Interview on the Manny Waks Hour, Feb 13 2014

February 15, 2014

Interview on the Manny Waks Hour on J-Air, Feb 13 2014.

“Manny Waks talks Education with Yossi Goldfarb. He talks to Michael Barnett about being gay and Jewish. Devorah Leah Waks calls from Israel for (The Waks Effect) segment.”

Skip to 29 minutes in to hear me, aptly just after the Barbra Streisand song.


Bereft of a cultural identity

October 16, 2013

Today my workplace has foisted upon me “Cultural Diversity Day”.  There have been about two weeks build-up to this grand event, with momentum over the last couple of days growing to fever-pitch amongst the organising teams.  We have been asked to bring in items of food from our cultural background, wear culturally identifying garments (or supply them to be hung on display), bring in items of cultural interest, and so forth.

This has left me totally bewildered, and to a certain extent, depressed.

I don’t have a recognisable cultural identity.  Nor do I want one.  Most especially I don’t want anyone to force me to have one.

Let me explain.

I was born in Australia and as I live here permanently I consider myself Australian.  My parents were born in England and New Zealand.  They don’t particularly consider themselves English or New Zealanderish.  My father probably considers himself more Rhodesian than English anyway, as that is where he grew up, but he’s definitely Aussie these days.

Their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born in England, Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Poland and Belarus.  Aside from my English grandparents on my father’s side, the others would probably have distanced themselves from their national identity.  Why?  They were culturally and ethnically Ashkenazi Jews.

Their Yiddish culture permeated my upbringing, in terms of language, food, identity and heritage.  Yet that is not me.  I do not identify as a Jew, as I believe religion is divisive and creates barriers to equality and harmony.  I enjoy the influences I grew up with, but I don’t cling to them.

And so, as a first generation Australian who does not have an ethnic or religious identity, how do I contribute in an event at my workplace that wants me to label myself with a culture?  Hard call, and one that does not make me very happy to have to do, despite wanting to contribute even in a small if not token way.

Yet I came up with a compromise.  I brought in some lively, uplifting, happy, “freilach” Klezmer music.  Music of my ancestors.  Music I can identify with, that does not have a geography, does not have a specific ideology, that does not label me anything, and most importantly is universally loved and is most definitely cultural.

I am more than a label and I don’t want to have to choose one, or have anyone hang a label on me, as labels are restrictive and can be divisive.

This Cultural Diversity Day at my workplace has been very powerful for me and has allowed me to reflect deeply on who I am.  It will be interesting to see how the day pans out and how I feel at the end of it.  First and foremost though, I am Michael.


VicBears. Are you in yet?

March 9, 2013

http://www.vicbears.org.au


FRIEND Film: Joseph’s Story

October 4, 2012
Please Watch & Share
Joseph’s Story of almost committing suicide & overcoming being bullied.
I would be forever grateful if you would share this amazing story of a young teen on your Facebook Page. I met Joseph in Tennessee while interviewing LGBT teens across America. His story changed my life and inspired me to really honor him in my writing.  Our goal is to get the video viral by October 11 for Coming Out Day.
Once Again Thank You,
Elliot London
FRIEND Film is about a gay & transgendered teenager dealing with coming out in 2012. A world of social networking and social change.

www.indiegogo.com/friendproject
www.facebook.com/myfriend
www.facebook.com/elliotdlondon


Director Elliot London Wants You as Friend to LGBT Youth through

National Awareness Campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

(LOS ANGELES – OCT. 2, 2012) – It’s no doubt difficult being a teenager in today’s society, especially a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered teen.

But through it all, having strong allies and friends does tend to make it easier.

Once a victim of childhood bullying and homophobia himself, film director Elliot London (The Wedding Dance) has embarked today on an empowering and eye-opening campaign across America, hoping to bring awareness to the plight of LGBT youth bullying, and the importance of support systems.

The “Friend Project” is a new campaign showcasing two separate, yet thematically connected digital vignettes from two teenagers in different parts of rural America sharing their raw and tear-jerking stories of growing up gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in the conservative heartland of America.

Starting today, each week for the next two weeks, London will share a new video with the public, with the ultimate goal of bringing these stories and others to life through an upcoming feature film entitled Friend.

In a completely hands-on and hybrid approach, both teenagers are also acting as creative liaisons on the project, having helped integrate their own life stories into the script.

“It’s a film that will bring the narrative and the reality into one,” says London. “We will be integrating a point of view from real life teenage experiences, rather than from a room of writers in Hollywood.”

He continues, “It’s so important that we continue to support and foster true independent American cinema. Unlike many other influential nations, we do not have the luxury of much government funding, grants and support they do for indie cinema, especially in a niche market.”

In the first film,  viewers will get to meet Joseph, a timid, yet courageous 16-year-old boy from Tennessee who once thought suicide was the only way out from the pain and torment that bullying carved into his impressionable young soul.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of Friend is encouraged to visit the project’s IndieGoGo campaign page at indiegogo.com/friendproject All donations are tax-deductible, as this film is being supported through Fractured Atlas, a registered 501(c)3.

 

Contact Information
phone: 310.691.4616
losangeleselliot@yahoo.com


“Gay Pirates” by Cosmo Jarvis (the extended mix)

April 25, 2012


I kissed a man and Allah-ked it

April 17, 2012

A group of radical, fanatical Jihadi Islamic protesters gathered at the Global Atheist Convention on Sunday April 15 2012.  Seemingly they felt that atheism was a threat to humanity and their very existence.

Gregory and I had a smooch in front of these whack-jobs and they started howling that we would “burn in hell”.

Our friend Pete Darwin captured the moment with my trusty Nikon and the rest is history.

A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!

“A couple of my dear friends giving some love back to the protesting Muslims at the Global Atheist Convention today!” — Pete Darwin

There’s been a bunch of coverage online:

If you find any other places that have covered this story, please let me know.

Original photographs on Picasa and Facebook.

Thanks to Katy Perry for inspiration.


Global Atheist Convention 2010

April 12, 2012

I attended the inaugural Global Atheist Convention in 2010.  It was an exhilarating weekend packed with some of the finest speakers from Australia and around the world.  There were so many highlights for me, although perhaps the biggest highlight was getting to meet a long-standing idol Robyn Williams, and more recent source of inspiration, PZ Myers.

PZ Myers, Mikey Bear and Robyn Williams at 2010 Global Atheist Convention Gala Dinner

PZ Myers, Mikey Bear and Robyn Williams at 2010 Global Atheist Convention Gala Dinner

Please enjoy my collection of photographs from the weekend of March 12-14 2010.  I’ve posted them to Picasa, Plus, and Facebook.  I invite your comments.

Stand tuned for the photographs from the second Global Atheist Convention, this coming weekend, April 13-15 2012.

Lastly, recapture some of the excitement from 2010 through the eyes of the Bruce Llama.


Rabbi Moshe Gutnick demands religious exemption for marijuana use to facilitate Jewish gay weddings

April 1, 2012

In what can only be described as a cliff-hanging turn of events, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, has come out and admitted in a submission to the Australian Senate inquiry into Marriage Equality that there has been a fundamental misunderstanding of the Torah that has to this day posed as a religious barrier to gay marriage.

In the Senate submission Rabbi Gutnick stated that the traditional interpretation of the Torah has rendered sex between two men problematic, because the translation of the Torah into English was thought to be that a man should not sleep with another man as he would sleep with a woman, with the penalty for doing so that they both be stoned to death.

He felt that this attitude to homosexuality was deeply troubling and discriminatory and so sought advice from a pool of sage rabbis from around the world.  These rabbis looked at the original wording in the Torah and felt that maybe there had been a misunderstanding of God’s word and that there was room for a better interpretation, one that offered a more acceptable outcome.

After weeks of collaboration, these rabbis unanimously agreed to reinterpret the Torah and provided an English translation that now states that a man should not sleep with a man as he would with a woman, but rather he should sleep with a man differently to how he would sleep with a woman.  However should he be found to be sleeping with a man as he would with a woman, they should both become stoned to a state of holy happiness, except if there’s a dearth of marijuana.

And this is where Rabbi Gutnick has called upon the government to decriminalise the use of marijuana, for strictly religious purposes, to ensure that two men found having the wrong type of sex with each other are dealt with in a more humane and appropriate fashion.  The pool of rabbis agreed that each man should be given a bong and a quantity of marijuana and be instructed to smoke the other man’s pipe until each had reached a state of spiritual redemption.

Rabbi Gutnick clearly expressed in the Senate submission that this relaxation of the use of marijuana would only be required for Jewish men and not for gentiles, as gentiles are spiritually unclean, due to not having had a religious circumcision ceremony.

Most unexpectedly, Rabbi Gutnick apologised to the gay community for his earlier claim that he would be opposing gay marriage and noted that since this religious loophole had been found to the previously problematic issue of homosexuality, he now had no issue with gay marriage, and in fact fully endorsed it, claiming that gay men are now encouraged to “shtoop like rabbits, especially on Shabbat”.

The explanation given in the Senate submission was that he realised that if same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia, he wanted the Jewish community to have unfettered access to the estimated $161 million dollars of wedding spend likely to be outlaid on same-sex marriages.

He said that it would revitalise the kosher catering and hospitality industry, that kosher food suppliers would feel the surge of business and that all manner of Jewish shops and enterprises would thrive from the rush of gay weddings, especially the Jewish diamond and ring merchants.  Rabbi Gutnick went on to say that the kosher butchers would do particularly well because he knew how much gay men liked their meat, and added that the kosher fish-mongers would do particularly well from lesbian weddings.  Rabbi Gutnick went to great pains to explain in the Senate submission that his connection to Kosher Australia should not be perceived as a conflict of interest.

Rabbi Gutnick’s new enthusiasm for gay marriage was evidenced by his statement that Orthodox Judaism was particularly sensitive to the needs of single-sex celebrations, because in traditional heterosexual weddings the men and the women were required to be separated by a mechitzah, and so there was an existing culture of men celebrating with men and women celebrating with women.  He added that it’s actually a principle feature of the religion that men must spent considerable amounts of time with other men, in close confines, in the absence of women.  He said he felt that it was very homoerotic at times, and the headiness of the masculinity in the crowded prayer and study sessions was particularly appealing, especially on those hot days, when the men were dripping with a particularly musky sweat, and were just a little frustrated.  He noted that this frustration was most evident when the men were denied sexual gratification with their wives during their periods of uncleanliness, and further exacerbated by the total religious prohibition on masturbatory relief.

In the summary of the submission, Rabbi Gutnick repeated his apology for the long overdue admission that to deny gay men and women the right to equality was in fact an oppresive and persecutory behaviour and that he had looked back at the history of the Jewish people and felt that he was in no place to call for the superiority of heterosexual Australians over homosexual Australians.

An addendum to the submission included a suggestion that Rabbi Gutnick officiate at the first mass Jewish gay and lesbian wedding in Australia, co-hosted by Adam Hills of the In Gordon St Tonight fame, because he said the ABC studios in Elsternwick were at the centre of the ultra-religious quarter of Melbourne’s Jewish community, and that he was particularly proud of the ground-breaking work that Adam Hills had done to break down barriers in the community around gay marriage.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Rabbi Moshe Gutnick (rabbig@ka.org.au)


My Woolworths Easter Drawing

March 17, 2012

Zombie Easter Bunny

(Download the competition form here and draw your Easter)


Barnett to be married at public expense

March 15, 2012

[SOURCE]

Photographer, blogger, popular Melbourne gay identity and significant Qmelb contributor, Michael Barnett, is to be featured in a mass gay wedding with his handsome partner. The wedding (and what has been advertised as a stag night / hens night) will be hosted on Australia’s national television network’s by comedian Adam Hills over the next two Wednesday evenings. This will clash with Melbourne’s Queer Film Festival. The wedding will be paid for by Australian taxpayers, a service the ABC has never offered to straight couples. At this stage it is not known whether the ABC or Barnett will be releasing a video of the post wedding celebrations.

Michael Glover
East Melbourne

(The Gordon St Mass Same-Sex TV Wedding Extravaganza is just around the corner! This inaugural event will happen on March 26 and airs Wednesday March 28 at 8:30pm.)


The Wedding Dance Film

February 15, 2012

My name is Elliot London…  My passion is making gay cinema…

Today is Valentines Day and I have been working on a beautiful short film (THE WEDDING DANCE) about Equality in a different perspective. I would be so ever grateful if you would take a look at this 3 minute film and consider posting it on this special day where loving one another is important.

http://youtu.be/vp6oUb0_DlY

The objective with this project is to raise money for our feature film FRIEND. A film about coming out in 2012. A time now when things are so different with social networking. A time now that a child might not have the correct tools to coupe with humiliation in an instant world.
FRIEND is about giving back. Its a movie about accepting and loving oneself but most of all it is about educating. With the proceeds from this film I am going to be donating the profits to groups that help educate at risk youth… If we can raise $10,000 to make our last film with social networking. Than $250,000 can be done. Please take a look at the campaign we have started. Please share this film…

Thank You
Elliot London

FRIEND
indiegogo/myfriend

Sound Track to THE WEDDING DANCE is available for .99 on iTunes and we are putting all the funds from the iTunes sales towards the feature film.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-wedding-dance-single/id502020650


Pride March 2012 and Habo joins the ranks

February 7, 2012

Sunday Feb 5 2012 saw the 17th Victorian Pride March.  The weather forecast was 33 degrees C, windy and thunderstorms.  I guess that’s Melbourne for you.

There were close on 120 entrants in the parade (that’s organisations, not people), which is a remarkable effort.  Check out the march order for the who’s who.

I was again running the Aleph Melbourne entry, ably assisted by Mike and Doobie.  Through the powers of social networking and the Internet we pulled together a pleasingly sized group of guys and girls of all ages to fly the flags and show their queer pride and cultural heritage.

Joining the team this year was a straight ally, Dr Mark Cherny.  I was especially pleased Mark came on board as he is trying hard to break down the barriers and isolation for same-sex attracted people in the Jewish community.

One of the highlights for me at Pride March this year was seeing Habonim Dror (or just “Habo”) enter a contingent.  Habo is a mainstream Jewish youth organisation with a strong social justice conscience.  When I was in New York watching the pride parade there in 2007 I was overwhelmed seeing Habo flying a massive flag and fielding a strong presence.  At first I couldn’t believe my eyes, but gradually my disbelief was replaced by exhilaration, and an ear to ear grin.  Wow.

And the Habo Wow has continued over the last few years here in Melbourne, with increasing numbers of Habo members joining the Equal Love Marriage Equality rallies in Melbourne.  These young adults are amongst the best role models I have seen in ages.  Most are not queer, but they are passionately supportive of queer equality and are prepared to stand up and show their support.

And on a windy Melbourne day in Fitzroy Street, a large group of Habo members turned up, in uniform, accompanied by placards of support and made a strong statement in support for queer equality.  Thank you.

I look forward to the 2013 Pride March and the return of Habo, and Mark, and Mike (and his two Poochons) and Doobie and the rest of the great team, and hopefully many other supportive Jewish (youth) organisations, from a community that is learning gradually that it’s better to include than exclude.

P.S.  I’ve posted my photos from the day on Picasa and Facebook.  You can see my photos and blogs from previous pride marches here.


Merv Barnett on Aleph Melbourne’s exclusion from the JCCV

December 28, 2011

My father Merv Barnett penned this cartoon in June 2008 in response to a JCCV advertisement in the Australian Jewish News showing the dozens of organisations represented by the JCCV.  Glaringly absent from the tree of community organisations was Aleph Melbourne, or any other organisation representing the interests of GLBT Jews.  Needless to say this is still the case.  Hopefully 2012 will bring a more positive outlook toward GLBT Jews from the JCCV’s leadership.

20080621 Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett

Aleph Melbourne beyond the JCCV fence - Merv Barnett - 21 June 2008


Christmas Day 2011

December 26, 2011

Yesterday was Christmas Day.  For me it is the culmination of an annoying time of the year when I avoid shopping centres and am surrounded by a peculiar sense of cheer that is predominantly about gift-giving, family coming together and consuming food and wine.  It doesn’t seem to me to be a time that most care to reflect on what it is they’re actually celebrating.  Not that most these days would want to.

It’s not a time of the year that evokes any fond childhood memories in me, and in fact aside from the pleasure gained from having learnt some of the more traditional Christmas carols at the state primary school I attended, Christmas then was actually a time of the year that made me feel awkward.  This was because I had to tell those students at school who got all sorts of fabulous gifts for their Christmas that I didn’t get presents from Santa because my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, a completely incomprehensible concept for them.

I saw my first white Christmas yesterday, not that it mattered an iota to me, although it was unusual for an Australian summer.  There was a violent hail-storm over much of Melbourne mid-afternoon.  It was stormy all day, and in fact from first thing, before I got up to go to the gym at 7:30am there had been rolling thunder looming.  I quite enjoyed the tempest, but I was concerned that my car might have been damaged by the hail.  Fortunately mine escaped unscathed, unlike others that I saw had holes through their windscreen in very telling fashion.

Annoyingly, I found my driver side window had been down and a lot of water had come into my car during the storm, which is really weird because generally I don’t leave my windows down when the car is unattended.  Today I’m trying to dry out the car’s interior.

What I did enjoy about yesterday was the quality time my partner Gregory and his children spent with their mother Jennie, giving and opening presents in the morning, and then at lunch with Gregory’s sister Angela and her family.  It’s been a lovely tradition that I’ve shared in over the past four Christmases.

I had to laugh though, earlier in the day, as I went to collect a cake for a Chanukah party this afternoon that I’m helping organise.  I went to Danish Nosh, in Glenhuntly Road, South Caulfield.  It’s a cake shop that sells traditional Jewish / Eastern European cakes and delicacies to a predominantly Jewish / Eastern European clientele.  Disappointingly, the shop was closed today but it was open yesterday on Christmas Day, so I went yesterday.  As I walked in I was greeted with the sound of Christmas Carols on the sound system.  After paying for my pear and cinnamon cake the delightful assistant of Asian background wished me a merry Christmas.  I suspect the irony of her actions escaped her.  It made me chuckle, and made my Christmas Day.


Danny Lamm – Philanthropist

July 14, 2011

[SOURCE]

I read with mild amusement that the Jewish community’s Danny Lamm has bought himself a shiny new library.  Wonderful.

A library is a place of learning.  A home to a collection of accumulated experience, wisdom, joy, suffering, marvel, art, history, mistakes, optimism and other expressions of the human condition.

It is strikes me as unusual that someone who wanted to exclude a support organisation for gay men from the Jewish community should become a philanthropist and major financial benefactor of a library.  But despite that blot on his good name I think I’ll let Wikipedia(*) have the last say on the matter of philanthropist Danny Lamm:

Some believe that philanthropy can be a means to build community by growing community funds and giving vehicles. When communities see themselves as being resource rich instead of asset poor, the community is in a better position to solve community problems.

However, some believe the purpose of philanthropy is often tribute and self-aggrandizement, as arguably shown by the prevalence of self-titled foundations, rarity of large anonymous donations, and lack of support for unpalatable causes such as the treatment of diarrhea (which despite being easily treatable is the second leading cause of infant death worldwide.)

* as referenced on July 14 2011.


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