Monthly Archives: February 2006

Queer London – Book Review

Sometimes I buy a book based purely on its cover.

Just before Christmas I found myself in Gay’s The Word (a very fine bookstore), looking for some holiday reading matter. I picked up several books, some of which I had been looking for, and some of which I had read other material by the same author.

Queer London just jumped off of the shelf, with a really nice cover and a snappy title.

The book covers the period 1918-1957 which is, of course, the time from the end of the first world war to the publishing of the ‘Wolfenden Report’, which presaged the limited decriminalisation of gay sex in the UK. It’s a fairly dry read at times (it shows its roots as a PhD thesis), but I was gripped by it. The stories of London from a time when being gay was very different, and yet recognisable, are fascinating.

The description of life in the East End was particularly interesting, as large parts of my family come from that part of London. A key argument in the book is that applying the word ‘gay’ to historical cultures is a tricky thing. Today it means so much more than a simple tag for people like me. The author identifies three distinct subcultures among what would now be labelled gay people in the time under question, and each is quite different from the understanding we now have of what it is to be a gay man in London.

I find information about how other cultures deal with people like me educational. I find it easy to lapse into an assumption that our current method of handling gay people is somehow inevitable, when clearly it is not. To find a different (subtly perhaps, but quite distinct) way of living with gay people quite so close to home was the surprise as I read this book.

Recommended.

Full details:

Queer London Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 Matt Houlbrook The University of Chicago Press

A Digital Archive

I wonder how many other people out there want this too? I have, on my various computers:

  • Email, mostly complete, since about 1993 (ish)
  • My music collection
  • A few years of photo albums
What I’d like is a way to store that lot, in a vendor-neutral fashion, and then access it from most IP connected spots in the world. It’s the vendor-neutral bit that seems to be hard. My music is all hidden in iTunes, and for a long while, my email was trapped in Outlook.

However, this weekend was a practical first step. I brought up an IMAP server, and started transferring all those archives (over 10 years) to it.

I copped out – having tried to run an OpenBSD server, and hack around on Mac OS X client – I just bought Mac OS X Server, and installed it on my desktop. About 10 minutes later, the server was running. When Apple make it easy, boy do they make it easy! I can access the archive via SSL/IMAP or SSL/HTTP, so most internet connections can reach it. By far the best is my Mac client – spotlight for over 10 years of email is awesome!

A Start of Something

Well, I’ve been wanting a blog for a while. I’ve been following several for a number of years, and there is definitely a budding writer in me (my English teachers would probably be surprised!).I had a go at editthispage, and have been evaluating a few packages on mcaleely.com, on and off, for a couple of years. WordPress 1.x, plog (now something else), and greymatter were all hosted here at one time or another.I’ve been looking for two features:

  • Hosted at my own domain
  • High quality URLs
I don’t like paying for URLs I can’t control. Either because they are hosted at someone else’s domain, or because some programmer somewhere thinks their time is more important than mine. URLs in the form of post.php?id=999 might have been a necessary step, but the very earliest web style guides recommended making URLs human readable, and I rather like that myself.Wordpress 2.0.1 seems to have finally satisfied these features, and its free!