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04/19/2007


Gay European Tourism Association Calls for Suspension of Visa-Free Travel to EU for Russian Officials

The Gay European Tourism Association is calling on the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström to suspend negotiations on proposals that would give 15,000 Russian officials the right to travel throughout the European Union without visas because of Russia’s recently introduced anti-gay laws.

MalmstromVia press release from GETA:

In the letter Carlos Kytka, Executive Director of GETA, says that “in the 1930s Europe’s failure to speak and act against the state sponsored attacks on sectors of German people, including homosexuals, sent the wrong message to the Nazi Party and emboldened its actions with disastrous consequences for Europe.  The European Union has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and has a duty to act firmly to show its distaste for European countries that threaten the peace and nature of our continent through its repressive actions”.

GETA has also written to the 48 MEPs who earlier this year expressed their concerns about liberalising visa restrictions for Russian officials because of the country’s human rights record, drawing their attention to the subsequent worsening situation and asking them to maintain their opposition.  The European Parliament has the power of veto over all EU bilateral agreements and could scupper any deal with Russia.

GETA is also currently lobbying the International Olympic Committee and European sports ministers to ensure that gay people travelling to Sochi for the Winter Olympics are free to express their support for gay rights without fear of intimidation, violence and arrest.


Travel Icon Arthur Frommer Condemns Russia's Anti-Gay Law, Tells Tourism Industry to Take Action

84-year-old travel guide icon Arthur Frommer has written a lengthy condemnation of Russia's anti-gay laws, alerting his readers to the oppressive laws harming gay people in that country and advising travelers and the tourism industry to take "appropriate action."

Writes Frommer in a blog post: Frommer

Several gay authors of Frommer travel guides have already informed me that they will no longer risk travel to Russia as long as the "pro-gay propaganda" statute is in effect. Some among them are calling for a broader boycott of all travel to Russia by all Americans, gay or not, as a protest against this denial of human rights. They refer not only to the new legislation, but to several recent incidents of physical assaults by prejudiced young Russians against gay persons, none of which seemed to interest Russian police. And of course, officials and athletes preparing to participate in the winter Olympics are seriously concerned.

In the words of another Frommer author: "The new Russian law is extremely dangerous, borne of dark nationalism, and through its virulent ignorance, the stage is set for a witch hunt. History has shown only too clearly what can happen when a government provides for the systematic silencing and disenfranchisement of an unpopular minority".

I will be returning to this subject as additional facts are known about the exact position of the Russian government relating to these two new laws. Certainly, the development should cause grave concern among right-minded people interested in the protection of human rights. As most of us have concluded, prejudice against other Americans because of their sexual orientation is un-American and should be condemned. And when such prejudice prevents Americans from traveling without fear in another country, that prejudice should also be condemned, and appropriate action taken by persons in travel and tourism.

Americans traveling within Russia must now be aware of new laws that criminalize "pro-gay propaganda"--and threaten them with imprisonment or worse [arthur frommer]


A Gay Traveler's Account Of His Trip To Uganda

Clark Harding in Uganda
Clark Harding, writer for Out Traveler, had been planing a trip to Africa to go primate-sighting, to have his "Sigourney moment", as he called it. The only problem was that the best destination to see gorillas in the mist is in Uganda, and Harding was leaving for the country the day after the Ugandan government announced plans to pass its "Kill the Gays" bill. Undeterred, Harding went through with his trip and wrote about it on Out Traveler.

His story contains his friends shocked reactions, farting gorillas, and observations on Ugandan social behaviors:

“This has got to be some kind of joke,” I said to Kristin as we drove through Kampala and in to the back country. Our jet lag was pretty killer. “All the men here hold hands.” Kristin looked out the window and sure enough: dudes were hand-in-hand, hand-in-butt-pocket, pinky-to-pinky...And while [Ugandan officials] fear gays to the point of needing to execute them, little do they realize their male constituents are acting gayer than Westerners.


Duncan Fallowell’s 'How To Disappear: A Memoir For Misfits': Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

Fallowell coverIt’s hard to know how to describe this strange, appealing book, which recounts adventures—geographical, intellectual, sexual—undertaken by the English writer Duncan Fallowell over the last thirty years. It calls itself a memoir, and in Britain the book won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for “literary autobiography”—but this is autobiography of a very peculiar kind, invested in explorations of exotic places and unusual lives rather than in confession or personal revelation.

The lives Fallowell explores are bound by two things: a misfit quality and a talent for disappearance. One piece follows the career of an Indian woman who first marries and then is abandoned by an English nobleman; she spends the rest of her life in obscurity, desperately striving to reclaim her place at the high table of fashionable England. In another, Fallowell is asked to write a profile of an unknown artist who has bought an island in the Hebrides; having traveled there for an interview, he waits with the locals for the new landowner, who never arrives.

Not all of Fallowell’s subjects are quite so obscure. “Who was Alastair Graham?” seeks out an early lover and muse of Evelyn Waugh, who fled his fashionable friends to seek refuge in a fishing village on the coast of Wales. And the final, extremely moving essay takes up Princess Diana, “the most legendary personality of the age,” who “made the most astonishing exit.”

But it’s inadequate to talk about these essays as if they were primarily determined by their subjects. Nearly all of these pieces are structured by chance: a casually acquired Indian Yearbook sets Fallowell off on one adventure; a random encounter in a bar sparks another. In the book’s first piece, recounting a trip to the Maltese island Gozo, a vaguely menacing man repeatedly appears until, through a series of digressions and evasions, we find ourselves of a sudden in a narrative of seduction.

What this means is that Fallowell writes as a great traveler travels: governed by accident, open to possibility, free of any agenda save curiosity. He despises the packaged, controlled experience, insisting instead on openness to surprise and risk. “The crucial fact in all adventures is the gift,” he writes. “Something coming at you unannounced, unscheduled, free of charge, impossible to refuse.”

Even in their investigations, then, these pieces are anything but goal-oriented, and their openness to misdirection allows them an exciting expansiveness. "Nobody has come up with a satisfactory explanation which marries human psychology to history,” Fallowell claims, and as they pursue their individual subjects these essays also meditate on the larger forces shaping those lives: the legacy of British colonialism, the “state terror” deployed against gay men in Britain between the wars, the mad culture of celebrity by which Princess Diana was caught.

Duncan-fallowelThe effects of history are not always what one might expect: in their grief for Diana, Fallowell writes, “People were impassioned but slowed right down. Which are the two best conditions for sex.” He then recounts the “transcendental, unexpected burst of ‘yes’” that fueled a month of seemingly constant sexual encounters.

For all their intellectual pleasures—Fallowell is ever entertaining and sometimes brilliant, quick with aphorisms that nearly always find their mark—it’s the supremacy of sensuous experience that the book finally proclaims, not just “those divine gifts of pleasure and beauty, anguish and excitement in human life which are sex," but also the pleasures of old hotels, of images glimpsed through the windows of trains, of flowers “floodlit by the moon.” One night in India, he writes, “Taking off my clothes and extending my full length I rolled from the top of the hill all the way down, crushing lilies as I went, wetting my naked body with cool lily juice.”

And so the book is a memoir after all, offering not so much the facts of autobiography as an account of vision and value, a kind of manifesto for an impassioned life lived far from the usual roads. “If you are drawn by something or someone,” Fallowell writes, “you have to give it a try,” which sounds simple enough but often proves so difficult. What’s most moving in these sinuous, surprising essays is the example Fallowell sets as he tries to hold himself to that standard—working to learn, however difficult it is, “how not to be shy of the heart.” 

Previous reviews...
Frank Bidart’s ‘Metaphysical Dog’
Alysia Abbot's 'Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father'
Gerbrand Bakker’s ‘Ten White Geese’
 

Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award as well as a Lambda Award. This fall he will be an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.


Fly Anywhere In The World In 4 Hours Or Less: VIDEO

Sabre Engine

That's the claim being made at Business Insider by chief engineer Alan Bond at Reaction Engines. Unlike Elon Musk's Hyperloop system which combines existing technologies found in Concords, rail guns, and air hockey tables, the "Sabre" jet engine will utilze a brand new technology called a precooler.

The precooler can drop the engine's temperature by 1,000 degrees Celsius in 1/10th of a second, and being able to keep the engine cool means that more power can be exerted, which in turn results in more speed. Bond estimates that the jets would reach speeds of Mach 5 - that is, five times the speed of sound - with relative ease. 

The company's current vision is to enter the air transportation market with a passenger plane that can hold 300 and fly like a rocket, but the $1.1 billion price tag per plane will likely render it accessible to only the extremely well-to-do unless a way of subsidizing the plane's costs can be found.

Test flights are being planned for 2019, and an interview with Bond can be seen AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Fly Anywhere In The World In 4 Hours Or Less: VIDEO" »


Gay Tourists In Russia Face Jail Time, Deportation

Swinton

With Russia's new anti-gay "propaganda" ban now in effect thanks to being approved by the Russian Upper House and signed into law by President Putin, travel site Skift now warns that gays traveling to Russia could face being jailed for up to two weeks before being deported from the country. 

Anything considered pro-gay, from gay-affirmative speech, to gays holding hands in public, to even wearing rainbow suspenders is now illegal.

Evidently the law can be interpreted as such that even existing constitutes propaganda that is a "harmful influence on children." This interpretation of Russia's new law exposes the pathetic bald-faced lie that gays in Russia are "[...]ordinary and equal members of society," who "are not being discriminated against in any way."

With the winter Olympics a mere seven months away, it will be interesting to see how Russia's bigotry plays out on the international stage despite the IOC's assurances that Olympians will not be targeted. We'll see how well the institutionalized bigotry is restrained when Johnny Weir takes to the ice.

(image: Tilda Swinton putting herself at risk)


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