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May 2005 - Posts

May 31, 2005 12:29 PM

Work it, girl

"By 1879, Edison had opened London's first telephone-exchange in Lombard Street, and from the opening, this was staffed, as far as the less responsible work was concerned, by women, as was indeed, the (Government) Central Telegraph Office at St. Martin's-le-Grand. The telegram, the typewriter ["in its dimensions and apparent intricacy like something out of a spinning-mill"], the telephone -- these three, in chronological order, did more, in a practical way, for 'Women's Lib.' than ever the strident female would-be doctors, 'social workers,' 'divines' and printers, with their misdirected energy, and their topsy turvey sexuality could and did do."

This is from Michael Harrison's "The World of Sherlock Holmes" (1973, E.P. Dutton & Co.).

Quebec filmmaker Caroline Martel has just won a prize for her 2004 documentary, "Le Fantome de l'operatrice," a look at the role of the telephone in the creation of women's paid work. Operators -- in North America, at least -- were originally male, but women's voices, it was decided, worked better on the phone lines. Companies hired female high school grads with proper morals who passed a medical exam. Although it's unsaid, this was clearly intended to ensure that they weren't preggars.

The narration's a bit pompous, and the last 10 minutes drag, but this French-language film is a fascinating look back at one of the few jobs (outside of domestic work) that unmarried women were allowed in the early 1900s. (For those in Montreal, the movie is at Ex Centris until June 2; it's distributed by Productions Artifact).


ADDENDUM: Michael Harrison's so-so Holmes tome, which introduction gives an idea of the social and political surroundings of the world's first consulting detective, also includes in footnote the story of Emily Faithfull, a woman of the late 1800s whose name should live on in the fem'nist cannon: "Miss Emily Faithfull, an eminent do-gooder, established a printing shop completely staffed by females -- compositors, machine-minders, proof-readers... and the rest. This bold champion of Woman's Rights secured for herself the appointment of 'Printer-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty.'

"Fate was at its most cynical, one feels, in making this man-hating Amazon the victim of a singularly embarrassing encounter, of an 'intimate' nature, with the elderly Vice-Admiral Codrington, a hero... who, in his dotage, not only pressed his unsought attentions upon Miss Faithfull, but let the female printer see a proof -- of his virility -- over which she had hoped never to have to cast her eyes." Poor thing.

May 31, 2005 11:21 AM

Celebrate diversity

I would LOVE to see a straight pride day. Sadly, the good city councillors of Yellowknife proclaimed Heterosexual Day, then quickly rescinded it, undoubtedly because enraged queer activists shouted, "Every day is Heterosexual Pride Day!"

Yes it is.

But... if we're proud, they can be proud, too. I mean, what are we doing here? Do we want straights to feel bad about being straight? T'ain't nothing wrong with that.

In truth, we all know that's not what HPD would be. No, imagine the great PR this would turn out to be: a collection of bigots with offensive signs about homos that would seriously creep out the moderates.

And oh, the crazy merriment of a Heterosexual Pride Day! No drag, no leather, no long hairs... shoes and shirts required. Fun all around.

Lordy. For it to be any good, they'd have to hire a homo to plan it.


ADDENDUM: Thanks to Barry for providing the original link to this news story.

May 30, 2005 3:42 PM

PayPal's sex panic comes to Canada

In its continuing crusade against anything that might in any way be connected to s-e-x (shh!), the moralists at PayPal have been dumping business customers left, right and center -- and gosh, by zany coincidence, a whole whack of them have been hawking gay- or lesbian-related products. This week's target is Montrealer Dayna McLeod.

"We appreciate the fact that you chose PayPal to send and receive payments for your transactions," reads an e-mail McLeod received just a few days ago from the Internet payment processing company. (She kindly forwarded me a copy.) "However, after a recent review of your account, it has been determined that you are currently in violation of PayPal's Acceptable Use Policy. The Policy prohibits the use of PayPal in the sale of obscene or sexually oriented goods or services."

Uhm, McLeod is an artist. And a good one.

This is a big deal; there's very little out there that's as easily accessible as PayPal when it comes to selling your product online. And queer organizations have been screwed over by PayPal repeatedly in the last year or so. The double P has dropped HIM Corp., which runs such news sites as LesbiaNation and GayWired (some personals advertisers allegedly posted full frontal nude shots of themselves). The Washington Blade reported that the Red Hot Organization AIDS fundraising site is no longer a Paypal customer. There's even talk that the September shutdown of GayToday.com was helped along by PayPal's prurience.

A gay book site was disposed of last summer, then reinstated earlier this month: author Perry Brass devoted huge amounts of time to garnering bad publicity for PayPal, which finally paid off. There's nothing like a story in Forbes magazine to embarrass a company.

At first I thought PayPal was run by a bunch of bigots. That was denied last year: "It's not about sexual orientation, it's about sexual content," PayPal communications department officials Amanda Pires and Sara Bettencourt told me during an interview with both on a speakerphone. So now I see that -- joy of joys -- it's not homosexuality they can't cope with. It's anything vaguely connected to The Nasty and The Nudity. Even the straight stuff.

I want to get back to Dayna McLeod. I know Dayna; I enjoy her thoughtful and quite funny work. And yes, there's some sexual content. (Thank gawd -- can't we make fun of sex, too? And have fun with it?)

It's stupid of PayPal to refuse to service porn companies, but hey, it's their financial loss. But to refuse news sites, artists, and authors? To nix an AIDS group because of its safe sex ads? That's truly fucked.

Did I say that getting dumped by PayPal is a big deal? It is, but McLeod gets one laugh out of it. She signed up in September, and hasn't sold a thing through PayPal: "Having... no sales," she asks, "how can they judge the product they are banning if they haven't seen it?"

Still, she needs PayPal. Or something just like it. As does every other queer website with product to sell.


ADDENDUM The Montreal Mirror ran an interview with Dayna McLeod in April.

For grumpy anti PayPal reading, check out Perry Brass's blow by blow account of his fight, located about halfway down the page.

As alternatives to PayPal, you could try Ebill (PC users only) or the shopping cart service with 3-Rivers, a company that deals with Mac users. I haven't tried either, so these aren't recommendations, just possibilities.

May 30, 2005 9:05 AM

Save the planet. Now repeat 1 million times

The fight to preserve the natural environment is an inherently conservative ideology. Leftists want to claim environmentalism for themselves, but classical conservatism is exactly about preserving what is, or even returning to what was. The left's biggest problem is its ability forget the right-wing, traditionalist roots of some of its own tenets.

To understand those human connections to routine and ritual and the attachment to the past will enable us to think through our own politics better. Not all change is good, that's a given. But not all change is bad, and the left seems to spend an awful lot of time demanding that the clock be turned back....

Fighting change? Sometimes, absolutely. But we must always question our own motives before settling on a final position. Else the chorus keeps hitting the same note. And the majority stops listening to ideologues and whiny naysayers, whatever their tune.

May 30, 2005 9:05 AM

Housekeeping

The site was hit by (bad words here) loan scam spam over the weekend. It's a first for this newbie, and I'm feeling quite proud about finally being important enough to be targeted! I've tracked down and deleted a good bazillion messages, and there's another dozen to go; do e-mail if you find a stray bit of junk that should be nuked.

May 28, 2005 11:18 AM

Perambulations 1: DIY lunch

Discovered the Canadian Carnivorous Plant Society. "The world of insectivorous plants is both mysterious and fascinating. During the course of their evolution, they have developed remarkable capacities to attract, capture and digest living insects. This is largely due to the extreme poverty of the environment in which they grow.

"Their prey supplies them with nutrients necessary for healthy growth." Yum. Those I saw on display were quite beautiful.

The society also believes in "the protection of indigenous species and habitats which always remain an important issue for our society." Let me extend that a bit: what little remains of our "natural" environment is rapidly disappearing.

We can each do our small part. So, for example, enough with the big-corporation, factory-farmed, genetically modified tomato that tastes like a piece of 8 by 10 photocopy paper.

Here's a small-business website (the place is located just a few blocks away from me) that explains the appeal of the old-fashioned love apple. Of course, these are more expensive to buy than are generic seedlings. They may also produce fewer fruit, and need more care. (Seeds of Diversity Canada publishes a complete heritage catalogue.) But however much extra cash you have, consider testing out some home-grown this summer, heritage or not. Anything ripened in the sun is a delicious treat.

No back yard? No problem. Apartment dwellers can buy hanging planters or window boxes, or even convert a makeshift container or three for the fire escape (leaving the path free for a real escape, of course). The only caveat is that plants exposed to the wind dry faster, and need more watering. Bon appetite!

May 27, 2005 10:17 AM

The Christian discount

It makes cents to support your own. And the Defend Marriage Coalition's senior director, Dr. Charles McVety, has now made special arrangements for religious right-wingers who want to read mainstream news that makes them look good.

From the website: "The Toronto Marriage Rally on Monday, May 23rd was a tremendous success with between 5,000 - 10,000 people gathering on the front lawn of the Ontario Legislature. The National Post published a large headline in the Tuesday newspaper reading 'Faiths Unite to Fight Same Sex Marriage.' Speakers from most major religions led a boisterous crowd, of varied ethnicity to actively work to preserve marriage.

"Canada's two national newspapers gave conflicting reports of the same event. The National Post printed a fair and thorough account. The Globe and Mail editor expunged their article and in place printed a picture of eight same sex supporters and one person praying on his knees with the caption, 'Same Sex Rallies.' The Globe and Mail was factually wrong in their report. There was only one small protest rally against the Toronto Marriage Rally defending marriage with thousands in attendance. In contrast, a handful of counter-protesters appeared. The Globe chose to distort reality with disinformation to suit their agenda....

"The National Post, however, more accurately reported with a full front-page headline on Saturday, May 21st and several related articles on Wednesday, May 25th. The Post is obviously the only reliable national newspaper with fair and balanced reporting, therefore as marriage supporters we should subscribe to the National Post."

And the subscriptions department at the Post is only too happy to help! "A special discounted daily delivered subscription rate (where available) of only $9.99 per month is offered to you by calling 1.800.668.7678 (POST). You can access this Canada Christian College rate by quoting number 84." As my tipster notes, "Talk about buying into your own world view."

May 26, 2005 5:21 PM

The glassy-eyed girl

People have the right to choose to be involved in cults. Deprogramming is a vile and violent thing, and a concerned friend or family member who embarks on such a course of action is being blinded by their own need for control. Freedom means the freedom to cut yourself off from parents and other nasty people who laugh at your chosen way of life, however nutty. And so I would never torture an International Socialist into abandoning the cause.

But there's a limit to everything. The daily featured listings of the leftie Rabble.ca (the brainchild of Judy Rebick) are promoting an International Socialists' event taking place tonight in Toronto ("From Che to Chavez: Latin America in Revolt," at 6:30 pm at a public library).

The I.S. tries to take over everything its members touch, and there's no room for dissent or debate. The I.S. is organizational poison. Rabble's feature listing is just stupid. Talk about the left helping to destroy itself....


ADDENDUM: There's one good thing to be said about I.S. Toronto: It's not homophobic. Featured speaker Michelle Robidoux is out and proud.

For a look at far-left political groupings, see Roger O'Toole's "The Precipitous Path: Studies in Political Sects," a 1977 monograph (published by Peter Martin Associates Limited) that looks at a handful of wacky Toronto groups. An interesting read -- and even "regular folk" will recognize how some of the bonding rituals of the far-left have been adopted and adapted by mainstream political parties. Socializing together is a requirement for young Liberals, too, I'll bet. Gotta build the group-think.

May 26, 2005 7:38 AM

On the Revenge of the Sith

If you can emotionally connect with a bunch of guys swinging light sabres about, see Star Wars: Episode III. It's a boys' movie filled with violence, stilted dialogue, and the endless good-versus-evil slashfest. And not a single one-liner to be found to relieve Hayden Christensen's agonized I'm-a good-man-turning-into-David-Prowse scowl. I liked it. But only because I was able to completely disassociate from The Girl (Natalie Portman)... meaning Padme, Anakin Skywalker-slash-Darth Vader's chickie.

Reviewer Kimi Eisele got it perfectly: "[T]he single female character in the film was nothing more than a weepy girl, distressed and overdressed....

"Padme reminded me of all those disconnected and discarded mothers and wives of 19th century literature. Hester Prynne, Madame Bovary, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famed (and unnamed) protagonist in 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'

"These women were bored, isolated, and stuck in society's limited expectations of them and much of their purpose and meaning depended on their husbands or fathers. Trapped and insignificant, it seemed the only power they had was to take their own lives -- which they often did.

"Despite the futuristic age in which she lives, things aren't much brighter for Padme, whose pregnancy renders her oddly helpless. Though supposedly a member of the Galactic Senate, she does little more than sit listlessly in an oversized living room watching the passing hovercraft and the multiple sunsets, waiting for her belly to grow and for Anakin to come home. The only thing that changes are her outfits." Star Wars reprises mythological archetypes, and Woman gets pregnant and ensures the future. That's it.

May 25, 2005 11:32 AM

The other Melissa

Lesbianism could be a commercial bonanza! The South Florida Express Gay News featured an interview this month (that I can't find on the website) with Massachusetts-based singer/musician Melissa Ferrick, who came out for her second album, released in '95. "Ferrick's good friend, Chastity Bono, wrote a story about Ferrick for The Advocate. Ironically it was the record label that pushed her to open up about her sexuality.

"'Honestly, it was a publicity play,' Ferrick says. 'It was what the record label wanted at the time because of the press I could get. They thought we could sell more records and narrow down the audience. I'm sure you are aware the gay market is definitely a market people try to exploit. Looking back now, I think it was a business ploy rather than a heartfelt thing.'

"Ferrick was relieved not [to] have to answer questions about her personal life in a vague, upside down manner. But on the flip side, she was working with the label using her sexuality to sell records, which felt somewhat dirty, she says. Still, kd lang was out, Melissa Etheridge was out, and it was the thing to do, Ferrick says."

For those interested in the music, Ferrick describes her style as Ani DeFranco shaking hands with Dave Matthews. There's a crabby review here.

May 25, 2005 11:12 AM

First the Jews, then the homos

Gay gossip and queer conspiracy theories have pushed Canuck right-winger Andrew Coyne to disable the instant feedback section of his blog: "The comments have frankly gone to seed, overrun with western separatists, Bilderberg conspiracy theorists and various other cranks.

"Last night I spent several hours weeding out a quite disgusting thread speculating on the sexual preferences of various politicians, and the secret gay network that had supposedly infiltrated the Canadian government, and I have no wish to ever soil my hands that way again."

Bigotry's about hate, we always mumble. But it's clear from the posts on Coyne's site that sometimes a different emotion's involved: We scare the bejeezus out of them. We're taking over, after all.

May 24, 2005 11:01 AM

Vote for the dyke

Where the heck are lesbians in public life? The very out Alison Brewer is the first candidate to declare an interest in the leadership of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party -- the vote's scheduled for September.

And good for her -- I guess. It'll be a long time before we see an out lesbian running for the leadership of a viable party. I'm not being mean, just practical: The N.B. N.D.P. has a single elected member in the provincial legislature. It hasn't a hope in hell of making it to government anytime soon. Not that there's anything wrong with grabbing a job that allows you to present alternatives and get people thinking. That's a worthwhile endeavour.

Interestingly, the lone media story I managed to find doesn't even mention Brewer's gay and lesbian rights track record. There are many possible reasons for this, but it's certainly true that reporters are notoriously afraid of mentioning homo sexual orientation. It's one of the problems with squishy liberals: it might be private, you know. So they often don't ask at all, out of fear that it's an inappropriate question.

The CBC screed reads: "Brewer is best known as an advocate for freedom of choice on the abortion issue. She's the former director of the Morgentaler Clinic in Fredericton."

As far as I know, there's only a single out dyke in office in the whole country. British Columbia New Democrat MP Libby Davies came out during a particularly impassioned House of Commons debate on the legitimacy of same-sex relationships -- but that's it. In comparison, there are at least three out gay men federally, and a handful of male politicians across the country at the provincial and municipal levels. But no out lesbians...? Is it really possible to do it all from the outside, looking in?

May 23, 2005 11:30 AM

It's true: Martina vs. 'The L Word'

Martina Navratilova talks to PlanetOut.com:
"I liked it [Showtime's 'The L Word'] when it first came out, I was a big fan. I think it fell into the toilet. It started out good, and now I'm disgusted by it.

"There isn't one decent relationship. The worst thing is the relationships. There isn't one monogamous relationship. Every show has to have a sex scene. I don't know what they are thinking. There is nobody in there that I relate to, that I can say: 'That's cool! Wow! I want to be more like that!'"

Well, this adds some context to that nasty lawsuit.

May 23, 2005 11:14 AM

I know that masked woman

I had no time for Pierre Berton while he was alive. I was brought up on those CBC documentaries based on journalist and populist historian Berton's ubiquitously good-for-me history books. Yuck. Until, that is, one of former television news anchor Knowlton Nash's memoirs learned me that Berton was a leftie.

Geez, who from m-m-m-m-my generation could tell? Turns out Berton's "The Comfortable Pew: A Critical look at the Church in the New Age" included a critique of the Anglican church's rejection of gays and lesbians. This in 1965 -- when gay sex was still illegal!

Yup, Pierre Berton, activist. And joker, too. And lawd help me, I love a good literary hoax. From the reference work "Mondo Canuck":

She raises her whip.
"On your knees, worm," she says, coldly. "And do not dare to speak again until I give you leave."
He grovels, the sweat poring from his brow.
His jacket, she notes, is splendidly tailored. He cannot see the single tear rolling down her cheek.

More: "In late spring 1985, McClelland and Stewart, the proudly Canadian publishing stable... published a volume of [heterosexual] erotic short stories called 'Masquerade: 15 Variations on a Theme of Sexual Fantasy.' The first work of English fiction by an obscure Eastern European immigrant named Lisa Kroniuk, the book was published by M&S on the recommendation of Kroniuk's agent, Elsa Franklin....

"The title's promise of forbidden delights notwithstanding, Masquerade stiffed. The only daily newspaper in the country to even bother reviewing it was the Globe and Mail, and its response was, well, flaccid: 'Entertaining,' allowed reviewer Laszlo Buhasz, 'but somehow flawed in execution.'"

Five thousand were printed, only 1,300 actually made it to store shelves. And they all stayed there. After six weeks, press releases went out inviting reporters to a Front Page Challenge-like event where three luminaries had to guess which of three masked women was the real Lisa Kroniuk.

After a few minutes of silliness, the terribly respectable Berton finally stood up and declared authorship of the porn.

"The roots of what the Globe and Mail's William French called 'the most ingenious publicity stunt in the history of Canadian publishing' apparently began with a novel Berton had finished two decades prior to Masquerade, but which [book company honcho Jack] McClelland, presumably highly unimpressed, had strongly advised his best-selling author against publishing. Masquerade was thus Berton's revenge: a way of showing Jack McClelland that not only was he a good novelist -- he was good enough even for Jack McClelland to publish."

Postscript: Masquerade continued to languish on the shelves, and one of Berton's children called it dull. Before she knew her dad had written it. We Canucks, we know good porn when we read it. Er.

May 20, 2005 10:54 AM

The big four-oh

Happy birthday... to me.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I dare?' and, 'Do I dare?'
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair --
[....]
I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

T.S. Eliot
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

May 19, 2005 10:41 AM

Calling Belinda nasty names

First, a bunch of hurt and angry men called turncoat Belinda Stronach a prostitute and a whore. The Ontario MP dumped the Tories for the ruling Liberals and a Cabinet post, you'll recall. So of course the hooker analogy was everywhere.

The problem is that a bunch of feminists responded by saying that this was misogynist.

The papers are full of sexist crap said about Stronach these last few days, but think twice about the "prostitute" and "whore" stuff. As far as I know no one, no one at all, has responded by saying: there is nothing wrong with being a prostitute.

It all reminds me of an offensive press release released in 2002 by the queer lobby group Egale: the group could have educated people about effeminate men, but instead trashed pansies. Read my old analysis here. And fashion your own back-talk about the strength and respectability of prostitutes.

May 18, 2005 12:41 PM

The search for the simple punch line

What to do with Aaron McGruder? He's funny, he's smart, he loves to pull off political scabs in his syndicated comic strip, "The Boondocks." Daily newspapers in the United States take turns pulling the cartoon because it's not "factual" (hello, it's a cartoon), or just because it's nasty. The New Yorker noted, in a 2004 profile, that "a dozen editors had already expelled the [strip] for good; still others had relocated McGruder to the op-ed page."

Remember the series that called U.S. Secretary of State (then the prez's national security adviser) Condoleezza Rice a lezzie? "Maybe if there was a man in the world who Condoleezza truly loved, she wouldn't be so hell-bent to destroy it," said one character, with another agreeing: "Condoleezza's just lonely and bitter." McGruder's denied the she's-bad-cuz-she's-a-dyke angle, but is it any wonder women readers hated that one?

Here's the dialogue from today's "The Boondocks" (Granddad has bought an earring):

Little Huey: "Granddad, supposedly only 'certain kinds of men' have their right ear pierced."
Granddad: "Well, the guy at the jewelry store had his right ear pierced, and he didn't seem like a 'certain kind of man.'"
A voice from outside the frame: "Granddad! The jeweler is on the phone! He wants to know if you're up for dinner!"
Granddad: "Tell him I'll call him back."
Little Huey: "I wouldn't."

Is this a hint of homophobia? A suggestion for avoiding an awkward moment? Or is granddad going out on a date? This one made me think hard about how to interpret it. Unlike many Boondocks strips, it leaves much out.

And that's a good thing. People rarely understand that: they don't like having to puzzle through what a punch line really means -- it makes them uncomfortable. Just as they don't like the harsher McGruder strips: People also don't like raw anger -- it makes them uncomfortable. That discomfort is what makes me love "The Boondocks."


ADDENDUM: From The New Yorker profile, a quick recap of the history of blacks in the funnies: "It wasn’t until 1965, with Morrie Turner's 'Wee Pals,' that the mainstream press carried a syndicated cartoon strip by a black man, with recurring -- and respectably human -- black characters. And it took the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, to spark real national distribution for the strip. That same year, Charles Schulz gave Charlie Brown a black friend, Franklin, and Brumsic Brandon, Jr., started 'Luther,' which was named after Dr. King. 'Luther' was set in the ghetto, and Brandon said that his intention was to 'tell it like it is.' In the strip, which ran until 1986, Brandon introduced characters with names like Oreo and Hardcore, but he dealt only sparingly with race relations.

"By the late nineties, when McGruder was starting out, there were still just two widely read comic strips being drawn by blacks: 'Curtis,' by Ray Billingsley, and 'Jump Start,' a decidedly bourgeois feature, by Robb Armstrong. 'The Boondocks,' with its dreadlocks and manga influences, looked immediately different from these and everything else in the newspaper. Today, thanks in no small part to McGruder's accelerated success, the typical comics page offers at least a modest degree of diversity. There is a strip called 'La Cucaracha,' with mostly Latino characters, which began in 2001 and runs in about fifty papers. And there are more new black-themed strips enjoying minor distribution, like 'Candorville' and 'Housebroken.'"

May 17, 2005 11:24 AM

Holy political hot stuff, Batman

Tory MP Belinda Stronach has defected to the Liberals and been named to Cabinet.

And a private member's trans human rights bill has just been tabled in Parliament by British Columbia New Democrat Bill Siksay. The receptionist in Siksay's Ottawa office said it hasn't even been assigned an official "C-something" number yet. What a morning.


ADDENDUM, May 18: Here're the details, from Hansard:

"Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby - Douglas, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-392, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (gender identity).

"He said: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to introduce this morning a private member's bill that would add protections for transsexual and transgendered Canadians to the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding 'gender identity or expression' to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the act.

"Members of the trans-community face significant and serious discrimination in Canadian society, notably in the workplace and in the health care system. They suffer harassment and are all too often subjected to violence and murder. This bill would ensure explicit protections for trans-identified Canadians in areas of federal jurisdiction."

The actual text of Bill C-392 can be found here.

May 17, 2005 11:04 AM

Return of the granny panties

Those already familiar with my underwear issues will, I know, be fascinated to hear about my latest Old Navy boxer shorts purchase. It's a test -- they were on sale, they're bright orange, we'll see. I bought them all by myself. After my girlfriend okayed them.

But it's not just me: granny panties are in the news today! (Damn, but I *am* the zeitgeist.) The video game maker Agetec Inc. is launching its Anti-Booth Babe Movement campaign today at some Los Angeles Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3): "E3 used to be all about the new titles for the year, but now it seems like a competition between which company employs the hottest booth babes," sez this press release. "Sure, we all love beautiful models, but we thought it was time to remember that E3 is about the games, and applaud real people, real games and serious fun!"

The website features two shapely gals with a big red line through them... and people can pick up their "Official E3 Anti Booth Babes Granny Panties" at the Expo.

Funny. And yet... it's never good to have women with lines through them. Doesn't it just take you back to 1985 when being pro-women meant trashing those who worked in peeler clubs?

As my charming significant other just pointed out, Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty manages to make the point in a much more positive way.

I guess it all comes comes down to whom a company is marketing its products -- and their age and gender.

May 17, 2005 10:33 AM

Stevie Cameron, #457

One final mention of the Stevie Cameron/Canadian Association of Journalists debacle: I resigned from the CAJ yesterday, and await a confirmation from executive director John Dickins. And this's the last post on this tiresome subject.

May 16, 2005 1:41 PM

Alien monsters and the reporters who love them

What is it with reporters in early sci-fi flicks? I've been having some fun with the VCR and the endless screen science fiction goofiness of the 1950s, and journalists feature prominently.

A University of Southern California project, the Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture, tracks reporter portrayals. (A membership in the IJPC costs 35 U.S. smackers and gives you access to mondo material.) Joseph Saltzman is the academic in charge: "The reporters in sci-fi films of the 1950s were far different than most reporters in the movies," Saltzman very kindly wrote in response to my questions.

"They were usually helpless and they usually agreed with government and military officials that to protect the public, they would conceal facts and information that might be hurtful. They became partners with the government and the military. This was in line with the political atmosphere in this country [the United States] during the 1950s.... the House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joseph McCarthy played on the postwar fear of communism to stage a witch-hunt in Hollywood that destroyed many careers and left a legacy of fear that would last for more than a decade.

"It diminished the motion picture industry's enthusiasm for making movies about corrupt politicians and powerful businessmen. And it created an unquestioning, passive reporter who shows up in one science fiction film after another. These reporters always work with the authorities, and worry less about scoops and informing the public than about protecting the people from themselves by not printing stories that might create panic....

"These reporters are good Americans first, journalists second, and they never question the government's ultimate authority to do the right thing...."

Some flicks just used reporters and newspaper headlines as lazy plot devices "to sum up stories and their implications." Like "Red Planet Mars." Continues Saltzman: "In 'War of the Colossal Beast,' a real-life news reporter is used to give credibility to a giant male roaming the countryside. In 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' headlines and newscasts are also used, but cameo appearances by familiar real-life journalists add an eerie credibility to the science-fiction story." Your scribe finds this eerily similar to the recent kerfuffle over real CNN correspondents appearing in Hollywood flicks. The world just reinvents itself.

In other flicks, "Reporters work hand-in-hand with the government to subdue or destroy aliens.... In 'The Thing From Another World,' a reporter doesn't just report what happens, but becomes the voice of warning, urging the public to prepare for the next attack from outer space. In 'The Man From Planet X,' only the reporter stands between the Earth and total domination from another planet. This journalist ends up suppressing the news because it might cause a world-wide panic. In 'The Gamma People,' the reporter doesn’t seem to care much about the story and instead saves the town from its evil scientist.... In 'The Land Unknown,' a female reporter comes back with a sensational story, but is more interested in marrying the scientist than [in] filing her story."

Wow. What a goldmine is Joseph Saltzman. This list gives sets out a whole new collection of rental ideas. But a warning is in order: be prepared to hit the fast-forward button. I would have gone nuts were it not for the ability to zoom through "Twenty Million Miles to Earth." Good thing no reporters were hurt while the poor, misunderstood Venusian monster trashed the Italian countryside!

May 16, 2005 11:23 AM

Grumbly reporter stuff

Sadly, those members of the Canadian Association of Journalists who cared enough to speak out on the issue voted yesterday to stand by an 18-month-old press release that condemned reporter Stevie Cameron for allegedly being a police informant. (The sad hilarity of it all is exemplified by the fact that you can't find the actual press release on the CAJ site, as it was removed following Cameron's threats of a lawsuit: The association supports a press release it's too afraid to allow you read.... See my own background blather here.)

I'd thought that this condemnation of Cameron was actually a controversial thing -- done without the organization having a policy in place that allows it to do such a shocking thing, for example. But the vote was about 60 to 20 for the, er, bad guys (meeting minutes have yet to be posted). So the debate turns out to have been one of those silent majority things, with the loudmouths losing. (I was a loudmouth; I sent my proxy to the AGM.) The association had trashed Cameron -- a longtime member, even -- without speaking to her. The ethics suck. They still suck, and I'm astonished that a bunch of journalists wouldn't see that. (You can find a CAJ press release apologizing to Cameron for not contacting her beforehand, and for the use of the word "denounce" -- a press release put out months later. But that communique then trashes her again.)

Whether Cameron really is, or was, a police informant, is beside the point, because the problem is the process. Having finally read William Kaplan's disturbing book, "A Secret Trial: Brian Mulroney, Stevie Cameron and The Public Trust," I agree that there's a distinct possibility that Cameron might have become an agent of the state. Such an action is the antithesis of the job -- though gawd knows, I've known enough reporters who are so obviously cozy with authority, whether it be cops or politicians, that I'm surprised we reporters have any credibility left at all.

Kaplan's book is a look at a particular secret court case related to the Tory Airbus scandal. The secrecy is shocking, with judges endlessly rubber-stamping Crown attorney requests to ban media from the proceedings. Secret hearings are a stain upon the justice system -- and they're becoming more and more common. (You know, it's that boring old saw about justice being seen to be done.)

Read Kaplan's book (ask your local library to buy it if it hasn't done so).

And don't lose sight of former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in all this. Kaplan indicates that Mulroney lied when he said he had not received money from someone suspected of involvement in the infamous Airbus corruption scandal, a guy named Karlheinz Schreiber. (It turns out Mulroney accepted $300,000 from Schreiber after the pol left office, for consulting or legal work.) Don't allow the Gomery Inquiry into Liberal scams make us forget the possibility of Tory greed and corruption. Absolute power and all...


ADDENDUM: This is undoubtedly a protocol breach, but I'm going to post this statement from Stevie Cameron, who just sent it to the Canadian Association of Journalists listserve and probably isn't expecting to see it pop up elsewhere: "I have clean hands. I always have had."

May 15, 2005 8:00 PM

Toned down, earnest Canadian gossip

I believe in the positive power of gossip. Especially in the need for home grown gossip! So just a quick tidbit: Gilles Marchildon, executive director of the queer lobby group Egale, recently celebrated his 40th birthday, and will marry Gord Klassen this summer. The announcement was part of Gille's speech to those assembled at Egale's Annual Gala on Parliament Hill on May 12.

The text doesn't seem to have posted on the Egale site yet, but Gilles recalled some important history. Like the infamous fruit machine of the 1950s, used to identity and ruin male homosexualists in the Canadian civil service. The machine's now on display in the War Museum in Ottawa.

And a reminder about Everett Klippert, declared a dangerous sexual offender in the late 1960s because he was going to keep having sex with men. (There is talk that Klippert later married a woman, but I couldn't find confirmation anywhere. Anyone?)

I know Gilles Marchildon is not Tom Cruise. But then again, cranky wags in today's morning paper accused Cruise of fabricating relationships with various leading ladies in order to get good PR and sell his movies -- thus making him a "promosexual." At least our Canucks are a different kind of promosexual!

May 13, 2005 4:08 PM

What a trend we have in Jesus

I give in. The religious loonies have won my heart and my mind, and I will send my money to Miss Poppy Dixon, who deserves all of my cash, and more.

I am purchasing the "Lock 'n' Load Jesus mouse pad and postcards,"

the "Jesus Nodder and Action Figure for the newly born again,"

and of course, the "Wash Away Your Sins Starter Gift Basket," which includes "one 'Wash Away Your Sins' liquid hand soap, one healing hand lotion, and one auto air freshener. In Easter lily and citrus scent - in lovely gift basket."

Don't forget the "fetal attractions culture of life accessories."

May 13, 2005 3:38 PM

Why my phone company is better than your phone company

Montreal really is the continent's den of evil, home of Satan. I'd laugh if it wasn't so darned sick. From Wonkette:

"United American Technologies, a 'Christian-based phone carrier' based in Oklahoma, has a pretty good sales pitch. According to a story by John Avlon in today's New York Sun, the company describes itself as 'the only carrier that is taking an active stand against same sex marriages and hardcore child pornography.' Here, we pick up a taped telemarketing call after one potential customer asks if AT&T sponsors child pornography:

United American Technologies: No. No, that's MCI.
Mr. Mirman: MCI has hardcore child pornography?
United American Technologies: Yes, they are. They have a pedophile Web site for men who love boys. It's a Montreal based Web site....
Mr. Mirman: And so MCI basically has a child pornography ring?
United American Technologies: That's correct
Mr. Mirman: What about the others? What does Verizon do?
United American Technologies: Okay. Verizon, what they do is they train their employees to accept the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

To sum it all up, folks: "With 2,000 customers reportedly switching to United American Technologies each month, Christian-based lying and phone homophobia is a lucrative business."

May 13, 2005 8:54 AM

Thanks

The good people at Toronto alt weekly eye magazine have kindly plugged this site -- I mean, have published a look at activist Rick Bebout's polemical history of the Canadian gay movement, and the eye reporter's kindly mentioned this blog, as well. Rick Bebout and I disagree on many things, and frankly he misinterprets situations I have first-hand knowledge of with abandon, but he's interesting reading nonetheless. You'll need a few hours (grin).

Check out eye's blog, too.

May 12, 2005 11:25 AM

Let's get dirty

The obsession with cleanliness is reaching a fever pitch here in Montreal -- or should that be, reaching a soap-covered sponge of sparkling whiteness?

Montreal Gazette columnist Mike Boone has been encouraging readers to whine and whinge and go absolutely bananas over garbage (and they're demanding that the city fix everything -- apparently, Montrealers are much too good to go out with a garbage bag and pick up the plastic utensils and tin cans themselves -- we must have the state do it! Why else do we pay taxes?). And yesterday's paper featured the story of a nut who harassed a kid spray-painting a school wall. And I mean harass: "I chased him down... There's always the concern, does he have a knife? [...] I'm married with a young baby." Yes, an underaged kid with a spray can, treated like... well, I'd run down a rapist, or someone who knocked out a stranger's teeth. Not a tagger.

On the weekend, Gazoo columnist Gaetan Charlebois (hello, Dorothy!) made a rare misstep when he congratulated the City of Montreal for its new bus shelter ad, a huge poster of a woman covered in nasty graffiti and the admonition to stop defacing advertising.

Yes, the state demands that you accept that public space be polluted by endless advertising. Culture jamming is wrong, d'you understand? When will you just settle down, dammit?

There's more. A wonderful graffiti artist was recently arrested by Montreal coppers and charged with umpteen counts of defacing public property. Buddy's crime? Turning crosswalks into zippers. Painting light switches onto the road -- just creating a lovely surprise with every step.

And the latest? Politicians in the Montreal borough of Ville Marie are trying to stop buskers from performing on the streets. They want to limit and tax street performers. Jail the mimes!

These pols are the same folks who banned playing the spoons on the streets just a few months ago. (I'm not kidding. At least the Gaz condemned this silliness in an editorial.) It's time to fight back by taking back public space. It IS ours, you know. Read more here.

May 12, 2005 10:05 AM

Why I haven't been posting

"'I'm very brave generally,'" he went on in a low voice: 'only to-day I happen to have a headache.'"
-- Lewis Carroll

My handy dandy Oxford Dictionary of Quotations offers nothing specifically about $#%^& migraines.

While I was hiding in the soothing dark, the Gomery Inquiry continued apace. (Just go to any mainstream Canuck news site for gory details.) I am clearly the only Quebecker in the whole province to have made not one penny off this scam. Can't some slimy apparatchik help me? I'll write nice things about the Liberals....!

May 9, 2005 10:21 AM

Kiss me, you fool

The ailing Harlequin Enterprises Inc. needs to expand into lesbo romance. Then it might make more dough.

Yes, Canada's Harlequin hetero snuggle publisher is less of a profit-hog than it used to be. It's owned by the Toronto Star conglomerate: "Torstar chief executive officer Robert Prichard said at the company's annual meeting... that the goal is for Harlequin to generate 'stable' earnings in 2005, and be on an upward trajectory by next year," the Globe and Mail reported last week. "This year has not started out strongly for Harlequin."

More: "Harlequin's revenue was off 6 per cent to $129.2-million, and its operating profit fell 6 per cent to $24.6-million." Greedy media companies despise the merely acceptable profit margin, so Harlequin CEO Donna Hayes promised new initiatives: "[a] new series that will be supported with better packaging and promotion, it is launching a new line of non-romance fiction in a tall book format that 'feels more upscale,' and is moving into new markets, she said. Harlequin recently launched a joint venture in Brazil, and is exploring markets in China, Taiwan and South Korea. Harlequin is also going to expand its audio book and electronic book ventures, and will enter the market for 'Manga' illustrated novels in Japan, Ms. Hayes said."

I don't see the word "lesbian" in here anywhere. And -- how strange -- Harlequin PR folks did not get back to me. But low-cost pulp lezzie romance is a huge gap in the Canadian market (and indeed, in the North American market: much lesbian romance is in higher cost, trade paperback format).

Why, just this weekend, in desperation, I picked up a 1958 Harlequin that had some promise: "The Golden Amazon's Triumph" by John Russell Fearn, a "science-fiction thriller" featuring Violet Ray Grant, who is "remarkable": "Apart from her tawny skinned beauty, imparted by a surgical experiment made upon her as an infant, she possessed because of that same experiment a strength 10 times above normal, and a scientific brilliance unequalled for an epoch. Briefly, she had every gift magnificently bestowed, beauty, intelligence and strength, with an almost eternal youth which made her appear a perpetual twenty-five years of age. But for all these gifts Nature demanded a price. She had no sentiment, and she was comparatively sexless." Despite this, she surrounds herself with women: "men she never permitted to work with her."

The bloodthirsty Golden Amazon (who kills the evil Nazi) remains single at the end of this, er, novel. But what a hit it could be as a dyke love story. Come on, Harlequin!

May 9, 2005 10:17 AM

Cuddle muddle

I'll be on CBC Radio One's Sounds Like Canada tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 10, part of a cross-country panel discussion that will tackle cuddling. I'm due in studio around 9:45 am, Eastern. Yes, your humble servant gets all mushy, on air. Aw.


CHANGE OF TIME! Have just been asked to arrive at the CBC Montreal studios much earlier -- the chat will be broadcast around 9:25 or 9:30 am or so, live in the Atlantic. Add an hour as you move further west....
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