Friday, 23 October 2009

UK recession not receding...

The UK is now officially in its longest recorded recession, as official figures released by the government today reveal a 0.4% drop in gross domestic product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2009. This came as quite a shock as many economists were forecasting (rather prematurely, it seems) an end to the recession, after five (and now six) consecutive quarters where growth fell, on the eve of the reporting of these figures. What this bad news reaffirms is that nobody knows shit...or to put it more eloquently, in the wise words of the Victorian economist Alfred Marshall, economics is 'not a body of concrete truth but an engine for the discovery of concrete truth'.
To all my friends in the UK, what this means for you is that you are going to have to persevere for a bit longer. A recovery is not possible without greater consumer confidence and on a day like today, confidence is going to take a beating. To really add salt to your wounds, whatever you're earning in GB£ just fell in value a little bit more against both the US$ and the Euro as of this morning. Times are hard but all we can do is keep doing what we're doing.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Censorship in a pluralist society? No, thank you!

The BBC has been criticized by certain members of the British Cabinet and anti-fascist groups for its decision to invite the leader of the UK's British National Party, onto its popular Question Time programme. The BNP is a far-right, whites-only political party that has only recently gained marginal democratic legitimacy to their extremist agenda through victory of some seats at UK elections at local and European levels, although they have yet to gain any representation at parliamentary level. Nick Griffin, the BNP's leader, who became a UK Member of European Parliament this past May, will be appearing tonight as a part of Question Time's panel. Opponents of the BNP argue that it is wrong to give media representation on such a high-profile programme to a figure whose sole purpose seems to be to incite racial hatred. After all, the BBC is a publicly-funded corporation based in a country that prides itself on its multicultural diversity and inclusivity.

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, defends its decision to invite Nick Griffin onto Question Time with the argument that it is the broadcaster's duty to allow the public 'to hear the full range of political perspectives' and that to succumb to political pressures and rescind its invitation to Nick Griffin is to breach its 'central principle of impartiality'. I couldn't agree more. The exclusion of a group like the BNP, no matter how vile and ignorant and completely regressive I may find them, is tantamount to censorship and such an act threatens what is precious and magnificent about a pluralist society like contemporary Great Britain - freedom of speech and expression. Yes, people like the BNP and Nick Griffin will test the boundaries of one's conviction for such types of freedom but alas, this kind of complexity is a part of living in a truly democratic society, one with enough sophisticated and educated people who can decide for themselves what ideas they can be exposed to and more importantly, how they will process such ideas.

Is it entirely possible that the BBC is generating this controversy for some sort of superficial gain, e.g. media interest and higher ratings? Of course, it is. Then, again, being the sole publicly-funded broadcaster in the UK, it's not like the BBC could be accused of drumming up media attention and publicity in order to gain new sponsors and advertisers.

Having said all that, I cannot wait to witness the bloodbath that will take place tonight. The other members of the panels are the Conservative peer, Lady Warsi, who is of Pakistani descent and a lawyer by trade so I am sure she won't be at lost for words in her encounter with Griffin, Jack Straw, the justice secretary, Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman and Bonnie Greer, a black American playwright and critic who lives in Britain. Nick Griffin might see this as an opportunity to take on 'the enemy' but I see this as an opportunity for an educated man (believe it or not, the man graduated from Cambridge University...albeit, with a 2:2) to be exposed for the fool that he is. In The Guardian, where I read about this story, I was particularly compelled by what Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, had to say:

'I have always thought we have to take the BNP on. I have always thought they condemn themselves as soon as they open their mouths. In a democracy where they have elected representatives not just at European level but at local level it is very difficult for a broadcaster to exclude them … We should not give these people the opportunity to claim they are being gagged'.

In other words, by giving them this platform, the BBC may have just given the BNP the pistol with which it may shoot itself in the foot. Here's hoping.

Monday, 12 October 2009

I can't wait to H.A.T.E.U.

How much fun is Mariah Carey? Oh, my goodness! This video was taken at her concert at The Palms in Las Vegas over the weekend. Mariah
shared a very special moment with two fans. It is sweet like candy.

Fuck GI Joe! This is a real American hero!

Discharged National Guard First Lt. Dan Choi spoke at the National Equality March and his stunning battle cry in the fight for equality makes me hope that this fine specimen of a man will soon run for office! West Point graduate Choi appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show back in March, 2009, and spoke out against Don't Ask, Don't Tell. By coming out of the closet so publicly, Choi deliberately challenged a policy that he believes to be immoral and, as he puts it, 'a slap in the face' of soldiers. Soon after his television appearance, the Iraq war veteran received his discharge letter from the government. It seems like what the current civil rights movement really needs is a dynamic leader like Choi; someone who no longer has the patience and tolerance for the ignorance of the right and the empty promises of the left.

Apparently, "Love" really is the answer!

On Sunday, Barbra Streisand's new album, "Love is the Answer", entered the UK album chart at #1, just three days after it also topped the US album chart, giving her the rare feat of having the #1 album in the US and the UK simultaneously. What's exciting about this is that in the age of Kanye West and Lady GaGa, Ms. Streisand has remained at the top of her profession not by pandering to the youth market but by virtue of her unique and incredible talent and passion for her work! With "Love is the Answer", Barbra broke her own record of most consecutive decades with an US #1 album, spanning the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and now, the 2000s. Hello and congratulations, gorgeous!!!

I love, love, LOVE Cynthia Nixon

Watch this amazing actress/public school system advocate/human rights activist give a rousing speech at the National Equality March over the weekend! Yes, yes, yes!!! She is so spot on about how the repeal of the Defense Of Marriage Act is mandatory and even if there was same sex marriage in all fifty states, not all citizens and families are equally protected under the law if DOMA still stands! People have to realize that this is not only about the right to throw a big party and declare and celebrate your love (as important and beautiful as that is!) but it's about giving everybody the same rights to protect themselves and their loved ones from the same economic, social and political challenges, complications and obstacles that every single member of society faces! So, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama, it is time to fulfill the promise of your presidency and 'move beyond words'!

On a side note, it has been widely reported that the currently shooting sequel to 2008's "Sex and the City: The Movie", starring the fabulous Cynthia Nixon herself (along with three other broads who should have been taking part in this march if they cared at all about reciprocating the goodwill that the gay community has given them over the years!) will feature a same sex wedding (I won't give away the parties involved in this union but true fans won't have any trouble speculating!).

I am also posting a video of Lady GaGa speaking at the same rally. It's good to see the hottest singer in pop right now put her money where her mouth is! I love how she actually put on clothes to punctuate how serious a cause this is to her! We love you for doing your part, GaGa...cherry, cherry, boom, boom, indeed! Meanwhile, where the hell was Madonna? Madonna, I will always love you but show your gay fans, the ones who supported you through two divorces, that Pepsi controversy, your Sex book backlash and even, The Next Best Thing, the same love and loyalty that they have always given you!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I Ain't Gotta Feeling No More!

As much as I loved the Black Eyed Peas' 'I Gotta Feeling', I am glad that, as of today, there is a new #1 on the American singles chart. The Black Eyed Peas ends their record-breaking 26 consecutive weeks reign at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart (with their back-to-back releases, 'Boom Boom Pow' and the aforementioned 'I Gotta Feeling') today as they make way for a new face to the US charts. London-born singer, Jay Sean, assumes the #1 position with his US debut single, 'Down'. What excites me about Jay Sean's success is not only the fact that he's another British recording artist who has conquered the US pop chart, it's the fact that Jay Sean is of Sikh Punjabi descent. When was the last time you saw a face like his on US MTV? I know that it seems like I'm obsessed with race but when you're an ethnic minority in the West, you get excited whenever you see any diversity and representation of ethnic minority in the's something that you can truly understand if you grew up in a society where you never saw a face that looked like yours on television...anyway, it's awesome and I'm happy for Jay Sean that he's the one to break through this glass ceiling!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Men of Thailand...oh, boy!

My lil cousin, Jun Chatrakul Na Ayudhya, recently moved from Cambridge, United Kingdom to Bangkok, Thailand to launch a media/performing career and he's doing pretty well, having already landed a pictorial spread in a local lifestyle/fashion magazine. Yes, that's him in the picture above...can't you see the family resemblance? He's just a decade younger and a foot taller than me but other than that, we're practically identical. Okay, well, maybe not exactly identical. He's currently taking part in a male beauty contest (isn't it funny how we have to say 'male beauty', as if women hold the patent on beauty...bitch, puh-leaze!) in Thailand and we need your help so please vote for Jun, M5...which sounds like I'm campaigning for a motorway in the UK.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

National Equality March

The National Equality March takes place in Washington DC this weekend. For those of you living in America, with any sense of civic duty, get yourself to the march this weekend and stand up for the equal legal protection of all citizens and families, regardless of sexual orientation! The world will be watching and as always, America has an amazing opportunity to show the world what it truly stands for.

I love that the current Broadway revival of Hair will be dark this weekend to accommodate the cast's participation in the march! Just coz I feel like namedropping, I wonder if my former director, Diane Paulus, who directed this production of Hair, will also be taking part.

One of my current favorite pop stars, Lady GaGa, will be marching, too, so boys and girls, don't forget to pack your disco sticks for the ride down to DC!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Thai pop goes global!

Tata Young is a female pop singer who has been a star in her native Thailand since she was a teenager. Over the past decade, she has been expanding her fan base across East Asia and India and now, it looks like she's about to go global, becoming the face of Thai pop music to a worldwide audience. I'm so excited about this because Thailand is full of talented people with lots of creativity and drive and for whatever reason in the past, the world stage was not ready for or open to us (yes, basically, this post is all about per usual!). Well, the world is changing and becoming a richer, more interesting place for it. Buzz for Tata Young's third English-language album, Ready For Love (released in late August), has been growing louder and louder and if you check out the music video for the eponymous lead single, you'll understand why! Go, girl...represent!