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June 2, 2006 1:34 PM

What? You mean just say it? Out loud? Well, I never...

Ah, euphemisms and snark. There was a time when reporters were happy to be snide. Nowadays, it seems it's just irrelevant to mention someone's homo private life.

And so we have film writer Brian D. Johnson of Maclean's mag mentioning CBC radio host Sook-Yin Lee's ex boyfriend in a piece (not yet online) on Lee's new flick and Cannes appearance.

(Movie gossip first: the CBC threatened to fire Lee in '03 if she took the acting job, given that Lee "performs graphic, non-simulated sex on screen." Er -- "non- simulated." Gotta love bad writing. The CBC backed down after the likes of Yoko Ono and Francis Ford Coppola stuck their noses in. Interestingly, the enviro-god and host of the MotherCorp TV show "The Nature Of Things", David Suzuki, in a Montreal speech that I attended last week, said the CBC threatened to can him a few years ago if he got arrested in a Haida blockade to save a chunk of B.C. forest. So a worried Suzuki skipped the demo; his aged dad went instead, hoping the family name would garner attention. Gotta love the national public broadcaster.)

Back to Sook-Yin Lee. Johnson writes: "What Lee found most 'nerve-wracking' about it all is that she had a boyfriend at the time, a cinematographer. But she was more anxious about it than he was. 'He said, "go make some good art." I'm not with him anymore. I was dumped the same week my cat died.'"

And later in the screed, the cutesy but meaningless phrases: "Lee had declined to attend the "Marie Antoinette" bash. She wanted to hang with her Shortbus crew at the 'Queer Lounge' party just down the beach, an informal crush with a cash bar." Just hanging with the hipster pervs, eh?

More like, checking in with her peeps. Lee was on the cover of Xtra a few years ago as an out and proud bisexual (though that cover story's not online, sadly).

Ya know, this stuff matters. It should be upfront, just like the opposite-sex dating.

Grrrrrr-rump. At least we got some discussion of female sexuality.

In the olden days (meaning for anyone older than me - heh heh), if you knew the lingo, you got the info you needed. "Lifelong bachelor," eh! That was a fave in the dailies. We don't see that kind of code anymore. Now it's less than nuthin'. In the mainstream, anyway. Coverage is all very proper (unless it's about attacking Prime Minister Stephen Harper over media access, in which case the reporters' ego-driven bitterness goes into overdrive. Not that the rest of us care.)

At least there are alternatives to the proper media. The recently resuscitated (and scurrilous) Ottawa-based Frank Magazine was and is the queen of euphemisms. Like "avid pianist." The "coruscating" Frank publisher Michael Bate (he says he likes to send readers to the dictionary -- only to then have them discover they can't sue for being called "brilliant") is unable to recall how "avid pianist" came about in his pages. It's onomatopoeic, he says, "and a good alternative to 'gay.'" Help the lezzie out: there's a penis gag in there somewhere....?

"Avid pianist" first appeared in Frank some 15 years ago, to describe newly ascended Globe and Mail editor William Thorsell, amid suggestions that his new publisher boss didn't know.

Says Bate: "At the time people were outraged that we were outing him. But Thorsell himself wasn't hiding the fact." If so, no one in the mainstream seems to have asked Thorsell, cuz it wasn't in the papers. Did everyone assume silence was best?

Mind you, Thorsell didn't make it into the anti-outing Xtra newspaper in those days, either. I don't recall specifics, but I expect he never returned my call, though he was well-known in the community. Sort of like Canadian cabinet minister John Baird these days -- seen in gay bars dancing the night away, but never to be publicly identified as queer in the papers. Hey, silence is best! Gives people complete freedom to do whatever, in public, without consequences.

Of course, Frank is all about the consequences of getting the gossip out. But once all the insiders know, it's no fun anymore. "We used to have a [regular] Who's Gay cover. Now we should have a Who Isn't Gay cover," sez Bate. Nowadays, Frank's phrases of choice are "confirmed --" or "avid heterosexualist." So I guess Frank's days of queer gossip are over, too. It's the heteros who make the news.

But at least in Frank the queer shout-out happened. In the mainstream, first came snideness, then came earnest acceptance, then came sssshhhhhhhhh! Weird, eh?

Bate isn't sure why the mainstream doesn't seem to report so much on the "who's gay" thing -- Bate says it's not like anyone can sue for that sort of accusation anymore, though he adds that Tory political strategist Guy Giorno once threatened him with legal action over a suggestion of same-sex skin-flute tooting.

Bate's probably right on the legal aspect. A 1994 issue of Fuse magazine recalls a old English decision from 1942, from whence our own jurisprudence comes: "It is easy enough to dredge up historical cases where allegations of lesbianism have been held to be defamatory. For instance," in something called Kerr vs. Kennedy, the judge "asserted that an accusation of 'unnatural relations with other women' was even more abhorrent than an imputation of adultery or fornication. But, as the antiquated language of this case suggests, our courts are always alive to changes in community standards and have insisted that we must consider 'the temper of the times' in determining whether the statement is likely to be taken as defamatory by 'right-thinking people.'" One "leading Canadian text on the law of defamation [notes that] with the dramatic changes in attitudes regarding homosexuality during the past decade, it is difficult to envision any proliferation of decisions in favour of [that judge's 1942] view."

Which brings me to Frank's lesbo insinuations. They're dull dull dull. Boys get piano talk. We get tuna, fish, sushi, munching carpets. Booooooooring. Surely we deserve some better euphemisms, you bastards!

Uhm, there's more than just the gay stuff, of course. Like Frank's "over-refreshed" and "moist and garrulous." The dailies used to be full of "florid" politicians, and the "tired and emotional." Even Wikipedia has an entry on that one: "'Tired and emotional' is a euphemism for 'drunk.' It was coined by the British satirical magazine Private Eye in 1967 in reference to Labour Cabinet minister George Brown, but is now used as a stock phrase; the law of libel makes it unwise ever to directly refer to someone as drunk. Its use has extended well beyond the magazine."

Bate says one description that he's quite pleased about is the Frank-generated nickname for Lord Black of Crossharbour: "Tubby." "That one," says Bate, "really stuck." I've even seen it used tongue-in-cheek in the mainstream media. If only... if only queer sexual orientation stuck, too.

June 2, 2006 1:20 PM

Any excuse to freak

As usual, much screeching and squealing amongst the religious right and the homo middle today as the Stephen Harper minority guv'mint announces that yes, an election promise will be fulfilled: there'll be a free vote on gay marriage in the House of Commons come the fall.

It's all so tedious. Just get it done already, so the rest of us don't have to listen to the endless hysterics on either side.

June 1, 2006 9:15 AM

I'll glue some pretty petals to it

Quebec's new blanket ban on smoking in bars, restos and (gasp!) bingo halls will result in 135 tonnes of ashtrays in landfills. (No, I don't know how they came up with this imaginary number. Stop questioning authority.)

This morning's Gazoo notes that Recyc-Quebec is asking ashtray owners to drop them off, before June 30, at one of the province's 26 ecocentres. The glass ones can't be popped into regular recycling bins because the quartz is so thick it'll gum up the machines, and each needs to be pulverized separately.

Metal ashtrays can also be recycled. As for the porcelain and ceramic, Recyc-Quebec is going to push artists to take them for use as artistic materials: I guess bureaucrats are hoping for some socialist realism? Unless artists are so poor they can't even afford ashtrays? I rather wish the state would offer the ciggies, instead.

May 31, 2006 9:24 AM

Can't wait for her sidekick, Bat-Dildo

"Comic book heroine Batwoman is to make a comeback as a 'lipstick lesbian' who moonlights as a crime fighter, a DC Comics spokesman has confirmed. Batwoman - real name Kathy Kane - will appear in 52, a year-long DC Comics publication that began this month," it sez here.

"In her latest incarnation, she is a rich socialite who has a romantic history with another 52 character, ex-police detective Renee Montoya.... The series is set in a world in which established superheroes Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman do not play a part."

Batwoman was "born" in 1956, and killed off in 1979.

From The World Encyclopedia of Comics: "But during the middle 1950s, many of the original creators [of Batman] left the strip and this ushered in a low-point in the Batman feature. Saddled with new and outlandish characters like Bathound, Batwoman, Batgirl, and Bat-Mite, and crippled by poor science-fiction scripts about monsters, robots, aliens, time travel and crackpots, Batman quickly slumped in sales and popularity."

Well then, Batwoman sure sounds like a winner!

A bunch of DC characters have also been reinvented. The white Blue Beetle is now Mexican; Firestorm is black; The Atom is Asian. Who the heck are they, you ask? Well, it's not like Supes can go black. That's a major character, mon. People would notice.

May 30, 2006 8:12 PM

We are from France

Also recently republished, thanks to the Bodleian Library, is "Instructions for British Servicemen in France 1944," as prepared by The Political Warfare Executive and issued by The Foreign Office, London.

This is a primer on bonding with the folk you're freeing from the yoke of oppression. "You are to assist personally in pushing the Germans out of France and back where they belong," begins this little book. "In the process, you will meet the French...."

The news is sobering. "Almost all French civilians (including French children) are undernourished, and many have died from exhaustion and hunger, because the Germans have eaten the food." (And, importantly: "Cigarettes have been rationed to three a day -- when they were available at all.")

But upon meeting British soldiers, the good paysan may dig up a bottle long hidden in the cellar. "A good many people are likely in any case to lack the energy or the mood to do much 'celebrating,' however great their joy at being freed." Disease is widespread, including tuberculosis and syphilis. A French citizen is shot by a German every two hours, and thousands have been deported to concentration camps.

Thus, some rules of conduct. Do not, "through mere thoughtlessness [purchase] in the local shops things which are scarce, so that civilians go short."

Avoid the black market: "Buying on this simply means the poor who need food will not get it." And "don't air the opinion that such and such a foreign country or town or village is very lucky to have chaps like us passing through."

As for those seeking supplies: "If you are questioned on this subject, explain that it is essential to defeat Germany as rapidly as possible, and consequently first priority on shipping of supplies must be given to military needs. At first this results in little shipping for relief supplies to liberated countries; but the civilians must have patience and believe that very effort is being made to bring them supplies as soon as possible."

Soldiers should not give out their own food and clothing to the civilians. It only encourages them to ask for more.

Oh, and bombings in populated areas "have caused some resentment."

And of course, there's the chicks -- or rather, les femmes. "French women, young and old, are far from shy and you will, if you are a man of sense, make them your friends. But do not mistake friendship for willingness to give you their favours. The same sort of girl with whom you can take liberties in England can be found in France, and the same sort of girl whom you would grossly offend in this country would be grossly offended if you were to 'try anything' in France.

"The fathers, brothers and fiancés of French girls will often be unable to protect them because they are fighting the Germans or have been deported to Germany. Apart from any questions of discipline, you are on your honour to behave to their womenfolk as you would wish them to behave to yours. If you do not, you will injure the reputation of the British soldier, by showing a worse example than the Germans, who at the start, at least, behaved with considerable restraint, though they later lapsed. As for the loose women, if you noted the facts on page 12 about the prevalence of V.D., you will see good reasons for avoiding them."

May 29, 2006 6:08 PM

Or perhaps an artisanal hammock

In times of war, one is (ideally) given guidance. Or certainly the men are. Thus "Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942," a seven-page pamphlet issued by the United States War Department for the all-male Yankee soldiers of the time.

"You are going to Great Britain as part of an Allied offensive -- to meet Hitler and beat him on his own ground. For the time being you will be Britain's guest. The purpose of this guide is to start getting you acquainted with the British, their country, and their ways."

The furinners are not unfriendly, for example, merely reserved. Oh, and there's the lingo. "It isn't a good idea, for example, to say 'bloody' in mixed company in Britain -- it is one of their worst swear words. To say 'I look like a bum' is offensive to their ears, for to the British this means that you look like your own backside."

And it's good to make pals. "You will naturally be interested in getting to know your opposite number, the British soldier, the 'Tommy' you have heard and read about. You can understand that two actions on your part will slow up the friendship -- swiping his girl, and not appreciating what his army has been up against. Yes, and rubbing it in that you are better paid than he is."

And there's a special section on Brit's chicks. "A British woman officer or non-commissioned officer can -- and often does -- give orders to a man private. The men obey smartly and know it is no shame. For British women have proven themselves in this way. They have stuck to their posts near burning ammunition dumps, delivered messages afoot after their motorcycles have been blasted from under them. They have pulled aviators from burning planes. They have died at the gun posts and as they fell another girl has stepped directly into position and 'carried on.' There is not a single record of any British woman in uniformed service quitting her post or failing in her duty under fire.

"Now you understand why British soldiers respect the women in uniform. They have won the right to the utmost respect. When you see a girl in khaki or air-force blue with a bit of ribbon on her tunic -- remember she didn't get it for knitting more socks than anyone else in Ipswich."

May 26, 2006 11:31 AM

Mmmmmurf bluuuumph urggggggmble -- ha! I'm free! I phreeeeeeghm maaaaarfle mmmmmmmmmmmm

"The Prime Minister's Office has warned Conservative MPs not to comment on the marriage next month of two gay RCMP constables.

"The gag order went to all MPs, but was aimed at 'the small minority who might say something stupid,' one caucus member said." As here.

May 26, 2006 10:26 AM

Howdy... readers of Richard (Bugs) Burnett at Montreal's Hour magazine, who kindly mentioned Oples in the alt weekly. And a tip o' the hat to Bugs himself, whose current Three Dollar Bill column, on the Rasta battyman Thomas Glave, can be found here.

May 26, 2006 10:18 AM

B'bye QTN

Am just darned busy right now, thus -- yesterday's nooze, today! Over and out: The United States is now minus one queer broadcasting network.

Over here, still no call-back from OUTtv's Bill Craig on how things are going in the Snowbound North.

May 25, 2006 3:47 PM

Whither art thou, oh goddess of pitch and timing?

Remember when Anne Murray was the lesbian wet dream? She was a gym teacher in Nova Scotia turned hit maker. An old university classmate of Murray's once insisted to me that Annie was known as the big dyke on campus. And so we all went gaga, even as mainstream Canuckistan embraced Murray for her earnest blandness.

"Like a certain persistent myth of Canada, Anne Murray is emblematic of simple, wholesome, unsoiled virtue. She is the driven snow that blankets our nation like a cloak of downy innocence, that protects us from the libidinous nastiness emanating from across the border," write the authors of "Mondo Canuck."

"That's why so many Canadians were more than a little pissed at [punk Yank music critic] Lester Bangs (a most un-Canadian name) when he dared to imagine what he might whisper in her 'well-formed Canadian ear.' How dare he?

"After all, as Larry Leblanc wrote in Maclean's in 1974, 'If you close your eyes and think of a naked Anne Murray, parts of her always come up airbrushed."

These days, she's the queen of the mushy hetero wedding anthems: "You Needed Me," "I Just Fall in Love Again," "Could I have this dance?" And "Snowbird"!!!

But a select few always understood. Like those who listened to her actually speak: Murray once called the Culture Club hit "Karma Chameleon" "a piece of shit." Of the girl band Bananarama: "They're three broads from London."

And that Saskatchewan farmer who once grabbed her at a concert and wouldn't let go -- the freak who introduced the concept of stalking to the Canadian public. (I expect Murray's hubby was none too pleased, either.)

But married or not, we've always claimed Murray. Leblanc again: "Even though Anne remains decidedly heterosexual she has the flinty good looks, the athletic figure, broad shoulders and boyish hairstyle that naturally make her a darling of the butch set."

Respond the "Mondo Canuck" boys: "Flinty good looks? The Chicago Tribune put it rather less poetically: 'There's always going to be this lingering whiff of phys. ed. classes about the woman."

Indeed. But that, you moronic git of a reviewer, was a plus. And still is.

May 24, 2006 3:49 PM

Me and she, & him and her

Strangers are the most delightful people. And ego surfing is a glorious way to discover our other selves. Like Eleanor Brown, the pride of Ohio. In her day, Dayton school principals called her an amazing teacher.

Yet given the givens, her 40-year career was a surprise.

The other Brown's 1934 thesis, printed privately thanks to a pal's loan (publication was a requirement for graduation), is on the blindness of the poet John Milton. "Disregarding the modus of most research, which is rigidly impersonal," Brown wrote in its preface, "I have chosen for some of the material in this book to draw upon my own knowledge and experience."

"The reader will pardon this difference, I hope, when he learns that, like Milton, I must 'cheerfully bid my eyes take holiday.' Blindness came upon Milton in adult life, but it has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Yet for me the memory of the red-gold of the sun, the blue of the sky, the green of the grass, and the light of the firefly is still vivid. To the interpretation of Milton's life and writing after the loss of sight, I add my knowledge of blindness. And on account of this bond of union, I bring to the task an interest such as Milton must have given to the writing of Samson Agonistes. Thus, by similarity of experience alone, I am rendered a more able critic."

Once she'd worked around a bigoted professor, Brown became Columbia U's first blind PhD. She believed that she was probably born in 1887, never married (as far as I can tell), and died in 1964. John Milton, in turn, was born in 1608 and married three times (the first two wives expired after childbirth; two of his five children died as tots), and Milton was once arrested for writing propaganda for the losing side. He avoided execution thanks to friends who lobbied for his life.

Milton is one of those funny boys. One of those boys whose writings on homosexuality make us want to believe he was a fellow traveller. "Although he has often been accused of misogyny, his attitude toward women was advanced for his day. Similarly, though there is no doubt that he accepted the biblical condemnation of sodomy, there is reason to think that his attitude toward same-sex relations was enlightened for his age," suggests one academic.

"John Shawcross analyzed Milton's intense relationship with his boyhood friend Charles Diodati, concluding that 'The total view of Diodati seen from the extant evidence certainly points to a homosexual nature; of Milton, to a latent homosexualism which was probably repressed consciously (as well as subconsciously) from becoming overt except with Diodati.'

"There is no evidence that Milton was ever again so attached to another male after Diodati's early death in 1638." I'll spare you the endless analysis of three sentences in Paradise Lost, and another few syllables in Paradise Regained, and of the suggestion that Milton would marry Diodati in heaven in the Latin poem "Epitaphium Damonis." "This kind of love can be written only when it has been ended by death," writes egghead buddy, which frankly turns the line into poetic convention rather than proof of homosexuality.

There's nothing of gay sex in the famous few lines of Milton's "On His Blindness" (it's short, I swear):

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

As straight a brain twister as these lines may be, I can't seem to get away from Milton. The guy keeps popping into my life.

Contemporary Canadian poet Elizabeth Bachinsky has been nominated for some biggie award for her second tome, but during last week's Montreal stopover she read from her first collection, "Curio: Grotesques and Satires from the Electronic Age."

Bachinsky anagrammed "On His Blindness." 'Scalled "She is Blond Sin."

Dim, nephritic, yet single (whoosh!)
She's a dandy kid. Why film her drear wilt and
Tease the wanton hidden clit? Oh had I that
Molten loadstone rebel -- gum my thighs. She is down
To her panties. Revere her knees. Tada my
Darling! In time he ruts her cunt. My curt
Deus ex machina goads both girl and Delt. Today
Only I partake in neither - devout -- but
Soon that rumour ( not greed) plies me. Don't
Fight. She's a Norse beast. Now I stroke her.
Baby my every limb seeks this state...hide, eh? His
Deep kiss taunts singly. Ding! Had I shod a bi
Dancer (post Streisand) taut and low -- oh
Woo! What a dish! And to yell nasty verse!

Now that's queering Milton!

May 22, 2006 12:06 PM

On old movies

The problem with watching "a masterpiece" some 80 years later is that the darned thing seems filled with over acting and cinematic clichés. It's damnably goofy.

That's the curse of the cutting edge: Endlessly imitated, the extraordinary becomes ho-hum.

The 1925 flick "Battleship Potemkin" is a mere 67 minutes long, a silent Russian revolutionary propaganda movie filled with scenes of nasty capitalist overlords murdering the people.

There's also a bunch of unintentional laughs. Like I said, goofy.

Yet overall, the movie is still stunning.

It tells of a group of sailors who, after being ordered to eat meat filled with squiggling maggots, mutiny. The ship is moored near the city of Odessa, whose citizens send food to the mariners, and are punished by Czarist troops for their empathy. The much-parodied scene of soldiers ruthlessly killing the people of Odessa on The Steps is still affecting. My giggling was followed by embarrassed silence.

Although the seamen were successful, the 1905 uprising the movie commemorates was not.

But thanks to its message, the flick was banned in England and "highly restricted in the US." ("[I]n one enticing account of a screening in the New York apartment of Gloria Swanson, it was projected onto one of Gloria's satin sheets, when the absence of an available screen threatened to disappoint the eager but select audience.")

Aside from its ideology, it was also... homoerotic. In an opening scene, the all-male crew have slung their hammocks higgledy-piggledy across a room, sleeping, shirtless, on top of each other.

In another, as they expect to die against a fleet of Czarist ships, two men briefly embrace, and another's shirt goes flying, showing of his well-muscled physique, in a moment of exhilaration and, er, gratuitous hunkiness. In any communist (or fascist) revolution, apparently, the male body beautiful is essential -- though not the right of another man to touch that body. (There are no women in here, except as Good Mothers.)

Filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) got hitched to women twice, "in response to political pressure, but his marriages were never consummated. His unexpurgated diaries, recently published as 'Immortal Memories,' are filled with accounts of his infatuations with many young men," it sez here.

"Often his infatuations... were with young heterosexual men, whom he would educate and assist in their careers. His drawings, recently exhibited during the centenary of his birth, include many illustrations of homosexual activity."

Unh hunh. Sometimes it's not just the movies -- it's our own past lives that have become clichés. In between the eye-rolling, the stories are still affecting, though.

May 19, 2006 2:32 PM

No fig leaf -- maple

Enviro-god David Suzuki, host of TV's "The Nature of Things," first posed nude in 1999. Now 70 years old, he's done it again.

That is all.

May 19, 2006 2:00 PM

I'm saving my pennies, Keptin

Christie's New York will host an auction of Star Trek crap, er, memorabilia. "Over 1,000 lots from the never-before-released archives of CBS Paramount Television will include material from all of the Star Trek television series and movies, encompassing costumes, props, weapons, set dressings, detailed models of the Enterprise and various alien ship and space stations."

It's October 5 to 7. I presume we'll be able to bid remotely, by opening hailing frequencies. And the officer's uniform worn by Spock in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" has an estimated value of US$7,000.

Hmm. My pennies might not do it.

May 19, 2006 11:48 AM

From the smelly to the sublime

To find an old book that does not stink of mould is a joy. And I'll travel an hour to get to a yard sale advertised as including a box of books.

The 1927 novel "Miss Brown of XYO" was filed as a mystery in the old Town of Mount Royal Library, but it's really a Harlequin thriller, with a lowly but proper (and very talented) British stenographer pulled into the battle between freedom and the Ruskies!

Our heroine acquits herself well. "Miss Edith Brown sat on the bottommost of a short flight of steps with her back to an invisible house, gazing into an invisible world," begins the adventure. "Everywhere around her was fog -- fog of the orange, yellow description, choking, enveloping. For over half an hour she had been wandering about, patient and unafraid as was her habitude, but in a state of complete geographical confusion."

Après nous le deluge! "It was not for her to know that the quiet which she found so soothing was to be the prelude to storms such as she had never dreamed of, to days of breathless living, to vivid patches of romance, to journeyings in a new and terrifying world." But even if there'd been a hint, she would not have fled: "Miss Brown, notwithstanding her demure appearance, had suffered all her life from an unprobed spirit of romance."

Indeed, Miss Brown ends up besting the Reds, joining the secret service (the XYO) and falling madly for her boss, the country's top spook and chief dirty-bottle washer. "Miss Brown," reads the novel's last few lines, "we have known each other for quite some time, and I have never heard your Christian name."

"'Edith,' she murmured.

"'Mine is Geoffrey,' he said, taking her into his arms.

"Then for the first time, Miss Brown was kissed upon the lips."

Ha! Then her romance gets probed, awright! Snort snort!

There's a hint of lesbianism (for those who seek it). Miss Brown's occasional roommate, who lives in the country with another chickie, Mollie, and hopes to make a go of chicken farming, pops by periodically to escape the endless feather plucking. Miss Frances is 27, and on her way to being an Old Maid. Her honorific is, quite rudely, paired with her androgynous first name.

Miss Frances' fate as an unmarried lady leads her to consider giving up on the rules of propriety (with what's available, an already married male pinko pol). And, as Frances tells Miss Brown: "You're much nicer than I am, you, know, really, Edith -- sweet and soft and conscientious, -- and a dainty little thing, although you do dress like a frump on the streets. If I were a man I should be crazy about you."

Miss Frances is saved from herself (and sin) by a good-hearted but destitute Russian prince-in-exile, whose rich lady relative dies at just the right moment to allow for a marriage proposal.

The residents of the Brown-Frances building circa the 1920s seem to share a bathroom, and -- here's something I'm too young to have known -- it cost three pennies for a tub full of hot water. There's an actual slot for the coins.

The government and good-guy spies completely control the media, regularly dictating content. (I was reminded of the humiliating -- for professional journalists -- moment in 1943's "The Secret of the Unicorn" when the jeune reporteur Tintin announces that he's deliberately leaked fake information to the newspapers, in order to scam the baddies.) Though sometimes, the reporters in "Miss Brown of XYO" are on their own: "I suppose you realize that it is the first time in history that any direct appeal of a vital nature has been made to the country without the press having been let into the secret," sez one ruling politician.

(Excursus: Author E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946) was a best seller in his time, and called himself the "prince of storytellers." Eddie penned more than 100 novels: "For most of his life, Oppenheim maintained a regular schedule of work and productivity of an almost monastic nature, despite his fondness for Monte Carlo and his love of good food and wine," writes this fan. There's another delightfully obsessed Oppenheim nut here, who also provides book appraisals, and you can find the complete texts of some of buddy's work here.)

Oppenheim's best contribution to my personal zeitgeist is the swearing. The word "damn" appears at least twice in "Miss Brown of XYO," and each time there's a sheepishness -- an apology to the reader for its shameless use. "It is damned good luck for me," notes one character. "Don't be cross with me that I swear a little, Miss Brown. We Russians always do, and I am very happy."

The other swear word is much, much worse. It appears shockingly often by comparison, written thusly: "b . . . . y".

Lawdy, whatever could it mean?

Bloody bloody bloody bloody.

That's gotta be it (and my dad confirms). Bloody's "use as an expletive dates from the 17th century," according to my "Dictionary of Word Origins."

In the 1920s, the comment was understood as referring to God's blood. My dad reminds me that even 40 years ago, references to His bits -- hair of God, nails of God -- were all equally blasphemous. B . . . . y hell.

May 18, 2006 10:38 AM

... and are my arms tired!

Canadian nationalism is good! Be proud of being Canadian! We are not Americans! We don't even like them! We make our own path! Don't lump us in with those Americans! We're different, different, different!

Unless it comes to crossing our mutual border, when we shouldn't have to have Canuck passports. Cuz we're just like them.


May 18, 2006 9:41 AM

Girls, boys, others

Whether like the uniform worn by a nun or nurse, or like the daily ritual of brushing teeth -- gender is a habit.

May 17, 2006 12:10 PM

Would you put your girly bits in the hands of this man?

"Rael launches the 'ADOPT A CLITORIS' program to fight against sexual mutilation.

"Following the announcement made by Dr. Lankonade, OBGYN in Burkina Faso, stating that women and children of all ages who have suffered the indignation and torture of clitoral excise (the equivalent of male castration in its barbarity) now have the chance to regain sexual pleasure and once again be whole thanks to medical advances and the progression of science, RAEL, spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement, decided to help as many women as possible to regain their sense of pleasure and founded CLITORAID, a private non-profit organization that will sponsor those who want to have their clitoris rebuilt.

"Clitoraid’s “Adopt a Clitoris” program creates real, lasting changes for women who had been forced to experience clitoral excise against their will. To recreate the female clitoris, a local anesthetic is applied so that no pain is experienced when the surgeon uncovers the root left after the mutilation, which will become the new clitoris. It takes six weeks to completely heal from the procedure, with sexual pleasure and genetic normalcy being the end result.

"The cost of the operation is $500 (US), which is what some African women would earn in two year’s salary. They need help. Clitoraid’s ambition is to help all women who are dreaming to be whole again. By adopting a clitoris in part or in full, people can not only help a woman return to her original form, which was taken from her by primitive and barbaric means, but it will also be fundamental in the cease and desist of clitoral mutilation in the future! This must end!

"Banemanie, a Raelian Bishop-Guide in Burkina Faso was among the first women to experience the operation and discover her new sense of pleasure. Her profoundly moving testimony is available on

"The promotion of this action will be done by all regional antennas of the Raelian Movement around the world and any organization who wants to join our efforts. The first promotion will take place in Las Vegas this coming Wednesday May 17th, when the hundreds of participants in the Raelian seminar given by Rael (spiritual leader) will organize a massive fund raising downtown in order to help these women financially."

(ADDENDUM Thanks to Allison for this one!)

May 17, 2006 11:45 AM

Who'll blink?

Whither legal gay nuptials? Canadians for Equal Marriage "research indicates that 158 MPs would vote against re-opening, 137 would vote for it, and 12 are undecided or will abstain."

The complete text of the press release is in the comments section (click on this post's headline).

May 17, 2006 10:58 AM

You laugh, I complain

....and then then there are the people who, out of chagrin, remove what others consider offensive.

Straight Goods isn't some sort of hetero power thing, it's a leftie Internet publication (I receive its mailouts, though, shamefully, I've never subscribed monetarily). There's always a joke or two -- to prove that politics isn't humourless, I suppose. Though the yucks are inevitably painful.

From today's e-blast: "Last week, Straight Goods inadvertently offended some of our readers with a joke about transsexuality. We apologized and took the joke down. Since apparently there's quite a lot we don't know about trans-life, we went out and found a comprehensive Canadian website with tons of information. Here is an abundance of resources on Transsexual, Transvestite, Transgender and Intersexuality." (Link added to the body of the quote.)

I don't suppose anyone has a copy of that gag?

May 16, 2006 4:15 PM

Paper chase

On April 13, the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan also did the right thing. A three-judge panel unanimously told a group of gay activists that a newspaper ad expressing dislike for homo sex was legal. But sadly, we yet again have a decision that allows free speech only in the very specific context of a different decade.

But first, the 411: A git named Hugh Owens bought an ad in the June 30, 1997 Saskatoon StarPhoenix, in direct response to all the positive Pride stuff he was being forced to see and read that same month. Owens' ad featured references to various homos-are-bad Bible passages, and two male stick figures holding hands, with a line through them (for "no gays").

Is this hate? Is this hate illegal? Is it acceptable hate because of its religious basis?

A human rights panel, and then a Saskatchewan court, both declared the ad to be illegal. Owens was ordered to pay $1,500 to each of the three (presumably) queer complainants.

But the appeals judges decided otherwise last month.

From the ruling (written by Justice Bob Richards): "Part of the context which must inform the meaning of Mr. Owens' advertisement is the long history of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-identified people in this country and elsewhere.... At the same time, it is significant that the advertisement in issue here was published in 1997 and, thus, in the middle of an ongoing national debate about how Canadian legal and constitutional regimes should or should not accommodate sexual identities." "Sexual orientation" was added to The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code four years earlier. And two years before the ad, the Supreme Court of Canada had agreed on "sexual orientation," too.

"Parliament would not pass legislation to make government programs and benefits available on an equal basis to gay and lesbian couples until three years after the advertisement appeared." And same-sex marriage was nowhere. "[I]t is important to consider Mr. Owens' advertisement in the context of the time and circumstances in which it was published. That environment featured an active debate and discussion about the place of sexual identity in Canadian society. Indeed, the advertisement at issue here was published in connection with gay pride week – an event promoted by the gay community as a celebration of diversity and used in part as a platform for the advancement of gay rights. Seen in this broader context, Mr. Owens' advertisement tends to take on the character of a position advanced in a continuing public policy debate rather than the character of a message of hatred or ill will."

Ironically, under this logic, the more secure gay men and lesbians become in Canadian society, the more easy it will be for us to cope with hatred, the less legally acceptable it will be to diss homos.

And, while gays considered that the Pride timing was particularly offensive, the justices see this as making the message particularly relevant. It's a fascinating exercise, to see the world from another viewpoint.

The ad is "jarring," yes. But does it "involve extreme feelings and strong emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification"? Cuz that's what the law requires.

"For his part, Mr. Owens says the advertisement simply means 'God says no to the behaviour of homosexuality' and, as a result, he submits there was no violation."

The gay complainants "expressed the anger, hurt and frustration caused to them by the message in the advertisement. [One man] believed the advertisement gave licence to people who wanted to discriminate against gay men and a licence to people who were inclined to harass or assault gay men. [Another] said the overall message he received from the ad was that 'God instructs us that intimacy between two people of the same gender is inappropriate or some type of religious crime and those who engage in such acts should be put to death.'"

Certainly Owens believes gay sex is a sin. The ad directs readers to the Bible: Romans 1:26 (which mentions carpet munchers, I'm pleased to say -- why should the boys get all the attention?), Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, all of them stating that homosexualists are very naughty, indeed. (Most notable is the grand old cliché of the Holy Book: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.")

So. Is a listing of Biblical passages considered hate speech? The Good Book is actually full of messages, many of them contradictory, from kill-the-homos to love-thy-neighbour. In fact, notes the ruling, "love, tolerance and forgiveness" are its key concepts.

The judge actually works up a way of ensuring that the Bible is not considered hate propaganda: "[The] objective reader of Mr. Owens’ advertisement would see it in the context of the other concepts popularly understood as flowing from the Bible.... A second point concerning the Bible passages cited by Mr. Owens is that an objective observer would understand that their meaning and relevance for contemporary society can and would be assessed in a variety of ways." For example, gay sex is like adultery -- a sin, but... whatever, eh.

"The fact that the passages referred to in the advertisement can be seen in such a variety of ways makes them significantly different than the hypothetical present day message referred to above, i.e. a message that 'Homosexuals should be killed.'"

Next, the hand-holding stickmen with the line through them. "They are not," writes the justice, "depicted in a way which suggests undesirable characteristics such as dangerousness, untrustworthiness, lack of cleanliness, dishonesty or deceit. They are presented in a neutral and straightforward fashion."

"Accordingly, in my view, the [Human Rights] Board of Inquiry properly concluded that the not permitted symbol 'may itself not communicate hatred.' [...]

"Indeed, the stickmen element of the advertisement can be seen as understating the literal meaning of the most extreme parts of the Bible text in that it suggests certain kinds of activity are not allowed rather than suggesting that gay men should be killed."

So, the ad is not hate speech. At least, it wasn't back then, in '97. Today? I guess someone would need to file a human rights complaint, then fight through the courts for a few years, to find out.

May 16, 2006 2:13 PM

"Fag" -- come on, say it with me

"Fag" is okay on TV! Sometimes.

Yes, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council -- the busy body industry umbrella group that exists in order to deflect complaints filed to (and criticism placed by) the federal regulator that is the CRTC -- has ruled that words must be understood in context.

This older decision -- dating from January 20 (and brought to my attention here) -- is about the use of the word "fag" on The Comedy Network at 8:30 at night.

The show was Comedy Now, a stand-up showcase that this time featured Gord Disley. And here's buddy's shtick (as transcribed in the ruling):

"So Pride Day's coming up, huh? I'm not a fag myself; if I was, I'd tell ya. I can't, so I won't.

"I mean, really, homophobia in the year 2000 looks particularly stupid, doesn’t it? 'Cause it's the year 2000. And we're all in the same freaking boat, so just get over it. This is what I tell people that I come across that I don't want to bother with, who are homophobic."

There's still more "fag" talk: "Fags renovate like a [muted phrase: "son of a bitch"]. Me, I'm not good with tools. I mean, renovating for me is putting a candle in a bottle, you know. Am I in the right apartment? Homosexual men have projects around the house. You hand a fag a square foot and say "make it attractive", no problem. I mean I know men with bachelor apartments and sliding doors. Like French doors. Window boxes, hardy cacti. Man, you walk into a house full of straight boys and suggest a project, you know what you get? 'Uhh, you m'ean like take the empties back? I've got some popsicle sticks; you can build a birdhouse. What?"

The Comedy Channel responded to a viewer complaint by stating that its programming "tends to be more risqué and controversial" than that in the mainstream. Or at least, they hope to goodness it is. Cuz why would anyone pay extra for Comedy Channel otherwise, for the same-old, same-old?

The defence reads: "In this piece... Mr. Disley begins by condemning homophobia. Mr. Disley uses his comedy to push socially accepted boundaries and deal with touchy subject matter. Although it is not always dealt with in a politically correct fashion, it is his style of humour."

Damn straight.

The final decision sides with The Comedy Network: "Much modern comedy has a discriminatory edge, taking advantage of the propensity of individuals to find humour in difference." And, quoting from a previous ruling, "It would be unreasonable to expect that the airwaves be pure, antiseptic and flawless. Society is not."

"The goal... is not to ensure purity on the airwaves; it is to protect against harmful speech.... In the matter at hand, the humour appeared to be aimed, if anywhere, at straight men, rather than gays, at the creatively-challenged rather than at the creatively adept."

Some argue that the word "fag" is always nasty (like the complainant, eh). Well, it is nasty. But are we to allow this word to control us? A straight guy who's trashing bigots on stage doesn't let it control him. That's got to be healthier than our reaction -- fear.

In the end, the broadcast council announced that the word was acceptable. Of course, adjudicators couldn't quite bring themselves to approve of a censorship-free television environment: "This is not to suggest that there might not be circumstances in which it might be presented in a sneering, derisive, nasty tone but that is not what the Panel considers the present usage to be. It is benign, light-hearted, distinctively tickling. The Panel finds no breach of the Human Rights Clause in any aspect of the broadcast under consideration."

I suppose this will have to do.

May 16, 2006 1:09 PM

More is better

Catching up on media nooze today. Tranna Star media columnist Antonia Zerbisias blogged about the need for Arabic news network Al-Jazeera to come to North America. Would Americans who hate Al-Jazeera "prefer to rip up the U.S. constitution and muzzle all the media -- or just the (non-American-controlled) media that originate from Arabic countries and might show a different perspective than the lapdog corporations stateside?"

Zerby writes: "Al-Jazeera International is negotiating cable and satellite distribution in the U.S. right now, and you can bet the same thing is going on in Canada. But odds are, the same forces that prevented the Arabic-language original from getting on our dial (legally) are already lobbying to ensure we don't see the English version.

"If you care about getting this channel on your dial, write your cable and satellite operator NOW."

May 16, 2006 1:01 PM

Geeks only

Internerdnicks will be interested to know that the new, "moderated" feedback section (meaning write whatever you want as long as it's not a salespitch for your friggin' crap) is working nicely. The poker people have disappeared.

The new web pests are selling the (possibly addictive) weight loss drug Phentermine. But not at Oples! Or at least, not to Oples readers. Me, I'm tempted by their wily compliments, filed in the admin areas, and the way they keep trying to create whole new posts just to discuss their product. Oooo, code crackers are sexay.

A reminder that the comments section for each post is accessible by clicking on that post's headline. Ciao, bayby.

May 15, 2006 3:49 PM

The stupendous! And amazing! Ant

Some creatures are more human than others. The cell conflations known as ants, for example, are actually itty bitty people.

Socialists admired the ant work ethic. Nazis applauded how some species kill or abandon their unproductive members. In fact, any philosopher can rationalize their own lifestyle prescription from the lives of ants (religious folk have, too -- and now that they've done penguins, gay activists are sure to arrive on the ant scene next).

Academic Charlotte Sleigh writes (in her tiny tome, titled -- you guessed it -- "Ant"): "It is extraordinarily difficult to avoid using grandiose adjectives in the description of ants."

"Ants command a respect from their fans out of all proportion to the insects' size. Ants, they affirm, are the '-est' insects: the cleverest, most organized, hardest-working, most numerous, most fecund, most dominant; they are older than humans, more bellicose, more cooperative, more communicative. A children's web site asserts: 'Ant brains are largest among insects... It has been estimated that an ant's brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.'

"At least, that is what myrmecologists (those who study ants) would have us believe. Though their precise claims have changed over time, western students of ants always seem to have made hyperbolic assertions about them.

"The eighteenth century natural philosopher Réaumur started at a basic level in his catalogue of the extraordinary qualities of ants: 'we have for them none of those aversions that are frequently entertained towards so many other insects.' Our dispassionate attitude towards them compared to, say, cockroaches, signals their human status; their existence is parallel with our own. Unlike fleas, they have no particular dependence on us, and we have no need for them as we do for bees."

Plato "hath determined," noted some guy, "that they who without the help of philosophy have lead a civill life by custom or from their own diligence, they had their souls from Ants...."

Pliny believed that ants buried and accorded funeral rites to their dead; others say that if these insects grew to mammalian size, they'd rule the earth. Certainly there are an estimated ten thousand trillion ants, weighing as much as all the humans on the planet.

Myrmecologist E.O. Wilson "claims that the behaviour of ants can be studied for the meaning of their social interaction, whereas the most impressively trained chimp is only performing individual tricks, devoid of any social or ecological import." When homeowners ask him what to do about the ants in their kitchens, he tells them to watch where they step. And recommends tuna and whipped cream as ant favorites.

May 12, 2006 9:36 AM

The examined life

One of the left's great lapses is its inability to truly cope with the abortion issue. I don't mean that we don't take a stand on abortion -- there's an assumption that a good leftie is pro choice. I am.

And those who massed on Parliament Hill yesterday calling for restrictions on abortion are considered to be on the religious right. Most of them probably are.

Abortion has been a victory for the left in Canada (though access, less so). In terms of the media and the public eye, the left has, largely successfully, transformed the debate into one of choice. And so it is.

But as with so many issues, there is more than one truth. That fetus is being treated like a dumb beast, although, hopefully, mercifully. This treatment is a fact that each individual woman who undergoes an abortion already knows. But it's also something we as a movement must acknowledge and cope with. Because that's reality, too.

May 11, 2006 2:37 PM

Woof, woof! Clang, clang!

Many people believe that we will be judged -- indeed, that we should be judged -- by how we treat the less fortunate. Appalling, isn't it?

You'd think that we will -- and should -- be judged by how we treat everyone. That those of "lesser" class, say, should be treated in the same way we treat those of "greater" class. I appreciate and challenge everybody. No sucking up, no free passes, and no condescension towards whoever qualifies as this month's "less fortunate."

And so I have an issue with the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which, following its founding in Montreal in 1869, was adamant in seeking to protect "dumb beasts." The idea being that because animals were dumb, they deserved more, rather than because all living creatures should be treated with some kindness.

Hey, I practice what I preach: when faced with a particular kind of crawly black slimy thing with multiple legs, my murderous foot stomp is mercifully quick and thoroughly final. I do not cause long minutes of suffering.

But it seems that it was almost normal in the Canada of the 1800s for some angry guy to slowly beat his under-performing lame horse to death in the middle of the road.

My impression is conveyed by the 1970 book "For Those Who Cannot Speak," a history of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, written by Beatrice Johnston.

One of the first whites to publicly condemn animal cruelty was the Duke of Richmond, governor general of Upper Canada from 1818 to '19. "It has been reported to the Commander of the Forces that Soldiers in this Garrison [of Quebec] have been in the habit of Tying Canisters etc. etc. to Dogs Tails; The Duke of Richmond is unwilling to believe this to be the case as He conceives it impossible that Courage and Cruelty can be found united in the same Person. The Cruelty of Tricks of this sort may have escaped the minds of Boys in the Service, but the Danger of Men Women and Children being Bit by Dogs Driven mad by such Unmanly and Disgraceful Practices appears to His Grace so imminent that He feels it necessary to call upon Officers Commanding Corps and Stations to take effectual steps for putting an immediate stop to this apparently trifling but really serious mischief -- any Soldier who may be Guilty of it after this Order is to be brought to Trial and severely Punished."

And this coda: "The Duke of Richmond cannot dismiss this subject without remarking that He considers Cruelty to Animals particularly unbecoming in a Soldier inasmuch as Humanity is inseparable from True Honor."

The Duke died soon after penning that order, by the by. Slowly, and in great pain. He was bitten by a rabid fox.

May 11, 2006 1:28 PM

How many eyeballs...

...are fixed on OUTtv? Given the money woes, the answer is not enough. The cable network has managed to avoid declaring bankrutpcy, it sez here.

I finally ditched a channel in favour of OUTtv, but gotta confess that I never watch it.

"At an April 18 meeting OUTtv's unsecured creditors voted in favour of the network's plan to pay off part of its debt. The plan will reduce the network's unsecured debt to about $400,000 from $2.7 million, says Bill Craig, the majority shareholder and president of the company that runs both OUTtv and Hard On PrideVision, its adult-content sibling network."

Geez. When porn don't pay, you're in serious doo-doo.

"'We were the first gay and lesbian TV network in the world,' says Craig, 'and now we have avoided becoming the world's first bankrupt gay TV network.'"

Craig -- who hasn't called me back -- needed creditors to okay the restructuring, and enough did to keep on keeping on. "The plan has the company paying most of the creditors 19 percent of the debt owed. Some of the creditors, including shareholders, agreed to forgive their debts in return for keeping equity in the company. Those creditors include Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra, and Craig himself, who was owed $340,000." Ah, the interconnectedness of indy queer media....

A judge still has to okay the scheme. And Craig's looking for people with big pockets to invest. "Once the deal is finalized, the company can go back to doing the business of running a television network, including developing programming and increasing viewership. Programming has languished in rerun-ville while the restructuring was taking place."

May 10, 2006 5:14 PM

Glasses, rose

The Official Favorite Book of British Homosexuals is "Tales of the City," a comedic American novel (and later, a series) by Armistead Maupin published in 1978. The first book is a collection of newspaper columns.

The Big Gay Read's poll pick is funny, but it's also dated and... dated.

Oh yeah, the author's name is an anagram for "is a man I dreamt up." Maupin sez that's a co-inkidink.

May 10, 2006 12:41 PM

A teaching moment

For all my endless calls for endless legislation on pollution, I'm not in general a fan of more rules and regulations. Just tougher laws about fewer things. Saving the planet = important.

But... government as a force for the banning of inconvenience? Not important.

So while I now hesitate to answer the telephone -- because nine times out of 10 it's some chatty salesperson who wants to know how I am, in order to sell me life insurance -- the proposed national Do-Not-Call Registry is a travesty.

You cannot ban people from trying to talk to you. For heaven's sakes, where will such laws take us?

You don't want to talk back? Just hang up, you big whiny baby.
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