Europe


Rarely do my boyfriend’s passion for online chess and my own interests intersect; generally, the agreement is that I will read feminist news sites and pop culture blogs on my computer, and he will sit in his corner playing chess and reading BBC sports.  Everyone is comfortable with this.  His “corner” is in the bedroom whereas my station is in the living room, so we will even occasionally send emails back and forth of amusing video links, separated as we are by 20 feet and a door.  He is not supposed to talk to me if I am trying to write a blog post, and I am not allowed to distract him if he’s contemplating a move in any of the 20 games he is generally playing at a time.  This is our quiet time.

But naturally, he was compelled to send me a link to the new G-Star Raw adverts, featuring young Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, and I was obliged to be terribly amused.  Magnus is a 19-year-old Norwegian chess prodigy and the third-youngest Grandmaster in history, achieving the ranking at just 13 years of age.  As per Wikipedia: (more…)

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It’s only a game-deciding goal in the World Cup.  A reasonable venue for the worst call of all freakin’ time.  There are about three American players being fouled, and yet the ref somehow managed to see something no one else in the entire stadium world could.  Amazing.

A week ago I had an appointment with the British Home Office in Croydon to upgrade my immigration status from a sponsored Work Permit to Tier 1 Visa as a Highly-Skilled Worker, for which I am newly qualified.  My reasons for this are two-fold:  for one, I am job-hunting, and this grants me the ability to work for any employer in any industry within the UK, rather than relying on new sponsorship within my current profession; secondly, although I still have over two years remaining on my Work Permit, I thought it best to get in there fast to take advantage of the recently relaxed requirements for Tier 1 qualification before the new Tory coalition government clamps down on immigration policy.  It means that I can continue to live and work in the UK without dependence on a company or a partner, which is a pretty sweet deal, even if it does cost £1095 for the privilege.

Like anyone would, I jumped at the opportunity to combine my passion for navigating bureaucratic red tape with the thrilling roller-coaster ride that is the uncertainty of employment and immigration status.  It’s like visiting the DMV, but with your livelihood on the line!  Already a “highly-strung” personage, I’ve found the experience to be nerve-wracking, especially on top of the dozen job interviews I’ve had over the last couple of months.  I feel like I’ve been living in an uneasy state of limbo and have been hopeful that at least settling this aspect of my existence here in London would bring some clarity.

Alas, it was not to be.  Here’s what’s happened so far. (more…)

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that “twincest” is a neologism you don’t need to impart into your regular vocabulary, but it is raised in a recent Salon article on Milo and Elijah Peters, 19-year-old Czech twins who have caused a stir in the gay porn community.  The twins reportedly first showed up on the website of Bratislava-based porn distributor Bel Ami in the summer of 2009 in group videos, not touching.  Over a period of months, they progressed to mutual handjobs within a group scenario, then blowjobs, then oral sex, and finally (and hugely publicized), anal intercourse.

Thomas Rogers explains:

While the concept of twin performers is not new to the gay porn world, the Peters twins are notable both because of the extent of their popularity and the things they are willing to do with each other on camera. They French kiss; they perform oral sex on each other; they have anal sex; and most shockingly of all, they do it in a tender and romantic way.

“My brother is my boyfriend, and I am his boyfriend,” says one of the twins during a phone call from Prague (Elijah and Milo sound so much alike on the phone it is impossible to tell which one is speaking). “He is my lifeblood, and he is my only love.”

The twins’ astonishing lack of shame — and their willingness to do anything with each other on camera — has helped turn them into a gay porn phenomenon. Since they first began appearing on Czech porn studio Bel Ami’s website (NSFW, like all links in this story) in 2009, the company’s traffic has doubled to 1.5 million users per month, and Milo and Elijah have become the subject of breathless coverage on adult blogging sites like Fleshbot and The Sword. They’ve even been flown from Prague to the United States for a whirlwind tour of Florida gay nightspots. But their surprising popularity raises some disturbing questions: Who are these twins? What keeps so many people watching them? And what, exactly, are viewers getting off on?

Rogers doesn’t quite answer all these worthy questions in the article, but they are certainly worth a ponder.  First, the boys themselves:  they’re cute and twinky, no doubt about it, and either one of them on their own could likely make a small splash, but in combination?  Titillation dynamite.  They even have a YouTube channel to give their fans access to their lives (the video below, in which they talk about their upcoming trip to Florida, is SFW): (more…)

I take great pleasure in helping out people looking for directions or guidance, in so far as I am able.  Here in London, exasperated tourists will approach me with varying  degrees of English competency on the regular, looking for assistance in locating their destination; I am always delighted to point them in the right direction, when I can, drawing maps on a notepad or even walking them partway if I have nowhere important to be.  Even though this is not my home country, this is just good hospitality, and I like to do my best to send folk on their way with a positive impression, just as I rely on fellow Londoners to help me out when I’m in an unfamiliar part of town.  I am a big believer in asking for, and offering, directions.

So this is, as I said, just good hospitality, and ultimately good karma.  It’s not a big city, but it is a busy and twisting one, and we all need a little help from time to time.  I was recently thinking, however, about the people I call Travel Angels.  These are the people you meet in the course of your journey who go far out of their way to assist you, and leave you with a warm feeling in the pit of your belly, the people who replenish your basic faith in humanity, however grand or small the gesture.  These gestures are always poignant, but especially so in a foreign setting when you are wary of your vulnerability.

This is more than essential kindness, and more than giving directions.  These acts require the Angel to take time away from themselves to see you safely to your destination, or extend their welcome to the point of invitation into their own lives.  It’s the person who sees you on your own in an unfamiliar place and invites you to a Lebanese family supper, or offers to drive you 30 miles out of their way (both experiences from my own life).  With that thought, I wanted to detail four instances of Travel Angels and invite you to share your own.

(more…)

I guess I’m going to get used to looking at this man’s forehead because David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party here in the UK, has just left Buckingham Palace as new Prime Minister following Gordon Brown’s resignation.  The Liberal Democrats have formed a coalition with the Tories to take the Labour Party out of power for the first time since Tony Blair’s historic election in 1994.

I’d love to offer some devastating and insightful analysis of this development, but even after attempting to follow the debates and news programs for the last two weeks, I’m still scratching my head.  Since I can’t vote here, I spend much more time and energy keeping up with US politics, but here’s the wee bit that I’ve gleaned: (more…)

I went to Malta for five nights over the Easter holiday and have subsequently shifted through the 200+ photos from the trip trying to determine what might be worth sharing with my family or possibly posting about.  Although I know next to nothing about automobiles, I am an appreciator of classic vehicular aesthetics, and so writing about the buses in Malta is an imperative – I’ve never come back from a holiday with 10+ pictures of buses before, but this was exceptional.

The Boy and I stayed in Qawra on the northern part of the island, which we quickly discovered was not as happenin’ as more central areas like Saint Julian’s Bay, Sliema/Paceville, or even Valletta, the capital.  Fortunately, the bus service was cheap, accessible, and charming (for the most part).

The buses in Malta are, in a word, supercool.  They reminded me of the Weinermobile, as they are painted mustard yellow and hotdog orange and have excellent chrome detailing.  We took six or seven different buses during our stay there and while they ranged in vintage, every one displayed prominent Catholic iconography on the interior, which was actually more appealing than it sounds.  Several of the older buses featured a thrilling hop-on door that didn’t close, so we could see the countryside whizzing past as we barreled down the exceptionally well-maintained roads: (more…)

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