Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Mullingar Nissan Garage Debacle

My wife's family love Nissan. You know how I know that? She's only ever had Nissans. For 14 years, she's moved from a Micra to 2 successive Almeras and she currently has a Qashquai. We met shortly before she bought her second Nissan Almera. Her father and brother also bought Qashquais the same month, and all three are in different shades of blue. When the family is all together, the driveway looks like a Nissan forecourt. They both had Almeras too, before the Qashquai. They love Nissan so much, I even have a Nissan car. So, we're good customers.

I became aware that the Nissan garage in Mullingar was pulling a fast one with me when I got a service on my Micra a few years back. They told me that this huge part needed replacing and the quote was well outside my price range. If I could have afforded it, I wouldn't have questioned it. Sort of glad I did.

In my desperation to ensure my car wouldn't explode on me, I decided to see if I could source the part myself, even a used part. In my efforts, I met an honest mechanic (yup, they exist) who had a look at my car (in a car park) and told me it wouldn't need that whole part at all. It only needed some seals. I have brought the car to him ever since. That was at least 4 years ago and the car hasn't exploded on me yet and I have never replaced that part.

My wife still goes to the dealership. She drives a lot for work, has her car serviced twice annually and has a nice car, so she wants to keep up a service history on it, for resale value, I think. My car is 13 years old (with only 100k kms on the clock) and when I drive to work it takes 8 minutes. Our needs are different.

First Nissan Quote May 2011
In May, she was hit by a driver who pulled out onto a main street blind. The door was scratched and dented. It was entirely the other driver's fault and when we got the quote for repair, it wasn't contested. They just paid out. When she went back to book in the car for the repair (and a service) she was told that they were "using a different guy" and that they would have to re-quote for the repair.

We got that quote yesterday. It took 5 weeks for the re-quote to be sent to us.

The first quote was for €1200 (and this is the amount we have from the insurance company)
The quote we got yesterday was for €3300

Second Nissan Quote August 2011 (there has been no further damage)
The possibility existed, of course, that the previous quote was ridiculously low for what needed doing. To find out, today, she took her car to the Toyota Dealership beside the Nissan garage. The quote? €1160.

Quote from Toyota Dealership August 2011
She emailed Nissan Ireland yesterday and we haven't received a reply. Do we expect one? I would normally expect a reply to an email like that within -- at the most -- 48 hours. We've told them that one of their franchises is gauging customers. As it stands, however, the repair will be done by the Toyota Dealership. And you know, it might be time to look at a nice little Yaris. Because, to be completely honest, we're sick of dealing with our local Nissan Dealership.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Queer Gleek ramblings: Klaine and Brittana and stuff

I can't quite get Kurt and Blaine's  (Klaine!) kiss from the most recent episode of Glee out of my head. And it's not just that the kiss was kind of perfect. And it's not just that we almost never see gay kisses on television, but those are both bound to be parts of it.

I'm just starting to get a bit overwhelmed at how the writers in Glee have managed to pull this off so well.

Of all the things Glee does, the most incredible thing is how it artfully dances through minefields. The writers and cast have managed to be representative without being tokenistic; they've avoided stereotypes without losing the identities (class, sexual, gender, racial) of each character; they've navigated stories of identity in teenagers, and in the cases of their queer characters -- that's right, there's more than one, so far Kurt, Blaine, Brittany, Santana and Karofsky are all not straight -- they've managed to humanise what so many Anti-Prop 8 type campaigns have failed to.

So that's, what? Five queer characters in a show with a regular ensemble cast of fewer than 20 people. Karofsky is not a regular character, although it's been suggested that his story will be featured more prominently in coming episodes. But still, that leaves about 20% of the regular cast that isn't straight.

The Santana and Brittany story is unfolding right now, so it's hard to really give it an overview. But the way it appears is this: the two have been fooling around for quite some time, under the rationalisation that fooling around with another girl isn't cheating ("The plumbing is different," says Santana). But slowly we're learning that Santana may well be a lesbian, while Brittany is happy with her boyfriend, Artie, we are still left quite clear that Brittany is bisexual and has always had feelings for Santana. So it was easy to expect that when Santana came running to Brittany to tell her she loved her, that Brittany would immediately dump her boyfriend and ride off into the sunset with her lesbian love. But they didn't do that. Here, bisexuality is being handled well, with the character being someone we already know and love and who isn't angry/unstable/dishonest. It will be interesting to see how Santana -- the angry, bitchy and sexually confident girl -- evolves as she comes out as gay (if that's indeed what is happening).

Kurt and Blaine are both gay, although Blaine explored the possibility that he was bisexual after a drunken kiss with Rachel at a party. It should be noted that he managed to explore his bisexuality without hurting people or cheating, or being dishonest or becoming a serial killer -- all things that unfortunately tend to go hand in hand with bisexual representations in the media. But in the end, realised that he was "100% gay" (to Kurt's delight).

To be honest, (and feel like a total traitor to the ladies) Kurt and Blaine is the relationship I love the best. In the words of people significantly younger and hipper than I, I "ship" Klaine.

First, Kurt is a marvelous character. For those of you who don't know, Kurt wasn't originally in the show. After Chris Colfer auditioned for a different role, they created a character for him -- even going so far as to name the character Kurt after Colfer's role in The Sound of Music. From the beginning, Kurt is the outsider of outsiders. He can't help it. Not only is Kurt effeminate, but he lives alone with his mechanic father since he lost his mother at a young age. Kurt's also a countertenor and has a high-pitched speaking voice that sets him apart from the other boys, even if his clothing and demenour didn't. Now that he's at Dalton (which I'm convinced is temporary), we don't get to see his outlandish dress sense so much, so sometimes you forget how different he really is. Until he curtsies on stage, that is.

The story arc where Kurt admits he is gay and ultimately tells his father is almost expertly crafted. It's idealised, of course, -- Glee is a musical comedy by genre -- and the father admits he knows but that it freaks him out and he doesn't know what to do.

And Blaine is idealised too. While Kurt ends up at Dalton Academy -- a posh private school -- to escape the bullying at McKinley High, he does so on the back of his father (and new step-mother)'s life savings, and even that will only keep him there a year. Blaine gives another impression -- and although his home life has never been explored -- we know that he's from money and privilege. He's also not effeminate. He has a lot of advantages Kurt hasn't. But he's sound. The first time we meet him, he names his privilege too. He cares. We see the effect marginalisation can have on someone even with all these advantages. Being gay is the single dent in Blaine's well-adjusted armour. He transfered to Dalton (which has a zero-tolerance bullying policy) after having trouble at his last school. Blaine seems comfortable in himself and tries things out with absolute confidence that the world will bend to his terms. But Blaine looks out for the new kid who arrives and is so out of place. He even tries to help him confront Karofsky at McKinley. And while he's occasionally clueless and sometimes condescending (and I applaud the inclusion of these character traits), he is mostly pretty cool. Blaine is also a dreamboat. Just saying.

While we almost expect the world to fail people like Kurt, because it does on so many levels, it's important to show that when it comes to gay things, the world just fails. Blaine shows us that.

David Karofsky, the bully football player who shoved Kurt into his locker, and later kissed him, shows us another way the world fails gay people. We have to assume, or guess, because we don't know much about his background, that he has a less supportive family and group of friends than Kurt and Blaine have. Karofsky is plainly terrified of coming out. He doesn't question whether it's right for people to bully gay people -- he just knows that if he's gay, people will bully him.

All this means we have a rainbow of gays. From out and proud to closeted and terrified.

And Glee continues to rock.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Probable Irish government already hopelessly out of touch

I've accepted it. I'm horribly depressed by it, but it seems the people of my adopted country are going to vote in the dicks at Fine Gael. They might even be the sole party in government. In fact, I kind of hope they are.

It's been said that a vote for Fine Gael is a vote for Fianna Fail in four years' time. I think that is true only if Labour join Fine Gael in coalition.

The Fine Gael strategy is unrealistic, capitalistic and full of holes. It will not work. Whoever goes in coalition with them will end up chewed up and spat out like so many Greens and Progressive Democrats. Nobody remembers the good done by the Greens, although they did accomplish several things that Fianna Fail would never have considered if they'd had the choice. Unfortunately, tainted by association, the Greens are almost obliterated.

Labour's best bet right now is to become the strongest opposition party. They need to be able to stand up and represent the people of Ireland who are definitely not represented by the earth-destroying, uber-capitalist, Christianist lunatics of Fine Gael.

Labour had the best ideas, but their campaign failed on a huge scale. They appealed to their base -- yes. But they didn't even appear to try to appeal to older people and rural people. They bragged about polling high in Dublin when they should have kept their smug mouths shut. They produced ads that were all words. Those slow to read wouldn't have paid a bit of attention. In short, Labour don't deserve to win this election. But they now have four years to campaign, and do it right.

This week, there is an uproar over Fine Gael's Equality spokesmoron Lucinda Creighton opining that marriage was simply not open to gay people and shouldn't be. She time warped a couple decades back and used the argument that marriage is about procreation. We can all look forward to Creighton's first bill annulling the marriages of the elderly, infertile and those who use contraceptives. We also look forward to her wedding and the very speedy proof of her eligibility to marry by spawning as soon as possible.

But the gay marriage thing is ridiculous for more that the reasons presented. It's ridiculous because the Irish people support it.
THE majority of people want gay marriage to be legalised.
More than six out of every 10 voters believe same-sex marriages should be recognised by the State, according to the latest Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne survey.
The figures show just 27pc of voters are opposed to the idea of gay marriage

Ireland is so totally unlike North America, where the courts tend to legislate for minority rights long before these have popular support. In Ireland, these rights have popular support but the politicians are genuinely shit and refuse to legislate for equality, despite the popular support.
The people of Ireland are better people than those intending to represent them. They are hard working and honest. They care whether their friends and children have the same rights as they have. They look at the church with skepticism, and even if they still go,  are happy to take the comfort they get from their religious practice without obeying all the petty rules that might go along with it.

Unfortunately, they vote for people whose ideas are not as sophisticated, nuanced or as fair as their own. That said, the only real option was Labour and, as I've said, they practically threw the campaign. They were actually more popular before they started campaigning.

Will someone please wake me when the 4 years are up? Cheers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Queer Faith

My best friend is Catholic. Properly Roman Catholic, she even enjoys going to mass. I abuse her for it. I mean, she's a queer. Why would she involve herself in an institution that has never done anything but belittle all that she is? We can rarely enjoy a drink together that I don't have a go at her for it.

As for myself, I left the church when I realised I was gay. It was heart-breaking because I felt I had a vocation within the church. I was planning to go to grad school to get my M.Div. and hopefully be the pastor of a church someday. I was lucky that I was in a progressive branch of my denomination. Being a woman would hold me back a little in practice, but officially, they were ok with it. And it all fell apart when I realised I was gay.

I might not have left the church altogether had I remained in Canada. At home, there is at least 1 protestant denomination -- The United Church of Canada -- which is full-on affirming of gay people in their churches and in ministry. Other protestant denominations struggle with the issue but you're likely to find individual churches that will welcome a same-sex couple. I, however, was a baptist. There would be no welcome in my own church for me.

I knew that well ahead of knowing I was gay. At one point, I had a discussion with a woman from church whose child I often babysat. Ellen had just come out and still had her sitcom. Nadine (not her real name) argued that she shouldn't be shown on television. Even as an evangelical who hadn't yet questioned the stock teaching on gays, I was anti-censorship. No, I said, censorship is bad. What if they try to censor Christians? After all, as an evangelical, I was brainwashed into the "Christians are already marginalised" mentality. Best to leave it be and simply police what your children watch, lest censorship be used against Christians in the near future.

My rhetoric proved unconvincing, and I was never asked to babysit again. Another religious girl I know was drafted to care for those children. She was objectively a better Christian, apparently. She had long hair and long skirts to prove it, and certainly never questioned whether a gay person should be allowed on television, making people laugh.

I guess I wouldn't mind except that I would have agreed with Nadine that homosexuality was wrong. I'd never questioned it. In fact, I have burned into my brain a conversation at the local tea room with another ministry hopeful about Ellen and "the gay". I stated that it was unquestionably wrong. The last time I saw her was the first time I went to the only gay bar within reach. I hope she understood.

Not long after I came out, I moved away, and when I arrived on this side of the pond, I did look for affirming churches. For a brief period of time, I tried to keep my faith alive by myself. But more and more, news report after news report, I found out how hard God's people make it to love God. As it happened, I haven't lived anywhere in over a decade where I have had access to an affirming Christian community. There are now some affirming churches in places I have lived in the last decade, but they weren't there when I was.

And if I found one, would I go? This is the question I no longer can answer. I am closer to atheism than I have ever been in my life. At the same time, it takes little or nothing to move me back to opening the Bible. Still, something, the years of exile, perhaps? Or that I've learned that I can trust nothing that isn't empirically real? Something makes me think I can never go back to the kind of faith I had as a student. Even then, I shuddered at the emotional, manipulative, and downright ridiculous tactics that were employed in my own church to make people feel like they were part of something supernatural. Have I thrown the baby out with the bathwater? Or did I just imagine the baby in the first place?

Sure, others have been where I am. Many Christians would insist I am in my wilderness years, being away only to arrive in a better place. I had a friend who came from the same church I did, who moved away from home and broke free. She drank, she danced, she dated a guy who already had a girlfriend. She hung out with my wife and I when we were dating. But she went back. I remember all too well her response to our wedding invitation. She wouldn't attend our wedding -- she couldn't condone a same-sex wedding, but she would love to see us. It made me physically sick to my stomach. To this day, I don't know if I could look her in the eyes. My Catholic mother said pretty much the same. She was happy to attend our "party" (wedding reception), but not our wedding. I had to remind her that she'd been invited to neither. We were married in a church in Nova Scotia amongst friends and family who supported us. It was wonderful.

My search for meaning -- absurd as it may be -- is a search for something that might reconcile my instinct towards faith and my need for intellectual honesty. It turns out what started as a handicap -- being gay -- in my search for faith has become more of a clearing house. No faith that breeds hate and exclusion need apply. Others manage to keep their faith alive despite the onslaught of hate from fellow believers. For me, however, I will continue my search keeping in mind

Matthew 7:15-20 "Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits." (NJB)

I'm going out on a (rather sound) limb to list some recent rotten fruits: covering up child sexual abuse, supporting a law to put homosexuals to death, condoning harmful lies about "change", attempting to enforce Christianity through the law.

How does one navigate faith and honesty in this confused age?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life's big questions

I'm just playing with google, but I thought these were fun.

I do think some of the results were localised for Ireland. I only caught on after a a while, so you'll see one that's US localised, but the others are all .ie

Anyway, silly blog post, hoping to make you all smile with some of life's big questions ... or at least Google's.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Super exciting new blog! really!

I've started a new project.

Indulging my obsession with coming out stories -- those of the famous and those of the not at all famous -- it's called Big Gay Closet.

I'm going to include stories of my own coming out, from drabbles to full on narratives. And I'll be inviting others to contribute their stories too. I think it could be really valuable resource for people thinking of coming out, and for people like me, who just love the kind of community feeling I get when reading these experiences, at once so unique and so uniting.

Also, it'll discuss news stories related to people coming out, running back in, and being dragged kicking and screaming out of the big gay closet.

Please drop by, and follow my new twitter account (@BigGayCloset) as well!

I'm just dying for my first contributor. Hint, hint.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A new art purchase this year

In December I got my beautiful wife to agree to take down the terrible painting of the girl who appears to have some kind of impossibly curved spine. This means I get to buy something to put in its place.

I've been researching furiously, setting criteria in place.

What we buy should be either

1. local (Ireland = local for our purposes) or local to where I'm from.
2. by a LGBTQ artist
3. by someone known to us

So I've been surfing all around looking at Irish artists, Maritime Canadian artists and gay artists in general.

We've only purchased one print and that was last year -- by a gay artist, Noah Grey.

Other than that, we have in our home Spintal Curviture Woman and the Painting I Will Never Be Rid Of (because grandfather-in-law gave it to us) titled "Lady in Purple" or as it is known here, Insipid Woman.

It's the beginning of our search. We don't have a lot of money, so it won't be someone well known, but it will be meaningful. So yeah, the search starts now.


Pastor Ssempa Lies about Uganda's Kill-the-Gays Bill

Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 has attracted all kinds of unwanted attention from the world.
President Obama briefly spoke out against it at the Family-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast, calling it “odious”.

Ugandan Pastor (and former break dancing champion!), Martin Ssempa, has responded to President Obama’s condemnation of the bill here.
Ssempa, who calls himself, “A passionate voice in the global fight against HIV/AIDS” responded to Obama’s comments in a statement, published by Kampala’s Family Policy and Human Rights Centre, available here.
Martin SsempaHe starts:
President Barack Obama makes two mistakes; first Ugandaʼs anti-homosexuality law only prescribes the capital punishment in cases where the victims are children or the handicapped.
So he’s saying that the death penalty will only apply for pedophiles, statutory rape, or having sex with a disabled person.
That sounds sensible. But it’s a lie.
The relevant section of the bill: (Anything quoted directly from the Bill will be in italics)

3. Aggravated homosexuality.
(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;
(b) offender is a person living with HIV;
(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;
(f) offender is a serial offender, or
(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or
thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have
unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,
(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction
to suffer death.
(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a
medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Let’s go through this line by line.
3 (1) a. This appears to apply the death penalty to anyone who has homosexual sex with a person under 18, regardless of consent or the age of the “offender”. Thus the 18 year old lover of a 17 year old could be put to death. However, this does seem to be consistent with Uganda’s heterosexual age of consent law.
b. If the offender is HIV positive. This section puts no requirement on the law to prove that the “offender” had any knowledge of her of his status, and in fact provides in 3 (3) that an HIV test may be performed on anyone caught engaged in a an act of “aggravated homosexuality”. It also fails to specify whether the other partner must be HIV negative in order for a crime to have been commited. Barrier methods appear to be ignored in this case. It appears two HIV positive partners using barrier methods, neither of whom are aware of her or his HIV status could be put to death under this section.
c. and d. refer to having homosexual sex with your own children or people over whom you have authority or responsibility. This should clearly be offenses, regardless of the sexuality of the people involved. Death penalty offense? Debatable.
e. If the victim is a person with a disability. For the purposes of this bill, the word “victim” is defined as an unwilling participant (and therefore thankfully excludes convicting the sighted partner of a consenting blind person). Like c. and d., this exists to protect the vulnerable. Again, whether the death penalty should apply probably depends on your view of the death penalty.
f. This is the one they all wish we’d ignore. In this bill, a “serial offender” is defined as: a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences

Homosexuality is defined in the bill as well. “homosexuality” means same gender or same sex sexual acts. A person who is convicted of homosexuality (they use the plural so I’ll assume more than once) and re-offends can also be subject to the death penalty. A person who has had homosexual sex three times in her or his life could be put to death, if she or he were convicted for each instance.

Also — related offenses? What are those?

7. Aiding and abating homosexuality.
8. Conspiracy to engage in homosexuality.
9. Procuring homosexuality. by threats, etc.
10. Detention with intent to commit homosexuality.
11. Brothels.
12. Same sex marriage.
13. Promotion of homosexuality.
14. Failure to disclose the offence.

So the death penalty could well be applied to the allies of lesbians and gays, and those who would prefer their friends/family members/colleagues didn’t get put to death and therefore fail to report homosexual activity.
Secondly, homosexuals and lesbians are never targetted for who they are, rather what they do.
(from Martin Ssempa’s statement)
I hate to nitpick (no wait, I love to) but the very definition of “lesbian” in the bill is: a female who engages in sexual intimacy with another female. The very definition of lesbian in the bill is a woman defined by her sexual activity with another woman.

Another problem with this particular offense of Aggravated Homosexuality is that it confuses rape with consensual homosexual activity. Sections c., d. and g. (and to some extent a.) deal with sexual activity with someone who either denies consent, or is not lawfully able to consent, either through malicious intoxication, disability or age.

So, surprise, he’s lying, and it’s obvious from the text of the bill he endorses that the bill has nothing to do with HIV/AIDS prevention as he would have us all believe. One last quote from the bill will speak for itself. Spot the many mentions of HIV/AIDS prevention.

3.0. The objectives of the Bill
The objectives of the Bill are to:
(a) provide for marriage in Uganda as that contracted only between a man and a woman;
(b) prohibit and penalize homosexual behavior and related practices in Uganda as they constitute
a threat to the traditional family;
(e) prohibit ratification of any international treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and
declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of this Act;
(d) prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.

I welcome any and all comments and corrections.

Reblogged from here