches Behaving Disgracefully


A big thumbs down to the Catholic Church hierarchy in Brisbane for sacking the visionary Father Peter Kennedy. As usual, anyone who dares to put into practice the teachings of Christ is condemned by the Church.
Father Kennedy has been relieved of his position as parish priest of St. Mary's, South Brisbane for being a true embodiment of God's grace. His cardinal crime was the exercise of acceptance, love and true inclusivity, welcoming all to his church. The good Father Kennedy is known for blessing gay couples, encouraging the active involvement of women in sacramental activity and even acknowledging the power and importance of religious traditions other than his own.
In 20 years time priests like Father Kennedy and parishes like St. Mary's will be the norm in Australia. For now the Church must hang its head in shame and Archbishop Bathersby must prepare himself for an eternal place in the rogues gallery of the religious wicked who tried to stem the tides of love and compassion and stake a claim for legalism and all that is wrong in organised religion.
The Church has really made a terrible error in this case. As Macauley so brilliantly pointed out, the great genius of the Catholic Church through the ages has been in its ability to absorb its rebels. Simply shifting over and making a place for even the most radical ideas has meant that the Church has remained dynamic, varied and unified for a very long time.
But perhaps this is just a temporary blip, similar in kind to the excommunication of the Blessed Mother Mary Mackillop. Perhaps in a hundred years time we'll be celebrating the beatification of Father Kennedy. I think there's a very real possibility of that. Father Kennedy is a great man, and has single handedly done more for the reputation of the Catholic Church than almost any other cleric in recent memory.

Doris Day


I love Doris Day.
She's probably my all-time favourite actress.
When I was a boy I lived in rural North Queensland, and in those days the TV would play back-to-back old Hollywood movies all Saturday and Sunday. Whenever I could I would plant myself in front of my Aunty Audrey's colour TV and lose myself in those extraordinary old films for hours on end. I recall seeing all the Astaire & Rogers movies, the Ziegfeld Follies movies, a lot of the Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney musicals and the absolutely wonderful Jayne Mansfield movie Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter.
I was devoted to musicals, and whenever a particularly well-known tune was heard my dear Aunty Audrey would come flying into the room to deliver her own interpretation, often imitating the person on-screen (I remember laughing for hours at her Lucille Ball imitation).
But nothing made us happier than Doris Day movies, and they seemed to be constantly on. Something about Miss Day's sassy but wholesome personality struck a chord with this small town queen, and I loved the sound of her voice. Aunty Audrey also had a full collection of Doris Day LPs in that gloriously thick 1950s record vinyl, and they often got an airing - my favourite always being her exquisite (but largely unappreciated) album Cuttin' Capers.
I've been reading David Bret's really very good new biography of Doris Day, and it spills all the dirt on her raunchy taste in men, her devotion to Christian Science, and the phenomenal career blunders that saw her become a stock figure of fun by the late 60s.
To my mind it was Doris' image as the perpetual virgin (remembering the line by a minor actor on some talk show in the 70s - "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin!") that has hampered her reputation in the present day. She was in fact a fine actress (many critics and fellow-actors always acclaimed her as a comic genius) and her singing was unequalled, with a surprisingly low and breathy quality that rendered her songs quite sexy.
She has always been a gay icon, and in fact she always was a great friend of the gay community, standing by Rock Hudson during his final AIDS-related illness, and at the height of her fame often employing actors and leading-men who were openly gay.
She is still alive, but has been basically a recluse since the death of her son in 2004, to whom she was devoted. She has dedicated her winter years to the two causes about which she is most passionate - animal welfare and Christian Science.
You are a fabulous woman Miss Day - may you be blessed!

SONNET 94



SONNET 94
They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven's graces
And husband nature's riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Words: Mr. Shakespeare
Image: Frenchtoastgirl

Vajrapani


While I was in Vietnam I spent some time at Khuong Viet pagoda, one of the few Vajrayana Buddhist temples surviving in Vietnam. Hundreds of years ago Tantric Buddhism was the most dominant kind in Vietnam, but Buddhist schools are as much subject to the whims of fashion as anything else, and over the centuries most temples switched allegiance to the more fashionable schools of Zen and Pure Land. Most temples in Vietnam today are a combination of the two, with an overriding devotion to the practice of chanting the Lotus Sutra - very few temples make any claims of specialisation.
At Khuong Viet, in Tan Binh District, the statues are quite distinct, and entering the main hall you realise that this is not a regular pagoda. Most impressive is the vast statue of Kim Cang Bodhisattva. Now, I have always been somewhat confused by Kim Cang. His terrifying statue is to be seen outside many temple doors, guarding the porch of the main hall. I have always assumed he is one of the myriad protector deities of Mahayana Buddhism, many of whom are manifestations of Avalokitesvara in her/his more wrathful forms.
Within Vajrayana Kim Cang (Vajrapani in sanskrit) is indeed one of the Dharma protectors, but his importance is great and he shares the prominent positions of Manjushri and Avalokitesvara.
He is in possession of his own sacred mantra, which can be used to break through ignorance and the clouded minds of the average human being.

My Absolute Yes List

Prioritising, that's what it's all about.
We all have enough hours in the day, and when one reads about really extraordinary people it is always striking how absolutely focused they were, and subsequently how prolific they could be in fulfilling their life's work.
Let's face it, I waste a lot of time. The net, DVDs, TV - these are my main distractions, though I also spend a lot of time 'skimming' books (i.e. never actually finishing them - I have hundreds of unfinished books lying around the house).
I schedule and timetable like a madman, and then pointedly ignore all the plans I so carefully made.
Cheryl Richardson, in her wonderful Life Makeovers book, recommends creating an Absolute Yes list of those things in your life which are most important and need most of your energy right now. So, my top priorities for the next 6 months:
  1. Finishing my Vietnam Book
  2. Getting my PhD underway
  3. Losing weight
  4. Building my speaking profile
  5. Developing my spiritual life
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