Filed under culture

The week: 25 May

This is a bit of an experiment. Seeing as how I rarely write anything for the blog these days, I’m going to try to do a weekly post with lots of links to interesting things I’ve noticed during the week, a bit of personal narrative and maybe a photo or two.

Selfie, 21 May

Selfie, 21 May

I came home from university on Monday feeling rather brilliant after getting my two major essays back, both with ‘A’ grades. Then I read this blog post by Daniel Reeders and this review by Dion Kagan and I realised I was just an old duffer again. Daniel’s insightful analysis of a real-world encounter with HIV stigma, and Dion’s brilliant synthesis of multiple streams of nostalgia and documentary-making, put my first-year legal blatherings in their rightful place. Thanks to Dion I now have the terms ‘melancholic disavowal’ and ‘traumatic unremembering’ at my disposal.

Still on the subject of stigma, last week I had the opportunity to talk about the stigma that is increasingly apparent around hepatitis C virus infection among HIV-positive gay men, at a public forum hosted by Living Positive Victoria. I recently came across Gareth Owen‘s 2008 paper ‘An “elephant in the Room”? Stigma and Hepatitis C Transmission Among HIV‐positive “serosorting” Gay Men’ that examined this issue and I used some material from that paper in my talk. One sample quote:

‘The hep C situation on the scene is much like HIV was in the early days, so guys will avoid having sex with other guys who they definitely know have hep C. Though they tend to assume that guys don’t have hep C if it isn’t mentioned.’

I also used some anonymised quotes from a prominent serosorting/bareback hookup site to support my observations – I found dozens of texts like ‘žnot on here to get hep c guys so please be upfront about it’ and ‘I’m Hep C neg and not really into putting that at risk, being poz is enough as it is.’

It’s impossible to ignore the obvious parallels with similar statements made by HIV-negative guys about HIV.

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Everybody hurts: TAC at 20

It’s 20 years tonight since the first shock TV advertisements by Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission were aired. Visitors from overseas are often surprised at the brutality of these adverts, which have been credited with a 50% reduction of the Victorian road toll over the last two decades.

This montage will be screened tonight at 8:30pm on all free-to-air channels in Victoria. It’s quite graphic in parts but gives an indication of the types of campaigns that have been run.

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The secret homophobic history of Sydney’s Anzac Memorial

ANZAC_Memorial_Sydney_Australia_-_June_2007.jpg

My favourite Australian building turns 75 today. On 24 November 1934, the Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park was officially opened. Not many people know the story of how the building’s design was altered by prudishness and homophobia.

It’s a stunning, simple and understated building that is often, and rightly, referred to as Australia’s only pure expression of Art Deco. I fell in love with the building as soon as I saw it, and when I learned more about the building while studying architecture at UNSW in the early 1980s, this deepened my appreciation.

The building was designed by architect C. Bruce Dellit (his granddaughter, Wendy Dellit, was in my year at uni) with sculptures by Rayner Hoff, who also has the distinction of being the designer of the Holden logo. Dellit’s design was the winning entry in an architectural competition, and is widely accepted as his finest work.

There is so much to love about this building. The design is classical, understated, simple and reflective. The sculptures and friezes, inside and out, are stunningly executed. The most striking is Sacrifice, the bronze, at the centre of the building.

ANZACWarMemorial3_gobeirne.jpg

I have been taking visitors to see this sculpture for nearly 30 years and every one of them has been struck by the beauty and the raw emotion of the piece. A youth, deceased, lies on a shield and sword supported by a three-figured caryatid representing his mother, his sister and his wife. It’s a stark and confronting image of the tragedy of war.

And, of course, he’s naked.

The untold story is that Hoff was a gay man, and his sculptures created a scandal in unenlightened 1930s Sydney. Dellit and Hoff had to fight to see their joint vision realised, against the politically powerful (then and now) Catholic Church, who objected to the nudity. We are fortunate that the architect and sculptor got their way with Sacrifice, but unfortunately the outside of the building was never finished.

Hoff and Dellit had planned a pair of additional bronzes, one of a man and one a woman, to go on the outside of the building, on the two big plinths on the East and West sides of the building. They were also intended as nude figures.

Unfortunately the wowsers got their way and the external bronzes were never completed. Even more tragically, Hoff had actually completed the moulds for the two monumental bronzes, and these were kept in storage for some years after the building was opened, but they were eventually destroyed. All we have left are some of Hoff’s drawings.

Sydney’s Anzac memorial is one of the greatest examples of the Art Deco movement, anywhere in the world. But it is an unfinished masterpiece, and all thanks to the prudishness and homophobia of a few 1930s-era wowsers.

CC-licensed images on this post from Wikipedia

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Daily Tele: Sydney’s gay heart Oxford St plays it too straight for some

IT WAS the heart of gay Sydney – but now Oxford St is going straight.

The one-time bastion of Sydney's gay community is giving way to more straight venues and is even home to the most heterosexual institution of them all – a wet T-shirt competition.

There are now just three openly gay venues along the strip – the Stonewall Hotel, The Palms and the Oxford Hotel. These are outnumbered more than three to one by straight venues such as Oxford Art Factory, Havana and Spectrum.

The change raises fears the colourful atmosphere that attracted people to what was Sydney's premier entertainment strip is being driven away.

And with the switch has come concerns of an increase in violence.

Rainbow Labor convenor Michael Vaughan said while Oxford St had always welcomed straight and gay alike, there needed to be a balance.

Automatically created from a Delicious.com bookmark.

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Le week-end

At last I have a couple of days’ peace and quiet after what has been a maddening couple of weeks. With all the media brouhaha about HIV I’ve been working my pert little butt off, — wrangling reporters, issuing media releases, drafting talking points and generally fighting the good fight. I think we got our message out.

With all this action it’s no wonder I succumbed to a nasty cold a few days ago. Spent a day in bed during the week but have been trying to shake it off with only limited success since. Now I think the cold is gone but I have a secondary chest infection which means a nasty rasping cough which is unpleasant for me and distressing to those around me. People are keeping their distance lest they pick up the bug. Fair enough.

Last night I took my cold germs, my husband and my friends Kirsty and Sean to see Keating! at the Comedy Theatre. I don’t normally do entertainment reviews on here (Richard Watts has that territory covered) but I can say that I laughed my head off. Eddie Perfect‘s perfect as John Hewson (in a duet with Keating of “I Wanna Do You Slowly”), and utterly brilliant as Alexander Downer (“Too Freaky”).

The show is brilliantly conceived and the writer obviously loves his subject as much as the audience (no-one under the age of 35 was in attendance) do. An affectionate preach-to-the-choir extravaganza with great songs, strong performances and occasional moments of sheer brilliance.

Today I’m off to the farmers’ market, baking sourdough bread, practicing my Turkish lessons and taking care of a lovely house guest.

300

300 - still from IMDB.com

I was actually thinking of going along to see 300, the Zack Snyder-directed movie of the graphic novel adapted from the movie about the myth of the battle between the Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae on 480BC (that’s a lungful). But Richard Watts has put an end to that notion for me. It’s “a ludicrously bad movie that fails spectacularly on so many levels,” he writes:

Equally offensively, the film is overtly homophobic, as if somehow needing to offset the director’s vision of Spartans as muscular underwear catalogue models in red cloaks and leath codpieces designed to show off their oiled pecs and washboard stomachs. One example of this comes when the Spartans dismiss Athenians as “poets and boy lovers”. The most extreme example of homophobia in 300 is in the depiction of the film’s villain, the Persian god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) who is presented as the classic Hollywood evil fag, with plucked eyebrows, long nails, a lascivious voice and exaggerated, effeminate posture.

Xerxes’ unnatural overtures are rebuffed – and rightly so, cry a thousand sweaty, insecure teenage jocks – by the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler), a manly man’s man who surrounds himself with half-naked men in an unwittingly precise illustration of the struggle between homosocial and homoerotic urges that dominates the Western masculine millieu.

[...]

In short, 300 is an abominable film that offends the intelligence of its viewers, that betrays the historical canon it purports to celebrate, that butchers any concept of drama, and whose politics and social messages are deeply suspect. It even fails to be so bad it’s good. It’s just bad, boring, and uterly undeserving of popular or critical acclaim.

I guess that’s that. Pity — it looked like a hoot, but Watts is no stick-in-the-mud ideologue, so if he reckons the film is that offensive, I’ll give it a miss. Read the fill review.

Image from IMDd.com

AIDS doily

AIDS doily

I want one of these doilies, by artist Laura Splan – the design is based on the structure of HIV.

She’s also done doilies of the Hepadna, herpes, SARS and Influenza viruses – if I had the money I’d get a full set.

Besides the biomedical reference, I’m reaching the stage of life when doilies seem appropriate…

Glastonbury

Tickets to this year’s Glastonbury festival have sold out in record time, 137,500 tickets sold in less than two hours, according to the BBC.

Organisers said the 137,500 tickets available to the public were snapped up just one hour and 45 minutes after going on sale on Sunday at 0900 BST.

They added that they were happy with how the sales went despite websites and phone lines struggling to cope.

“Struggling to cope” seems about right. Brent and I each had a half-dozen browsers open, trying to load the web page without success for about an hour of Cmd-R, Cmd-R, Cmd-R.

The good news is that the UK arm of our operation had much more success, and we are going to Glasto. W00t!