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March 27, 2006 2:43 PM

The other out athlete

A follow-up to my piece on basketball player Latasha Byears: "Whether WNBA star Latasha Byears was cut from the Los Angeles Sparks last year for being a lesbian (which Byears claimed) or for assaulting another woman at a party (which the team alleged), we may never know," it sez in my print copy of the Advocate. "A settlement reached Feb. 10 in a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by Byears prohibits either side from talking. But there is one thing we do know: The Washington Mystics don't care either way. The team signed the 32-year-old Byears, who helped the Sparks win WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002, on Feb. 21."

March 24, 2006 12:46 PM

More peace, order, and good government

Additional heterosexual Canadian history, again taken from the February 2001 Beaver. This'un aboot charivari.

An old codger who marries a sweet young thing, a widow who hitches up a little too soon after, an overly keen cad who weds a rich and on-her-last-legs lady. We do noooo-ht apprrrrrove.

And we say so. In as humiliating a way as possible, from the days of New France to the early 20th century. "Blowing on horns, sawing cracked fiddles, clattering skillet lids together, and banging out vicious tattoos on tin pots and copper kettles, the whole of the outraged citizenry would assemble in a nocturnal display at the newlyweds' house. If the noise-bombarded couple dared to peer out through the bedroom curtains, they would have beheld a most frightful spectacle. As Susannah Moodie described it in 1852 in Roughing It In The Bush, the torch-lit antagonists disguised themselves in strange, ritualistic costumes, 'putting their clothes on the hind part before... wearing horrible masks, with grotesque caps on their heads, adorned with cocks' feathers and bells.' The crowd would then bang fiercely on the door, insisting that the couple pay the price of a peaceful honeymoon by furnishing the crowd with whisky, entertainment, or a sum of money for charity -- sometimes as much as $100. Once the fee was paid, the humbled newlyweds were pardoned of their improprieties and the charivari was finished. But if the couple refused to pay, the crowd would return again and again every night until the fee was extorted."

Ya don'ts pay, ya mights get beaten up. In 1823, a Montrealer who called in the police was repaid with smashed windows and a ransacked house. One Ontario man, who in 1890 was accused of stealing another's wife, was shot to death when he resisted the destruction of his home's roof.

March 24, 2006 11:04 AM

Poetry in ether

Shamelessly lifted from Bookninja, but the words are all my own (spam):

selfishly honcho. to at was drip-dry the feudal
seasickness vinegar. folk music the on
tugboat divine but forfeit the limbo on
demented excommunicate quadruped oversimplification carry-on,

retention with publishing the was registry disposable mastery a

cross-eyed to psychotic and that jump-start Aquarius was jeer,
flavor as screwy of whopper of
junket goo cone, kingdom decency, in gobble drove a protege life insurance victory,
racial that roughhouse and venom to with identical twin of
blankness godly developer shortchange was
undertone is brokerage the to trespasser the politely, with detain momentarily

current price $.47

pronounced a probability prominently basement
of grad school
of dope
to crochet this thoughtfulness, to gourmet, an domino pugnacious, is!!! good-tempered computation
to spokeswoman and
doorbell, of it but withdrawal occur, diplomatically
Mother Nature to quadruped would frantic memoirs at was... guiltily
the farmer and compress with inspirational at glowworm and
clothes saliva the to forgetful bonkers
dire the quarrelsome!!! conservative mannequin fearlessness as an westerner graze!!! piquant is

asshole, quotable: inanimate amidst, detective, extricate, principle
the to and but as coal nylons task it

March 23, 2006 8:01 PM

My supper

A bowl of Rokeach Homestyle Matzo Ball & Chicken Soup Mix. "Contains no chicken."

And for dessert, a decorated gingerbread cookie concocted by London, Ontario's A Couple of Squares. In fact, gingerbread cookies are the business's sole product. Mine came with a picture-perfect sugar-inked doggie. A customized corporate cookie, it was, ordered up by the woman behind the Vieux Montreal souvenir and Canuck old timey shop The Worn Doorstep. The pup's name, if memory serves, is True2. (And there's a special section on the Doorstep website showcasing customer canines.)

Proprietor Lesley Forrester asked us to watch the store -- and the dog -- while she popped into the loo. Our sudden, intimate complicity caused us to buy things (like moose-shaped pasta; very heritage, eh). The cookie, in trade.

The Notre Dame St. building, by the way, is haunted, by the spirit of a pregnant woman who bled to death after falling down the stairs. What, you were expecting a happy story...?

March 23, 2006 12:17 PM

Hazing in the boys' room

Dear sporty guy: If your idea of hazing is to strip a fellow male teammate naked, threaten him with a hockey stick up the ass, and shove your testicles into his mouth, you are GAY. Get it? If you think that sexual situations with you and another man, or other men, are a barrel of fun, you're a big ole faggot-ino.

Deny all you want, but the rest of us get it, even if you don't. You are no hetero he-man.

And perhaps one day, sports administrators will finally find the courage to speak this truth out loud. They will call team meetings, announce that the latest hazing mess proves that large numbers of athletes are gay gay gay, and add that being gay is okay.

They will say that forcing others into sexual situations is not gay, but rather a sign of self-hatred and poor self-esteem because the perpetrators are unable to accept their own homosexual urges.

They will announce that anyone who has or will sexually haze another will be sent to gay-positive therapy.

Then we'll see what happens with hazing.

March 22, 2006 12:13 PM

A radical disgust, or a liberal queasiness...?

"The book 'The 50 Greatest Cartoons,' where animators choose the greatest animated shorts of all time, has mostly expected choices, like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons," notes today's Maclean's magazine (this particular story's not online, though). "But the list also includes a Warner Brothers cartoon that retells the story of Snow White with an all-black cast, a jazz soundtrack, and lines like, 'Man, what you got that makes So White think you so hot?'

"It's 'Coal Black and De Sebben Dwarfs,' the banned masterpiece of director Bob Clampett, and the best cartoon you've never seen." It was one of the few flicks of the era that featured black actors (or their voices, at least). The flick was in theatres in 1943, and "almost every shot contains some eye-popping gimmick."

And it's racist as all get-out. The flick "is a catalogue of every racial stereotype in '40s cinema." And as usual, instead of people dealing with their pasts, it's been hidden away. "By the 1960s it was in the 'Censored Eleven' list... of offensive cartoons that broadcasters wouldn't show on TV.... Coal Black has never been released on VHS or DVD." It's slowly being rediscovered nonetheless: "Clampett didn't live to see Coal Black gain its current fan following. Those who knew him recall that while he was proud of the cartoon, he was also reluctant to screen it for audiences, afraid that it might provoke a backlash."

Apparently, a bad but watchable bootleg has been posted on (utube's rapidly becoming one of the most popular Internet sites ever). A viewer's comment about the flick: "Wartime Warner Brothers cartoon that makes Birth of a Nation look downright sensitive." Let's just say that I expect this thing will be uncomfortable.

But if I do nothing but laugh instead -- well, does that mean I'm okay with offensive stereotypes, or truly, finally, completely beyond that horrible crap?

March 21, 2006 12:51 PM

The victimized spouse

Recently La Presse -- and a quintillion other papers -- have featured long, painful riffs on women who've unknowingly married gay men.

Included in the list is Phyllis Gates, who died in January (at 80) and spent her later years as the ex wife of the very gay Rock Hudson. After the divorce and Hudson's outing, she loudly and longly proclaimed ignorance of hubby's proclivities. It all seemed so awful. And oh, how I have ranted about the lying that is an integral part of gay identity. About how we have used straight spouses.

The Advocate has a piece on sad, sad Phyllis Gates. "To read [her L.A. Times obit] and other newspaper whitewashes of her memory, you would have to believe that Gates was a loving Brokeback Mountain wife who had been duped into marriage by Rock's equally gay agent, Henry Willson," writes Variety senior editor Robert Hofler.

Er? Hofler sez the endless angsty Gates obits were "valentine(s) to misguided hetero devotion. Strange, isn't it, how memories differ? ... Every person I met who knew Gates called her a lesbian."

Seems Gates was quite the gal about town, dating up a storm with other chickies, but very concerned that her hubbie not date, as "she feared that Hudson's homosexuality would be exposed and, in effect, derail her gravy train as Mrs. Star." Gates hired a P.I. to tape Hudson's conversations on the eve of their divorce in order to up the alimony. At one point, Hudson's agent hired mobsters to rough up some would-be blackmailers (the gangsters popped by Gates's home next). "Not that she was cowed for long. Hudson then had to acquire incriminating photos of Gates in order to shut her up a second time. The episode is recorded as a blind item in Liz Smith's biography, 'Natural Blonde.'

"Having developed a taste for extortion, Gates turned to other women, but was no more successful with her own sex. One wealthy wife she banged and tried to blackmail didn't care if her husband ever found out about the extramarital affair. He too was gay."

Oof. Turns out I picked the wrong victim.

March 21, 2006 10:48 AM

Ashley MacIsaac for prime minister

When I wrote that you'd make a great politician, I didn't mean it, honey. It was a joke. A ha ha.

Okay, sweetie? We love you anyway.

March 20, 2006 2:50 PM

But we'll just sleep, okay?

Those nutty heterosexuals. They come up with all kinds of ways to have sex without, er, having sex! Take the old (anglo?) custom of "bundling."

A writer looked into it for the February 2001 Beaver magazine: "An Upper Canadian journalist cautiously attempted to describe it in 1824 in the Colonial Advocate: 'Common in some parts of the Canadas... A young man visits a young woman to court her for marriage and is allowed to sleep with her, each keeping on a part of their clothes.' Indeed, bundling actually took place in the young woman's house, with her parents' permission.

"In an era when courtship was a closely monitored public display, bundling offered the betrothed couple a modicum of privacy that they would otherwise not have enjoyed. Such privacy permitted young couples to develop a personal intimacy and experiment with sexual compatibility. It was firmly expected, however, that erotic contact would halt prior to intercourse."


Anyway, researcher Constance Backhouse suggests that the custom allowed parents to protect their daughters, and the new daddy (if such came about) was thus easy to identify, with marriage the immediate result. And all this behind closed doors! No public embarrassment!

"However, two bundling scandals in Upper Canada in the mid-1820s created an outraged public sensation. Both cases, which went to trail, involved young men who had abused their bundling privileges, impregnated their female suitors, and then refused to marry them. During the Niagara bundling fiasco of 1824, a court reporter for the Colonial Advocate denounced bundling as 'a disgrace to the country.' If only the girl and her probundling family had 'lived where an evangelized priest was made manifest, I am convinced that the disclosures she made... would never have shocked the ears of Niagara audience.'" Indeed, it's suggested that increasing evangelization smushed the practice.

I'd be inclined to add that its working-class roots may also have doomed bundling as Canada's middle class grew and felt the need to crush the less civilized behaviors of their immediate pasts. But mayhap that idea is belied by this Welsh tourist's 1807 observations: "The [inn's] landlord has been scolding one of his maids, a very pretty, plump little girl, for not having done her work; and the reason which she alleged for her idleness was, that her master having locked the street door at night, had prevented her lover enjoying the rights and delights of bundling, an amatory indulgence which, considering that it is sanctioned by custom, may be regarded as somewhat singular, although it is not exclusively of Welsh growth.

"The process is very simple; the gay Lothario, when all is silent, steals to the chamber of his mistress, who receives him in bed, but with the modest precaution of wearing her under petticoat, which is always fastened at the bottom -- not infrequently, I am told, by a sliding knot. It may astonish a London gallant to be told that this extraordinary experiment often ends in a downright wedlock -- the knot which cannot slide." I'm still not quite sure why a lack of snuggles leads to an inability to mop the floor.

To continue: "A gentleman of respectability also assured me that he was obliged to indulge his female servants in these nocturnal interviews, and that too at all hours of the night, otherwise his whole family would be thrown into disorder by their neglect; the carpet would not be dusted, nor would the kettle boil."

Those last two anecdotes are taken from my 1932 copy of Henry Reed Stiles' "Bundling: Its Origin, Progress & Decline in America" (originally written around 1870 and promptly banned in Boston), and available here for free. The tome traces bundling back to the U.K., Holland (harmless chatting beneath the bedsheets), Afghanistan ("the innocent endearments are not to be exceeded"), and even to ancient Rome. It's thought that bunking together began simply because it was darned cold to sleep alone before central heating. Most lived in one-room, and one-, or at most two-, bed homes. Plus -- what was one to do with a traveling stranger or two in winter? Surely not toss them out into the stable with the slop and pigs?

Stiles writes that New England bundling's "comparatively innocent and harmless character has, however, been fearfully distorted and maligned by irresponsible satirists, and prejudiced historians." The custom "was kept up with religious strictness by the more bigoted and vulgar part of the community," noted one finger-wagger. In larger American cities, sniffed another, bundling was forbidden and parents introduced the sitting room sofa as a warming but safer option.

Others accepted the custom as it was (supposedly) meant to be: "Why it should be thought incredible for a young man and young woman innocently and virtuously to lie down together in a bed with a great part of their clothes on, I cannot conceive," wrote Dr. Andrew Burnaby in 1775, after traveling through Connecticut. "Human passions may be alike in every region; but religion, diversified as it is, operates differently in different countries."

Stiles points to religious Bible-thumpers and larger, warmer houses as encouraging the decline of bundling. "Probably no single thing tended so much to break up the practice as the publication of a song, or ballad, in an almanac, about 1785.... This ballad described in a free and easy style the various plans adopted by those who bundled, and rather more than hinted at the results in certain cases." We're talkin' large circulation here, and easy archetypes that seeped into bar-room chatter and popular culture. "[S]uch a general storm of banter and ridicule [ensured ] that no girl had the courage to stand against it, and continue to admit her lovers to her bed." In the United States, eh.

And yet in truth I'm not afraid
For to describe a bundling maid;
She'll sometimes say when she lies down,
She can't be cumber'd with a gown,
And that the weather is so warm,
To take it off can be no harm
I leave for others to relate
How long she'll keep her virgin state.

March 20, 2006 10:23 AM

Yeah that's right, I haven't seen it, and I'm gonna trash it...

... without remorse. Movie reviewers continue to heap praise upon the crap originally filmed in "What the Bleep Do We Know," and now upon its 2006 sorta sequel "Down the Rabbit Hole." I'm not pissed about opinions on whether the movie's well made, but rather about reviewers' mindless acceptance of the "factual" information within.

I won't give these Bleeping filmmakers any more of my money -- and it turns out, I don't have to, as this new flick "is really more of a director's cut of the film What the Bleep Do We Know?," it sez here.

"A surprise hit from last year, the original -- and somewhat bizarre -- reel about quantum physics and the malleable nature of reality grossed more than $12 million U.S., making it the fourth- most successful U.S. documentary ever." Jeeezus Chreee-rist. Bafflegab as pop physics hit.

And this: "Complete with a new introduction and a new series of visual aids to help us grasp the vagaries of subatomic particle behaviour, 'Down the Rabbit Hole' postulates the 21st century could mark the start of a new age in which science and religion work in tandem. To the pure and applied people out there, this may sound like scientific heresy. Most people who work in lab coats prefer to see science as an empirical study that isn't tainted by such heady considerations as ethics or intent or even the nature of being 'the observer.' Yet this is one of the most fascinating points raised in Down the Rabbit Hole: There is evidence to suggest the very act of observing can affect the results of even the most basic tests."

WHAT? I simply cannot take lies about science. Of COURSE the act of observation can change the results. Every bleeping scientist in the world knows this. Every bleeping scientist in the world has pondered Schrodinger's cat. Every single one. Scientists are not the mindless idiots that this movie seeks to portray them as. And the damned cat hasn't been nailed to a cross, either.

End of Marvin the Martian voice. Here's my review of the first "movie."

Breathe, Oples me dear, breathe.

March 17, 2006 3:23 PM

It all depends on your point of view

There are many, many bad words used to describe Microsoft megagrazillionaire Bill Gates. Sickeningly rich, slimy business man, monopolist pig, big baby whiner. I could go on. We all could.

Yup, many bad words. But Bill Gates is also a philanthropist who has spent millions upon millions upon millions of dollars fighting AIDS and malaria in the developing world.

Here are my words: I see a man who steals from North Americans and Europeans, and gives to the poorest of the poor. That makes Bill Gates... Robin Hood.

March 17, 2006 2:16 PM

The Vampire Fitzroy (and the P.I.)

OooooOOOOOoo! Canuck sci-fi writer Tanya Huff gets a TV series! "CHUM Television has ordered three new original drama series," it sez here, and the bestest one is "Blood Ties, based on the popular Tanya Huff vampire novels." Chuffed, am I! Huff is out, and so are many of her characters. And the adventure always takes place in Canada. Yeah!

More: "Blood Ties is based on Tanya Huff's internationally popular 'Blood' novels. When her latest love interest turns out to be a 450-year-old vampire and the caseload of her fledgling P.I. agency shifts from fraud artists and cheating spouses to battles with ghosts, ghouls, zombies and demons, ex-police detective Vicki Nelson realizes that her life will never be the same. The series will be produced by Kaleidoscope Entertainment and goes into production later this summer. (22 X 60’)"

March 16, 2006 11:22 AM

My Big Fat Lesbian Company, Limited

It took forever for Dykes on Bikes to get beyond the U.S. government's initial panic attack over that "offensive" word and pick up legal approbation for the group's name.

Now I've been further inspired by this recently-awarded trademark for Pimp My Ride (thanks to Neil for the link), and I did a quick check through the Canadian Trade-Mark Database. It compiles brands awarded between Jan. 1, 1865, and yesterday.

Results for:

"Dyke": 13 ... but I'm afraid they're names like Dyke and Dyke Design, from... Holland. T'ain't... quite... the same....

"Lesbian": 0

"Homosexual": 0

"Queer": 6 -- now that's a bit better!

But, ah, there's always "gay". As usual, the guys give and get better service than do the girls.

For "gay": More than I can count. Mind you, a bunch of them are non-homosexualist, like the "topical analgesic" Ben-Gay Ice. Manitoba's Gay Cavalier Motor Hotel looks like it went out of business in '96, though Vancouver's Sun Gow Gay resto is still serving it up. I'm a fan of Gay Togs, myself. Ditto the expunged Gay Blade lawn and gress seed service, the Nice 'N Gay cosmetic and toilet preparations, and the vaguely naughty Gay Lea Spreadable.

I'm not sure where Gay Bandit lipstick and rouge fit in.

There are some clearly homosexualistic ones, although many of these trademarks have been abandoned or expunged. Like Mr. Gay Canada, dumped by its Vancouver promoters last year. They'd sewn up the rights to branded belts, ankle bracelets, antiperspirants, appointment books, audio cassette tapes, booze, badges, bedding, and, er, athletic pouches. You'll have to go look up the C to Z merch on yer own. And a savvy entrepreneur can pick up the slack?

The trademark for the magazine publishing and voice mail personal ad company Reseau Gay was "inactivated" in 1996. Gay Live! was abandoned, ditto Gay Network. Gay Pages is another publishing venture, this one abandoned last year. So was a beer named, simply, Gay, and another dating service, Cheap Gay. I'm not kidding.

(Seems the gay business hype-endless-money-available-buy-BUY-BUY is overblown. There's a lot of failed trademarks out there....)

And of course, the queer sports mess. The Outgames 1 Montreal organizing committee voluntarily abandoned Gay Games VII. Check out the nutty list of "wares"....

As for homo brands that are either on the go or getting there, check out the dating co 100% Gay, the TV and merchandising Gay Bachelor gimmick, and

Ya gots nothin' to do at work today? These are highlights from the first four pages of gay trademarks -- there are another 8 pages to go! This is our history.

ADDENDUM 15:43 on Thursday: Harumph. "Your session is no longer available." If you get that answer at the trademarks website, redo the searches for "dyke" et al here. Stupid web thingie.

March 15, 2006 9:20 AM

The case study

Sam Martin 's Mennonite beliefs led him to refuse to join the Canadian army during World War II: "The Scriptures, as I understand them, tell me not to kill." Martin was refused conscientious objector status, sent to jail for 30 days, then "handed over" to the military, where the young man continued to refuse to serve. He was sentenced by the military to 28 days in an army prison, then to another 28 days, then to 90 more days.

His punishments ranged from solitary confinement to a bread and water diet. He was often left nearly naked (since he refused to put on a military uniform), lights were kept on at all times, heat was turned off and windows were opened in the winter.

A boy in the cell across the hall was 16. He'd lied about his age to join, then deserted. The two talked through the gap under their doors, lying on their bellies. All of this info, by the way, is taken from William Janzen and Frances Greaser's thin 1990 tome, "Sam Martin Went To Prison: The Story of Conscientious Objection and Canadian Military Service."

Community pressure finally had an effect, and Martin was seen by a doctor, who warned that the conscientious objector's health was precarious. Martin was transferred back to a civilian prison for the last part of his sentence, which may well have saved his life. He'd been on bread and water for 49 days.

One of his first jobs in the civvy gaol "was to haul away the noose which had been used in a hanging." Three German soldiers "had been convicted of a murder inside their internment camp in Canada," and paid the price.

At the end of this sentence, Martin was shipped back to the army... and was punished again, being given 18 months in an Alberta provincial jail with hard labour. Martin's luck finally changed: the "hard labour" part was omitted from his transfer papers, and he was released a bit early -- back into the arms of the army. The war was long over, and he was granted a leave, and a few months later, discharged.

Authors Janzen and Greaser note that millions died during World War II. "In once sense this terrible suffering makes Sam Martin's ordeal appear small. But all suffering is finally borne by individual people."

March 14, 2006 5:20 PM

Refusing to fight

Some run out of fear, some because they won't mindlessly "follow orders." There are probably more reasons to desert the American armed forces than I, or that Allen Abney, could possibly list.

Some refuse to fight at all, becoming conscientious objectors. Authors William Janzen and Frances Greaser give a quick round-up of how the law has treated the Canadians who refused to fight in the 1990 booklet "Sam Martin Went To Prison: The Story of Conscientious Objection and Canadian Military Service."

The "conscientious objector" first made it into law in Upper Canada in 1793, where the Militia Act specifically allowed Mennonites, Tunkers and Quakers to avoid combat duty and regular exercises in what you might think of today as "the reserves." Upper Canada leaders were keen on the idea as they hoped to attract more Mennonite settlers.

Conscientious objector status was reaffirmed in 1873 by a federal cabinet order-in-council. Manitoba was courting Russian Mennonites, dontcha know.

"In spite of these promises, there were serious difficulties in World War I. The military Service Act of 1917 unintentionally divided Mennonites into two categories." Some Mennonites and Doukhobors were covered by the newer rules and were a-okay. But religious folk in Ontario -- Mennonites, Tunkers and Quakers -- came under the older rules, which exempted them only if they "had a personal conscientious belief against undertaking combatant service and belonged to a religion which the government recognized as prohibiting such service." So in the eyes of the law, these folks could still be forced to wear a uniform, or to help prop up the army's killing fields in some way -- as long they weren't actual "combatants."

Many tried to get out of fighting by declaring that their farm labour was essential -- which was, generally speaking, true.

Near the end of the Great War, the war to end all wars, exemptions began to be phased out, and the rules were applied more and more narrowly. Some non-Mennonite objectors, who didn't fall under the law, were jailed; one Pentecostal man died in a Manitoba prison, possibly after being tortured.

There was debate within the church itself, as well, about the morality of allowing others to die while Mennonites "were reaping benefits from those sacrifices." To add to the resentment of the general population, Mennonites spoke German -- the language of the enemy. After the war, Mennonite immigration was briefly banned.

A few years later, Mennonites debated alternative service -- a civilian forestry or agricultural corps; some liked the idea, others did not. "The inability to agree on the alternative service question was not crucial in the spring of 1939. Canada was not yet conscripting anyone. Indeed, the country was still not at war." That would happen on Sept. 8.

A conscription law passed in June of 1940, but was heavily qualified ("for home defence") in order to placate the anti-war majority in Quebec. Many Mennonites were nonetheless ordered to sign up with the armed forces. Some did. Others applied for, and received, conscientious objector status. The alternative service option was brought in in 1941. Some of the men whose service was diverted helped clear the brush for the Trans-Canada Highway.

But others were refused objector status: they were seen as liars or believed to be scaredy-cats. And don't underestimate a recruitment board's quota requirements and someone having a bad day whose crabby tantrum orders some shmuck into the army.

March 14, 2006 11:25 AM

Chef quits South Park

Isaac Hayes is a Scientologist. Why weren't we told?

ADDENDUM March 21: More on Scientology versus South Park.

March 23: They killed Chef. Aw.

And not aw.

March 14, 2006 10:23 AM

Où est la naughty maid?

I have a thing for French maids.

I just do, okay?

But it's all over for me gently nudging The Girlfriend into trying on a little white apron with feather duster accoutrement. My hints have never quite worked, and from here on in, the light of my life and apple of my eye is going to respond by telling me to buy a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner and... the custom Roombette La French Maid outfit made by My Room Bud.

Sigh. 'Snot the same.

(Thanks to Collision Detection for the link.)

March 13, 2006 2:14 PM

More Crash versus Brokeback Mountain

Good to see that dismissed Village Voice editor Richard Goldstein has landed on his feet. New gigs include penning a column for the homosexualist Advocate mag. And Goldstein's Feb. 28 piece takes aim at those tedious white gays who claim over and over that racism and homophobia are equivalent.

"One Gallup survey shows a growing antipathy among blacks toward gay rights," Goldstein notes. "There are many reasons for this shift. One of them stems from the perception that queers have hogged the civil rights limelight. I think that's largely true, through no fault of ours. The troubling fact is that the sound and fury over issues such as same-sex marriage provides an excuse to divert attention from racism. To add insult to injury, some LGBT leaders act is if their struggle is comparable to that of blacks.

"I'm not suggesting that racism and homophobia have nothing in common. Both are rooted in society's need to create a demonic and degraded 'other.' Matthew Shepard's murder certainly was a lynching. But that doesn't mean all forms of bigotry are alike.

"Racism has played a central role in American history; homophobia has not. Racism has an enduring economic impact on its victims; homophobia has not. Plenty of gays are impoverished, but most of them are people of colour. Homosexuals have never been legally segregated or denied the right to vote. The enormous strides made by the LGBT movement in only three decades demand that we ask ourselves a difficult question: Is homophobia as intractable as racism? In the United States, I think it's not....

"I write as a gay white man and as a member of a group -- Jews -- whose 'whiteness' was not always taken for granted. I'm offended when the AIDS crisis is compared to the Holocaust. Why shouldn't people of colour be appalled when the gay struggle is linked to theirs?"

March 13, 2006 2:11 PM

The real power

Beneath the rule of men entirely great
the pen is mightier than the sword.

The auteur Edward George Bulwer-Lytton wrote that by-now clichéd phrase. And yeah, I have a story. Or two.

I was in high school -- years ago -- when students at the university campus down the road picked up their new handbook; it included an introduction calling for the acceptance of homosexuals. Dissenters lit a bonfire, the flames desiccating dozens of the manuals into ash.

Well, I wanted to move people -- and it was obvious that words were the way to do it.

When I got my first journalism job, I wrote a radical feminist editorial about how all men are potential rapists. A male colleague flipped, ranting at me about what a load of offensive crap it was to paint all men as sick slimes.

It was the only editorial, out of the dozens that I sweated over, that he ever spoke to me about. And that gave me a final truth: words are mighty, they do get a reaction -- but only if you savagely disagree with the words.

March 9, 2006 10:02 AM

Rotisserie league

Are you an obsessive-compulsive insomniac desperate for something to do at 4 a.m.? Try Blogshares, the fantasy blog stock market. (And beware of the cheatypants.)

March 8, 2006 12:20 PM

There'll be no posing in People with sweetie and baby

Opera and jazz singer Ada de Luque, based in Miami, discusses (in this newspaper, but the text is unavailable online) the difficulties of the trade: "I once asked the great Renata Tebaldi why she didn't sing anymore. Her reply was, 'I started living when I stopped singing.' Though singing is gratifying, it involves sacrifice. You have to take care of your instrument, which means keeping away from people with colds. Sometimes you are afraid to shake hands. Keep away from dairy products that can be congestive. You can't shout. There are many restrictions."

The piece continues: "Speaking of restrictions, de Luque is protective of her private life.

"While she is open about being a lesbian, she declines to share any other personal details, except to say that she is happy. She says she understands why many singers choose not to speak about being gay or lesbian.

"'You lose a certain percentage of the audience,' she says matter-of-factly. 'And the audience that remains looks at you in a different manner. When you are an opera singer, you are acting a role, and you want the audience to believe that.'"

March 8, 2006 10:27 AM

Everything's coming up paedophilia!

Ah, the paedophilia thing. It's a reason Vic Toews doesn't wanna legalize prostitution. Homosexualists will recognize the thinking -- after all, paedophilia is the reason lotsa folks say no to gay rights.

BUT -- I like to be helpful (it's a gender thing), so I'm gonna make chummy by extending the argument. Here goes.

Fix native poverty? Hell no, what about the paedos?

Have a national debate over Western involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq? But that would give a free hand to the paedos!

Canada's public health care system is a mess. However it gets fixed, make sure the damned paedos don't come out on top.

March 7, 2006 12:00 PM

Silly you, you don't know what's good for you

More catching up -- federal Justice Minister Vic Toews sez no to decriminalizing prostitution: "Canada's new justice minister doesn't support legalizing brothels or prostitution because he fears it would invite more organized crime into the sex trade.

"An all-party committee of MPs studying Canada's prostitution laws spent months crisscrossing the country hearing from academics, social workers, police and prostitutes and was finalizing its report before the election call. A majority of them supported decriminalizing solicitation and bawdy house as ways to better protect sex trade workers. But Justice Minister Vic Toews told Sun Media he isn't inclined to change the laws.

"'In my opinion, the evidence does not demonstrate the effectiveness of legalization to protect women and more importantly, that is the evidence from the women themselves in the rape crisis shelters right across Canada,' he said. 'They've been very strongly opposed to it and I agree with them.'" What do you think that means? Did Toews hear from prostitutes who use rape crisis centres? Or are rape crisis centres run by women who truly believe that prostitution causes rape?

"Toews said children as young as 11 are being lured into the sex trade, and liberalizing laws won't help protect them. 'The idea that we can set up small houses of prostitution and this will somehow control prostitution, in my experience, doesn't jive with the facts that it doesn't prevent the young girls and boys from getting into prostitution,' he said." And yet, you'd think that legalized brothels would encourage madames to ensure minumum age requirements -- nobody wants trouble from municipal inspectors.

"But Toews is keen to curb the victimization of women on the street by improving resources for abused women and those attempting to leave the trade." Gosh, I sure do look forward to a Tory government that helps abused women.

More Toews: "I don't particularly think that legalization is helpful, other than strengthening the hands of organized crime." Funny. Every study I've ever read says gangs get away with (violently) controlling hookers precisely because the trade's illegal. I must be misremembering. Everything.

March 7, 2006 11:36 AM

Thoughts on Oscar, wieners

There's so darned much ideologically-blinkered whining about how "Brokeback Mountain" deserved to win the whole kaboodle on Sunday night. Homophobia might have played a role in its so-called loss at the Academy Awards (if you insist on calling "best original score," "best director," and "best adapted screenplay" losing). Demanding that a movie win because you approve of its message more than the other flick's message is appalling.

"Crash" is an excellent film, emotionally compelling, upsetting, intricately plotted. I applaud its "best movie" victory.

A few more thoughts on Brokeback:

° Richard Cohen complained in the Washington Post that two hets play gay: "But in one sense, it is an odd movie -- as odd as 'Gunga Din.' If it now seems strange that a Jewish New Yorker would play an Indian, then it might someday seem even more strange that two gay cowboys were played by two straights. In fact, around the time of the movie's opening, the fan magazines -- no doubt doing the bidding of publicists -- pictured the two leads -- Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal -- in all their robust heterosexuality. People magazine, for instance, showed Ledger with his girlfriend and new baby. Get the point?"

Yes, that was unfortunate. But what's it got to do with how the boys played the roles?

"My friends in the movie business tell me it should not matter if straights play gays. They regale me with tales of leading men and women who hated one another -- and were applauded afterward for their cinematic sexual chemistry. We know, too, that gay actors have played straights, and successfully so. Rock Hudson is not suspect as Elizabeth Taylor's husband in 'Giant,' nor is Montgomery Clift out of place as Taylor's lover in 'A Place in the Sun.'

"Still, it says something not just about Hollywood, but our times, that the parts of gay men were played by heterosexuals. It suggests the era when whites 'blacked up' to play blacks or, incredibly, when blacks did the same thing. (Bert Williams, maybe the greatest entertainer of the vaudeville age, was a black man who worked in blackface.) Once, men played women on the Elizabethan stage. It's hard now to see Juliet as a man and Romeo swooning for her under that balcony in Verona. It is just as hard for me to believe that Ledger and Gyllenhaal had an ounce of attraction for one another -- at least, I didn't see it or feel it.

"Hollywood has no major gay actors -- none out of the closet, that is. 'Brokeback' needed some star power, otherwise it would have been a minor gay art film. So the producers got two straights to impersonate gay men -- and then reassured everyone in sight that they were not gay at all. Whatever this is -- and it is worthy in its own terms -- it is not a revolution but rather a statement of how little things have changed. In more ways than one, 'Brokeback Mountain' is a tragedy."

Wow. The writer's managed to conflate so much, I don't know where to start. Some have called Bert Williams the Jackie Robinson of Vaudeville -- the guy who broke the colour barrier, who endured racism beyond reason, and kept going. ("His accomplishments were such that famous Negro scientist Booker T. Washington said, 'Williams has done more for the race than I have. He has smiled his way into people's hearts.' He revealed the humanity beneath the stereotype.")

Whites in blackface were humiliating blacks. Straights playing gays -- certainly in Brokeback -- are not trying to humiliate homos. It's just a ridiculous argument.

° In his Oscar acceptance speech, Brokeback director Ang Lee said of the movie's main characters: "They taught all of us who made Brokeback Mountain so much about not just all the gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but just as important, the greatness of love itself."

I've never been a fan of putting love itself on a pedestal. But that's what everyone connected to the lauding of this film has done. Hey, love is a many splendoured thing. But... is romantic love -- gay or straight -- something we truly must have to be fulfilled as individuals? That's just being thoughtless, saying that those who live their lives as singles are somehow less whole than those who couple up.

Romantic love's good. But let's not be obsessive about it.

ADDENDUM 15:45 As many opinions as people: Your one-stop shopping spot for the Brokeback Oscar fandango. And this one, too. Tony Curtis sez yuck.

ADDENDUM March 8: From Karen: Crash was not a safe choice! There's a real disconnect between Brokeback's defenders talking about how subversive and unpopular the movie's message is. A movie about love-conquers-all is more conservative than a movie exposing unpleasant truths about migrant workers and class relations and corrupt police. There is something joylessly conservative in an if-we're-married-then-they'll-take-us-seriously-way that runs through the arguments of Brokeback Mountain's defenders.

March 3, 2006 3:36 PM

Ya wanna be buds, ya pays the price

The cut-rate tax-filing gaggle at H & R Block is hoping to recruit university attendees as customers -- here in Montreal, anyway, where the company's advertising in at least one student paper. H&R tax filing cost is $29.95.

And here's why everybody in the country should boycott H & R Block this season: they've set up a deal with Domino's Pizza. Get a free pie for your business, bubba. A deal brokered perhaps because Domino's is doing badly in Canukistan.

Hey, if H & R wants to connect itself to Domino's, I'm happy to oblige.

Domino's was founded by a right-wing piggie man who uses his profits to support groups like Operation Rescue. And hey, biggie Tom Monaghan is free to build his own all-Catholic town: "Abortions, pornography and contraceptives will be banned in the new Florida town of Ave Maria, which has begun to take shape on former vegetable farms 90 miles northwest of Miami." Just not with money from my wallet.

So I started digging around today. It turns out Tom Monaghan sold Domino's in 1998.

So disconcerting, the way the world keeps changing.

March 3, 2006 12:13 PM

N of the form 2i3j(2k3l+1) when the last term in parentheses is a Pierpont Prime

Math is video games, music, and art. Like origami.

Keep folding a piece of paper until you create a bunny, and along the way you've probably trisected an angle and solved a polynomial equation. Seriously -- folding is math. Scientist and artist Dr. Robert Lang spent an hour explaining the mysteries of origami last night. The creases you create solve geometry and algebra problems. It's fucking amazing.

Math is beautiful.

Hmmm. Okay, the idea of math is beautiful. The equations, not so much.

March 1, 2006 3:42 PM

I am chagrined and embarrassed to discover that I am not a studmuffin after all

Back in 1983, a staffer from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control felt the need to define a behaviour: promiscuity. A promi-person has dallied with "more than an average of two different people per month for the previous two years."

- from the three-volume Justice Horace Krever-written doorstopper of a report on Canada's tainted blood scandal. Related criminal charges proceed apace.

February 28, 2006 10:16 AM

Regarding regards, guardedly

An editor's rejection letter, written to Gertrude Stein: "I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one book, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one. Many thanks. I am returning the MS by registered post. Only one MS by one post."

- from the tome "Bad Press: The Worst Critical Reviews Ever"
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