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July 2005 - Posts

July 29, 2005 9:12 AM

Pigs are flying through the air

... because there is indeed a maximum number of near-nekkid lezzie pix with which British men can cope. Or... are the grumblies coming from women?

"Posters for lesbian drama 'The L Word' have generated record amounts of complaints, with members of the public saying they are 'offensive.' The posters, advertising the launch of the second series of the successful show... featured two semi-naked women in a clinch. Their underwear showed the days the show is screened on the channel," it sez here.

"Nearly 650 people complained about the adverts, which featured on billboards across the UK and public transport in London. The Advertising Standards Authority said the number was the highest received this year.

"But it dismissed the complaints, backing the advertising agency claims that the poster accurately reflected the show's content. They also rejected the complaints saying the posters were sexually explicit, maintaining instead that the images were not offensive to the majority of people." Producers must be in seventh heaven; can't buy this publicity, and it happened in New York a few months ago, too.

But back to Britain: Vavoom-erama, I say. The decision is raunchier than the ads: "The posters showed various photographs of women's bodies from chest to thigh wearing only knickers and covered in body oil."

July 29, 2005 9:05 AM

The F word

In a single headline, the Montreal French-language daily La Presse showcases its nerve: the word "fuck" looms large on today's front page. A medical clinic has been told by the city and the municipal transit company that it must mothball a safe-sex ad aimed at young'uns at risk for doing it without taking precautions. There are no naughty words allowed on giant mural ads along the St. Laurent Street drag.

The proposed ad reads: "Fuck, le sida tue" ("AIDS kills").

Let me see: bad word, versus death. Definitely, the bad word's gotta go. Makes perfect sense.

Didn't we finish up this fight years ago?

ADDENDUM MONDAY: Meanwhile, the kindergarten children at the Montreal Gazette caught up the next day: "This editorial is a challenge to write -- not because the issue is complex but because we have to write it without mentioning what the issue is all about. Suffice it to say that it's a common, four-letter word that's sometimes -- but not always -- used to denote sexual congress."

The Gazoo believes the banning was correct. "But, decency and aesthetics aside, how could anyone expect to get that word past [the language watchdog] the Office Quebecois de la langue francaise?

July 28, 2005 10:01 AM

David, Goliath, et cetera

The tiny Winnipeg queer tabloid Swerve is having a go at Canada's monster media company, CanWest Global Communications Corp., over the rights to the gay publication's very name.

Last November, the bigshots in Calgary launched an entertainment weekly called -- you guessed it -- Swerve. The promotional bumph is actually a tad campy: "Fun listings, Calgary inside and out... Introducing Swerve, the weekly entertainment, culture and lifestyle magazine. It's the straight goods on a dynamic city, from the insider's perspective." A sample cover on the website reads: "Why we still care about Cher." The paper's a protectorate of the daily Calgary Herald, and distributed as a Friday insert, plus as a stand-alone -- a sort of faux alt weekly.

'Peg Swerve editor Richard Wood says he heard about all this in February (I talked to him late last night). Staffers were going to let it be until they discovered that CanWest was applying for a trademark on the name. "They can enforce that across the country," says Wood, who suddenly saw his queer mag being ordered to change its name -- at a substantial cost and probable loss of readership, as queers suddenly lost sight of their regular read and assumed a shut-down.

The CanWest head offices are around the corner from the queer Swerve mag. CanWest owns 11 major dailies, commuter dailies, a whoppingly huge collection of weeklies, TV stations... more media outlets than I can count this morning on limited coffee intake.

It's so early in Calgary that I have yet to be able to reach CanWest lawyer George Wowk, who Wood says is carrying CanWest's torch on this. I'll update when I do. Ditto for Calgary Swerve editor Shelley Youngblood.

Yesterday, Wood sent out a press release across the continent. CanWest had offered options. One is that queer Swerve gets Winnipeg, and CanWest sews up the rest of the country. But the queer paper already distributes outside of Winnipeg, and is interested in growth, not shrinkage. A second option was money in exchange for renaming, but the press release said the offer was unacceptable. (No specifics forthcoming.)

So, Swerve is challenging CanWest's trademark request -- and publicizing it.

Swerve is 11 years old, a monthly printing 5,500 copies and an annual budget of about $90,000 (this includes printing and poverty-level payments to a handful of staffers -- many are actually volunteers). In newspaper terms, that's tiny. In fact, Wood says that when he joined in February 2001, Swerve was on the verge of bankruptcy.

"We're gambling about one-third of our yearly budget," Wood says of the legal games. Not to mention picking a fight with the people who control a huge part of the Canadian media.

ADDENDUM: the only useful CanWest e-mail addy I can find is for John Maguire, finance and chief financial officer.

ADDED 15:30: Geoffrey Elliot, a vice-president at CanWest (communications), has returned my calls: "We don't comment on matters that are essentially legal disputes. We let these matters take their course."

MONDAY: Toronto Star media columnist Antonia Zerbisias got someone to pay attention to her: Peter Menzies, publisher of the Calgary Herald. Here's his response:
"I have now returned to Calgary and note that you have written about the Swerve trademake issue and used your forum to redistribute their press release.

"I am disappointed to see that Mr. Wood has chosen to articulate the matter in this fashion. We launched our magazine last November as a purely local supplement to our newspaper, not as a corporate initiative. As good business people, we proceeded to make a trademark application to protect our interests and those of our employees and advertisers in this market. When I first heard of Mr. Wood's concern, indeed of his magazine, it was because he had notified the company that unless we paid him a large sum of money he would feel obliged to challenge our application. As we had no intention of interfering with his business operation in Winnipeg  we did not feel it was necessary to meet his request.

"While he has every right to challenge the application, he has been assured in writing by us that we do not tend to interfere with his operation within the Winnipeg area and wish him all the best."

AND THE LAST WORD, posted Friday, goes to Winnipeg's Richard Wood, who sent me this e-mail: "I can't say for certain when Peter would have heard about our magazine, but his lawyers were aware of us in late April, if not sooner. If you go to the site that lists the chronology of their application to trademark the name, it lists the initial opposition date as April 25; I wrote to Gail Asper with an offer to sell the name on June 21. I wrote to David Asper on July 13. Prior to those letters, we had not made any request for a large sum of money.

"We have since made a reasonable offer based on the costs of changing our name and establishing our new brand; in all honesty, it is an opening offer. We've never been given a dollar figure from The Herald; we've only been told it will not be a significant amount. We're open to counter offers, but if they believe that changing a magazine's name after ten years is cheap and easy, then perhaps we could give them $50 to change their name after the ten months they've been in print. Obviously it would be a ridiculous offer, so why is it reasonable to pay us a token amount?

"We have not been assured in writing that they intend not to interfere with our use of the name. It was one of the options presented to us, but with one major catch (and Peter includes this in his comments): They will not interfere as long as we distribute in Winnipeg only. Our answer to that has been no from the start. We already publish outside of Winnipeg and online. We will continue expanding our readership as any good publication would.

"Considering the absurd and vicious trademark enforcement we've seen from large corporations in the past (Peter must be aware of the Barbie case in Calgary), and taking into account that CanWest is not known as a gentle giant, it would be naive at best and stupid at worst to think we wouldn't face an even larger legal battle once CanWest trademarked the name. We're not being greedy (if we do get a settlement, the money goes into the magazine, not our pockets; we are a non-profit after all), and we're not being malicious (we don't have enough money to afford that luxury), we're being proactive and fair."

July 27, 2005 2:50 PM

Talk talk

I'll be interviewed tonight, Wednesday, on the queer Calgary radio show, "Heartbeat/Urban Sex." The host is Angus Goodkey, on CJSW 90.9 FM, 106.9 cable.

At 9 p.m., Mountain time. Cheers!

AND A REMINDER that the feedback section's been disabled temporarily, as programming types figure out how to block the frigging spammers. Contact me here.

July 27, 2005 12:33 PM

Bend them like couplets

There once was a film hexed by magic ethereal
yet concretely unleashed by a nose very twicha-el.
Nicole K. and Will F.
Of charm are beref:
We can blame this whole mess on a very old serial.

"Bewitched," the flick's called, and cursed by a plot
that's so bad that to ignore it we ought.
It's terrible, natch,
'cept when Shirl MacLaine ope's her hatch,
And then, holy smokes, but I like it a lot.

MacLaine's the cantankerous mom of the bride;
Her spell sends me off to heav'n (having died).
Endora, Endora,
Oh hot stuff you are-a.
(Is my thing for older chicks coming to the fore-a?)

She's 71, that scene-stealing hot stuff,
Pal of homos, she's still a toughie and buff.
All witches are bi,
Past lives are no lie,
And "Children's Hour" (sorta) broke the mold for dyke stuff.

Yet the movie "Bewitched" is so darned straight;
Endora's the camp, the rest just the freight.
No tip of the hat
to Dick Sargent or brat --
Praise Agnes Moorehead for her grumpy act's trait.

For yay, the original Endora was a great big ole dyke,
Tho' many marriages to guys did she like.
Back in the day
To be out was no way,
And Hollywood pervs balanced pay cheque with their psych'.

Moorehead worked with Welles on so much,
Orson's Ambersons and Kane helped her touch
The top of the heap.
Tho' oft' cast as a creep,
Aggie was maybe a little bit butch.

She took lesbo roles, like Mamie Stover's revolt,
Though directors neutered the gay jolt.
And in the 'licious "Caged"
Girl prisoners did she page.
Er, methinks that's enough, now I bolt.

July 26, 2005 2:35 PM

Vivre la difference?

An onlooker reviewed last night's DiversCite Montreal Pride parade in today's paper: "It was great. It wasn't too sexual, so it was good for kids, too."

Yes, Montreal's parade showed that we're finally learning to behave.

There were proper drag queens waving from convertibles, there were shirtless boys, there was a huge turnout of sportsies promoting next year's first OutGames. It was nice.

For the first time, the parade was held at night. Organizers took flack for that decision -- but the gruelling temperature dropped and the atmosphere was relaxed.

There were no homo parent contingents -- the kiddies had to be put to bed, although some olderlings did make a faeryland appearance. There were also no double-D exposed breasts -- surgically implanted or otherwise -- no streaking, no playing with the dark in the dark, and the closest we got to truly raunchy was the AIDS group Sero Zero's watergun pumping images and flashes of words like "Willy" and "Big Kahuna." (The condoms were -- yuck! -- lubricated.)

Michael Hendricks, one half of Quebec's tireless gay marriage fighting pair, announced he was retiring his wedding tux (we're just as sick of it as he is) and, yet again, parroted to the mainstream media what too many thoughtless homos are saying: "We always said we'd stop making trouble once gays and lesbians had full equality. Well, now we have it."

It was all nice.

Wait -- a small group of very skinnies walked with paper skull masks, confusing everyone (turns out Lipo-Action wants Medicare to cover the costs of treating the physical side effects of AIDS drugs). And the Anti-Capitalist Ass Pirates shambled their zombie way through.

Finally. But not nearly enough.

Many of us -- me included -- like to say that Pride's been overwhelmed by the nice people, by the middle class and the goodie-goodies. But really, Pride is an event that belongs only to those who take it.

July 26, 2005 11:23 AM

The great leader declares a splendid victory for the revolution

I have a small collection of Mao era Chinese revolutionary art. I can't bring myself to buy a guy in a stockade, next to a sign listing his sins (a bit too much reality). But I have a straight couple astride a long dong warhead, some very pretty paper cuttings of happy farm workers, and scene-by-scene postcard sets of operas and ballets, like "Red Detachment of Women," which begins with an evil male landlord torturing a smolderingly rebellious member of the working class. (It's a classic straight porn shot of a helpless but uppity woman with arms tied above her head.)

"'Red Detachment of Women' describes the birth, growth and maturing -- through brave struggle against the enemy under the brilliant leadership of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China -- of a women's company of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army." The martyr cries: "What does death matter? Communism is the truth."

And the landlord gets his comeuppance. It's a perfect drama for the stage.

Skip a few countries over. Entertainment, it turns out, was not necessarily inherently bourgie. Mass murderer Stalin liked musicals. Some 40 were filmed in the early years of Russian Communism, it sez here. "[M]usicals are usually associated with images of happiness, fun, and sheer froth. And communism has never exactly been a great source of fun.... In fact, in his 38 volumes of writing, scholars agree that Lenin never really said anything about entertainment. On the other hand, Lenin did claim that movies were one of the greatest art forms ever made, since it was an art that could reach the masses."

Sample lyrics of the working class musical:

"In the hot blast of the coal oven,
The water turns to steam!
Soon a new sound will ring out!
The coal press begins to stamp!
Raka-daka, raka-daka,
Raka-daka, raka-daka,
We sing the song of the coal press!"

This is taken from the 1997 documentary "East Side Story." "The first Iron Curtain musicals started to come out in the 1930s, when Joseph Stalin firmly had a hold on the Soviet Union." Turns out there was more than just revolutionary propaganda: "When the Hollywood-influenced Grigori Alexandrov made 1934's 'The Jolly Fellows' (which greatly resembles the plotless all-singing all-dancing Hollywood musicals of the time), it was initially banned by the censor board. But after Alexandrov made a personal plea to Stalin and showed him the movie, Alexandrov not only got a medal but an unofficial blessing to keep making movies like that that would be just as pleasing to Stalin....

"One of the most ironic things that happened after Stalin died, when the new Soviet government subsequently became more open, the light and pure entertainment Iron Curtain musicals essentially died as well, since the new government wanted to get back to the true roots of socialism."

July 25, 2005 1:07 PM

Officially, "Long" was about his height

Unofficially, I haven't heard. But musician Long John Baldry is dead. Asexually dead.

That's right, so far I haven't seen a damned single obit that mentions Baldry's homosexuality. Mainstream reporters must think that it's bad to be gay. Mainstream reporters make me sick.

Check your local media, see what they've written or broadcast. Then contact them and tell them not to be such fucking bigots. Tell them we've had enough of their silence.

ADDENDUM Canadian Press ran this as the last paragraph of its obit -- a sentence that I did not see in ANY of the print versions that I read over the weekend: "He leaves behind siblings Margaret and Roger and his close friend and partner, Felix (Oz) Rexach." Like I said, check what your local media outlet ran -- and call them on it.

TWO DAYS LATER, and the Gazette is clearly uninterested in running my letter, chastizing editors for lopping off John's man-handled willy in their obit. And this just two days before the Pride parade. Shame.

July 25, 2005 12:29 PM

Money is so overrated

Some quick catching up: You'll recall a rant on PayPal and queers. Barry Rueger tells the tale of his efforts to recover the money PayPal owes him.... Apparently, anyone north of the border is screwed, whatever your product. And Barry's even grumpier follow-up post is here....

July 25, 2005 11:40 AM

Sheepish blush

Won an honorable mention for my Sapphic rendition of the death of Dumbledore, sent in to the Guardian's writing contest. Aw shucks!

APOLOGIES for the lack of recent postings -- had the opportunity to get outa town, and took it. Brain shrunk by heat wave now appears to have regained its proper humid index.

July 21, 2005 12:01 PM

Me too?

Those who've been repeatedly screwed over end up becoming master complainers -- you need to elbow your way in. And gay people, quite rightly, whine, and whine, and whine.... I've often heard grumping that assorted Jewish Holocaust museums ignore the lesbians and gay men who were also murdered in concentration camps during the Second World War.

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and Museum makes a mere two mentions of dead homosexuals in its two-floor exhibit. But that's enough, as far as I'm concerned. Queers are in there, as they should be. And the centre's main focus is Jewish history both before, during and just after the war. Why should anyone complain about a museum having a particular focus? (I'd only suggest that the name be more specific so visitors know it's more of a Jewish memorial -- and a heck of an effectively upsetting one, at that.)

S'funny how the human brain simply cannot cope with the idea of seven million deaths -- it's too vast. A single killing seems so much more comprehensible. There was one known Canadian victim of Auschwitz. A plaque next to one windowed exhibit reads: "In 1939, Canadian Harry Cohen left Montreal for Poland on business. Trapped by the German invasion, he was hidden by a Polish family. But he was discovered, sent to Auschwitz and murdered. Years later his son received a package from his father's protector, including this tallit [prayer shawl]."

Certainly gay men and lesbians have pushed for our own memorials. As we should. And they do exist. From the July-August Out Traveler, here's a list of monuments honouring queers killed in the Holocaust:

* Amsterdam's was the world's first, in 1987 (located near the Anne Frank House)
* Berlin's arrived in 1989 (at Nollendorfplatz), and another is planned near the Brandenburg Gate
* San Francisco's came in 2000, at Castro and Market streets
*Sydney's was unveiled in 2001, across from the Sydney Jewish Museum
* Uruguay inaugurated its monument in February of this year.
* And the wires report that the city of Vienna has just organized a competition to design a memorial in Austria's capital. It'll be placed at the site of what was Gestapo headquarters.

Here in Montreal, there's a different death memorial, a parkette in the gay village given over to those who've died of AIDS. Activists fought like tigers for years to get even that small plot of land (and there's talk that it may soon be given over to a developer).

Memorials matter. They give us a tangible reminder of our struggles, and they push issues into public space. When memories have dimmed, every-day life deserves to be broken up by the surprise re-discovery of the past. Vancouver has an AIDS memorial, as does Toronto. But Tranna also has something else that's just as important: A statue that doesn't focus on death, instead honouring the life of Alexander Wood, the magistrate run out of town in 1810 for checking out area penises for a telltale scratch left behind by a raped woman. Wood was accused of being, er, overly enthusiastic in his inspections. A plaque below Wood's statue depicts buddy in mid examination. Hilariously, passers-by are said to be rubbing the other guy's naked butt for luck.

Wood might have been a pig, he might also have been caught up in the homophobic fear of "mollies" (that era's epithet of choice). Interpret how you will, Molly Wood is now a symbol of someone persecuted because he was thought to be a homo. You can't pick your trailblazers. All kinds of history matters.

And some where, there'll be a lesbian memorial, I hope. For someone, or some event. In time. Or is this wish just a bit of mindless me-tooism?

July 20, 2005 8:01 PM

Stepin Fetchit

The video "That's Black Entertainment" is an introduction to a lost parallel universe to Hollywood, that of the all-black American movie, made between 1910 and the 1950s. Theatres were segregated -- and the one good that came of this was an era of fascinating film, because blacks made cinema for their own communities. We're talking short musicals and full-length dramas produced on such tiny budgets that one astounding actor continued to sob at the death of a woman, yea though the corpse did open her eyes.

Much of the footage from the era has been lost, but this hour-long doc from 1985 has dug up a handful of surviving clips.

Directed and narrated by William Greaves, this is well worth a rental. The flick also situates blacks in Hollywood -- they were allowed to play bug-eyed morons. Or a few were. Most black roles were played by whites. Bing Crosby in black face is... well, it just is.

Some blacks made a career of bug-eyed roles. Thus the debate: is a black playing a fool opposite a white an embarrassment to his people, or is he actually making fun of the white man for being so gullible as to be taken in by the act?

By the time Nichelle Nichols got to "Porgy and Bess" (in 1959), white director Otto Preminger was called on his bad on-set behaviour, coupled with a particularly nauseating script: "Dahlin', I know you ain't stupid, and I know you know what respect is," Pearl Bailey announced (as quoted in Nichols' 1994 autobiography "Beyond Uhura"). "But just in case, I'll tell you. You can start with this damned script. It's written by some silly ass white boy who's trying to write coloured. It's insulting. First, he's written all these 'dees' and 'dems' and 'dose' and 'Ises' and 'weeses' and 'beeses.' Well, we've tried to act this dumb crap, but it's all ridiculous. Besides," she added, chuckling, "they're in all the wrong places! ...

"We don't need no white boy tellin' us how to be collud, suh!"

July 20, 2005 4:18 PM

Beam me up, Scotty

Star Trek's James Doohan has died. The chief engineer of the starship Enterprise on the original series was 85.

"He accused [fellow actor Bill] Shatner of hogging the camera, adding: 'I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don't like Bill. He's so insecure that all he can think about is himself.'"

G'night, Scotty.

Trek is everywhere on the 'net these days, but Hidden Frontier is a recommended fan site, with new "episodes" featuring gay characters.

MORE TREK: Communications officer Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, has a part in a new gay superhero flick.... Professor Gavin Lucas is a comic book collector who gains special powers when a science experiment is sabotaged and becomes... Surge.

Nichols has a Canadian connection. In her 1994 autobiography, "Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories," the American writes of an attempted rape in Canada. She was a accomplished stage performer, booked for a show. But she found herself in a lodge in the middle of nowhere, dependent on a ride back to civilization with an "important, respected man in his community." Nichols won't reveal his real name, but she managed to fight him off.

The guy's law partner came to pick her up after she'd been abandoned in a cabin somewhere: "No one will believe a little coloured showgirl from the States," she was told.

Despite the bruises, the cops didn't believe her. She was offered cash to go away, she received threatening phone calls. Amazingly enough in 1950s Canada, the guy was convicted -- even more surprising given a black accuser and a white defendant. Oh, and the would-be rapist's lawyer was the guy who'd driven her back into town after the assault.

Trek, which began broadcasting in 1969, gave blacks a real role model on colour-obsessed television -- Uhura worked with people of all races. And while she had few lines, she was a darned important member of the crew. Uhura was also featured in the first inter-racial TV kiss: "When Bill [Shatner] surmised that this kiss was historic... he demanded that the script be changed. 'If anybody's going to kiss Uhura... It's going to be me -- I mean, Captain Kirk.'"

July 19, 2005 12:05 PM

My colonized newspaper

Fuck finesse, it's too hot for that. This morning's Montreal Gazette sez that Aaron McGruder's daily black strip Boondocks is coming to American idiot boxes in October. "No language policing in taking Boondocks comic to TV," the headline informs readers, breathlessly referring to how the N-word can be broadcast in the United States. (It's censored in print by prissy editors.)

Why bother buying a local paper that gives me only the American take, reprinted verbatim from the Dallas Morning News? Do the lazy asses at the Gazoo even care that we don't get the Yanks' Cartoon Network? Do they even know that Canadian television is heavily censored? Clueless fuckers. And then they freak when we call them irrelevant and stop reading them.

Canada has Teletoon, which has homegrown content, and what it buys comes mostly from the American WB and, less often, the Cartoon Network. This according to Melissa in Teletoon's audience relations department. She also says the station has finished up its fall buying, and Boondocks isn't on the list. There's always the possibility of a last-minute buy, but don't hold your breath.

The industry's self-policing Canadian Broadcast Standards Council would have a shit-fit if the N-word somehow missed being bleeeeeeped all to bits on our home and native airwaves. The council was set up to run interference between the cranky public and the real power, the CRTC. Complaints brought to the council, once dealt with, disappear.... and stations don't have to cope with CRTC sanctions when everything's been fixed up internally. Convenient, izzn't it?

I guarantee you the N-word will never be broadcast on a Canadian cartoon station. Canada polices not just naughty words, but naughty ideas and even bad taste. See here for an example of true stupidity (the last on the page). Under Canuck rules, intent is unimportant.

So we're not gonna hear the N-word, kids.

Many have reclaimed the word "queer." And "fag" and "dyke," robbing them of their sting. Changing what they mean, spitting the hatred back into the faces of the bigots, making fun of those who use what they think is a curse: Nigger, nigger, nigger. Get used to it. But not in Canada.

July 19, 2005 12:02 PM

How do you say? Oh yes: lunatic

I posted on Scientology and homos a while back. Slate profiles the religion's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

July 18, 2005 12:45 PM

It's a heatwave

Too hot 'n' crabby to write uplifting philosophical commentary.

... but perhaps the environment is on the way back "in"? Take last year's "The Day After Tomorrow," the global warming horror flick. The latest biggie, here in Quebec at least, is "March of the Penguins," a sad and exhilarating nature doc. Continuing psycho weather around the globe is causing rising concern....

And the latest Japanese-made King of the Monsters flick, 2004's "Godzilla: Final Wars," just screened at the Montreal Fantasia film fest. This one takes viewers back to the franchise's origins, with a reminder about nukes and environmental havoc. (Er, there's also space aliens, kung fu, and the destruction of the planet; it's a fabulous smash-em-up romp. To those who've seen only the 1998 Hollywood "Godzilla": "real" fans call the American impostor GINO, or Godzilla In Name Only. Most annoyingly, this Yank Godzilla lays eggs, is called an "asexual" reproducer, and continues to be called "he" throughout. Second most annoying thing: French atomic testing creates Godzilla -- not the Americans, oh no...).

*%^&*(%$#@. A story in this morning's paper notes that the fuels we hoped would replace that nasty old oil are no better for the environment. Turning corn into ethanol, for example, takes more energy to convert than the fuel itself actually produces. Ditto for switch grass, wood, and soybeans. Lotsa controversy. Maybe that nuclear power lunatic is right?

*This weekend, from a total stranger, I picked up nine videotapes featuring the first 10 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The collection cost me bus fare. All thanks to Freecycle, the e-mail based community where members offer to give away what they don't need. Canada has 234 local Freecycle groups last I checked (you can start your own, too). Join here.

A caveat: I've seen people offering old fridges and stoves. Large appliances more than 10 years old are serious energy hogs. I know adding to landfills isn't a swell idea, but when we got a new fridge (find an Energystar-approved brand), our electricity bills went down by $15 every two months. That's a lotta juice.

*According to the July 13 La Presse newspaper, air conditioners need to be cleaned or reconditioned every year or two. Elsewise, after 10 years, the air conditioner is working at 50 percent efficiency. Who cleans the darned machines? Almost no one. Maybe a mechanically inclined Freecycler could figure it out and offer lessons....

July 17, 2005 1:31 PM

Fighting over the hooker

From AfterEllen's weekly lesbo-pop-culture column: "Tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams are reportedly competing against each other trying to land a part in the upcoming X-Men movie X-3. The role is a bisexual mutant prostitute whose special power is the ability to seduce anyone. I say cast both of them, give the other one the power to turn into a bucket of ice, call them the new Bisexual Wonder Twins, and be done with it."

Other gossip: "Ivette managed to stay closeted this week on Big Brother 6 (CBS)... Gay contestant Jessica narrowly avoided elimination on this week's episode of Hell's Kitchen (Fox)... NBC soap Passions will turn one of its African American female characters gay later this summer. She'll be the first lesbian or bi woman of color on daytime television, and if the other characters on this show are any indication, probably the craziest, too. Think a lesbian Omarosa doing crack in the middle of a Tsunami with her lover who turns out to be her half-sister. Yeah, that kind of crazy. Not that there's anything wrong with that."

(Thanks to my Significant Other Karen for the pointer-- she's a regular reader of AfterEllen and, for those seeking celebrity gossip, Go Fug Yourself.)

July 16, 2005 12:32 PM

Hit me

Local Montreal gal Viviane Namaste's new book, "C'etait du Spectacle!" (in French only), looks at trans cabaret culture in Montreal in the 1960s to the '80s. The performers' day-to-day lives, work, and gossip. And police harassment... and also how unscrupulous pigs took advantage of the performer's desire to be beautiful, by injecting sometimes deadly garbage into breasts and lips, causing disfigurement or death.

Fifty years later, little has changed -- at least, in the United States. The latest issue (summer 2005) of the glossy Transgender Tapestry includes a special report on silicone divas and the slimy con artists who orchestrate injection parties: "Silicone circuit workers have been around for decades, but only recently have come to the attention of authorities -- this because authorities became aware that a significant number of their 'clients' drop dead shortly after injection."

Who are these customers? According to TT, strippers and other sex workers, Asians, the transgendered, and HIV-positive men who want the tell-tale look of their AIDS meds use to disappear. But anyone can succumb to the beauty myth (we all know that women "born women," as the catty say, are obsessed with changing their looks. As are more and more men born men of any ethnicity.)

Silicone can be -- and is -- injected just about everywhere (arms, butts, hands, genitalia, and all in between). "Think litres, as many as four or five in one person." Reputable docs stopped using it years ago, and the good stuff is expensive and hard to find. But where there's a market, there's a way: "Non-medical grade silicone is... abundant. Think caulk. Think windshield sealant. It can be purchased by the gallon, for pennies." Joe Blow and Jane Smith from down the street can make a killing by charging a few hundred bucks for a night of needle games in your living room.

Problems? Breathing, for one. If you survive that side effect, there are other, longer-term afflictions. Silicone can harden, or move around in the body. Cheekbone filler can end up in the chin or forehead. Your breasts might end up popping out of your tummy, or worse, actually in your lungs. High infection rates mean that mastectomies are "often necessary."

Check out Got Pummped. And consider different ways of getting the body you want.

July 15, 2005 11:30 AM

Harry Pootter

Wheeee! Everyone needs a hit of Petter, Pitter, er, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Collected dish: Pope thinks Harry's Evil; the scoop on burning Harry; the ban on reading or talking about Harry (and not a peep of protest from the losers at the Canadian Association of Journalists); Michael Bronski claims Harry Potter as gay; and finally, the contest on the dying Harry -- okay, rather on the rumoured death of the wizard Albus Dumbledore. The Guardian has posted the best entries in a contest to write up Dumbie's last moments in the style of one of the greats (Austen, Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, Scooby Doo, Lemony Snicket). My own version, based on Sappho's writing style, has been very kindly posted by Guardian editors -- I reproduce it below.

The [text lost to the mists of time] Dumbl[text lost]

"Grey bearded ....
... his wand
the goddess of ....
Speaks the pink glow of the Dawn
... breast
... expiring .... boy weeps
over the .....
the ....
soot, black grey .... owl

It's so damn good you can't tell it from an original Sappho.

July 14, 2005 2:40 PM

We're here to protect you

"Vic Germany thought registering a federal trademark for San Francisco's iconic Dykes on Bikes organization would be no problem," it sez here in the San Francisco Chronicle. "After all, the nonprofit lesbian motorcycle group has become internationally known for riding in the lead position at San Francisco's pride parade every year for nearly three decades.

"Instead, the group has spent a humiliating two years slogging through the swampland of trademark law.... Twice, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected the Dykes' application, on the grounds that 'dyke' is vulgar, offensive and 'scandalous.' Patent office attorneys even point to Webster's dictionary, which says dyke is 'often used disparagingly.'

"'The examining attorney found it to be offensive to a significant portion of the lesbian community,' said Jessie Roberts, a trademark administrator with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 'And we're also looking out for the sensitivities of the general public more than that of a specific applicant.'"

Queer, however, is not offensive to the mainstream. "In November, the patent office registered a trademark on behalf of the Bravo Network for the hit television show 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'" Hmmm. Maybe it has something to do with a big-bucks TV station insisting....?

July 14, 2005 10:45 AM

Hairy potter

Soooooo hooooot, I shaved my 'pits. Lordy, but body hair is.... complicated. More here.

July 13, 2005 10:37 AM

Who's sorry now?

The first draft of The Listener's Guide to Canadian Queer Radio is up. And a note to all those agonizingly pained programming directors who apologized in the most pathetic tones for having zero gayness on the airwaves: Get a backbone.

July 13, 2005 10:35 AM

I want my MTV

Not so random thoughts during yet another nasty heat wave...

* When will I become an unequivocal supporter of big unions? As soon as the Canadian Auto Workers' higher-ups finally get the guts to tell their members that there's no longer any choice: They must demand that car plants building gas guzzlers across North America be shut down, and that only automobiles running on efficient, less-polluting fuels can be allowed off the production floor and onto sales lots.

* From techno geek Clive Thompson (a Canuck in New York): "Are big-screen televisions the new SUVs? Researchers at National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, recently conducted a fascinating experiment: They ran a two-minute clip of Shrek on a whole range of TVs, from small analog ones to massive, table-top-sized high-definition sets, while measuring the power usage. The result? The new big boys chew more than twice the energy of the old-school TVs.... Already, TVs account for four per cent of energy usage in the home, and the NRDC figures that'll increase by 50% in the next four years, as everyone buys new, ginormous sets."

* How bad is it? In the June 25 Globe and Mail, British environmentalist James Lovelock, who brought the flakiness of the Gaia Hypothesis to the popular consciousness, is quoted as saying that nuclear power plants are the way of the future.

Gaia states that the earth is "a living organism unto itself" -- that everything's connected, and when we pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the whole ecosystem re-adjusts... and it ain't fun. Doomsday theorist Lovelock says it's too late for the Kyoto Protocol, and that rather a lot of people are going to die from climate change (floods, heat, whatever). He said nuclear energy is the best solution in the short term, as it produces the least waste. Geeee-zuz. That bad?

July 12, 2005 4:48 PM

Booing Svend Robinson

Despite his resignation from the House of Commons, Svend Robinson's unfortunately still influential opinions are seriously screwing over the gay and lesbian rights movement. "When I graduated from Burnaby North Secondary School in 1969, homosexuality was a criminal offence," he writes today on the leftie website "I could have gone to jail if I made love with another man. On June 28, the final barrier to full equality for gay and lesbian people in Canada was eliminated, with the vote of 158 MPs to extend equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples such as me and my partner Max."

Yes, Robinson wrote "the final barrier to full equality for gay and lesbian people." He's everything that's wrong with mindless mainstream gay politics in Canada today. More rant here.

July 12, 2005 12:44 PM

Because I care

The marketers in charge of "The L Word" must have been desperate for added content when they planned the release of the complete first season on DVD. So they packaged an extra disc completely filled with promotional bumph. Like "The L Word Puppet Movie."

That's four minutes of your life that you'll never get back.

July 11, 2005 11:24 AM

On camp and the caped crusader

Holy getting up there, Batman! Happy birthday to Burt Ward, the original Robin in the 1966 TV series, who turned 60 last week. Now that was a joyful parody that brought gay camp to a mainstream audience that didn't quite get it.

Big Brain Susan Sontag had discussed it in her essay, "Notes on Camp," two years earlier: "A sensibility (as distinct from an idea) is one of the hardest things to talk about; but there are special reasons why Camp, in particular, has never been discussed," Sontag opined in stentorian cadences. "Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric -- something of a private code, a badge of identity, even, among small urban cliques." The famous but closeted Sontag couldn't manage the word homosexual; her own painful coding continued with its insider hints, such as mention of author Chistopher Isherwood.

"Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization." Zzzzzzz. I once made it to number 34 in Sontag's endless list ("Camp taste turns its back on the good-bad axis of ordinary aesthetic judgment. Camp doesn't reverse things. It doesn't argue that the good is bad, or the bad is good. What it does is to offer for art (and life) a different -- and supplementary -- set of standards").

Sontag was wrong on some of it, or perhaps camp has just changed. Certainly so-called gay portrayals in Batman have. Take comic books.

Back in 1954, the infamous Dr. Fredric Wertham's "Seduction of the Innocent" gave six pages of delicious worry over to homosexuality: "Wertham does not claim that Batman and Robin are homosexual, but that 'the Batman type of story' -- meaning an adult plus youth crime-fighting team -- could stimulate 'children' to have homosexual fantasies in adolescents who have already developed homosexual feelings," wrote queer columnist Paul Varnell recently in Philadelphia Gay News.

The four Wertham worries were "the pederastic structure" of the relationship, which helps fixate homoerotic tendencies into a "Ganymede-Zeus type of love relationship;" the dandified home that's "like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together;" the "ostentatious genital display" (the hyper masculine Batman, and Robin's constant posing legs apart to show off his "genital region"); and finally, the evilness of all the women, because gay men hate chicks.

(Wertham's anti comics rant spawned an age of censorship -- even in Canada, where a ban on "crime comics" is still on the books.)

The pressure changed Batman cartoons, but gay content arrived as camp in the TV series... and the modern Batman film franchise tried to keep it up. Take last decade's "Batman Forever" (please!), a flick that tweaked those in the know. "When asked about the homo-erotic tension between Batman and Robin, Boy Wonder Chris O'Donnell told Movieline magazine he'd never thought about it."

Ha. In the movie, "O'Donnell wants to stick his dick in the seats of the antique cars and motorcycles in millionaire Bruce Wayne's garage.

"And when he discovers that Wayne is also Batman, the would-be sidekick wants in. Bruce Wayne (played by the pouty Val Kilmer, who must have had silicone injected into his lips), rejects his ardent suitor. But O'Donnell pursues the millionaire, and screams, "'I want to be with you!'" (This is all from the review I penned at the time.)

"Batman relents, and Robin is born. His suit includes [perky molded] nipples, and both look slinky in their muscle-bound rubber body armour. Mondo cod pieces all 'round. Batman even wears a hood..." (It's the bad guys who deliver the sex upfront: the Riddler's a screamer, and Two-Face leads a double life [ahem].)

Ah for the good old days of 1995.

This summer's "Batman Begins" is the most camp-free Dark Knight flick ever. Earnest, action-filled, folding in hits of goodie-goodieness to preach against vigilantism. Entertaining, sure (except for TomKat Katie Holmes, who should've just stayed home). But not camp.

"Batman Returns" stars a massive Christian Bale, who's said he wanted the character to truly look like he fought for a living. Too much damned realism for the caped crusader, not enough warped fun.

Hollywood reflects the moment, and -- memo to activists -- Middle America isn't interested in camp right now. They finally get it, and they're tired of us making fun of them.

Or maybe Batman just needs a Robin.

July 10, 2005 8:11 PM

Oh, if only queer wedding announcements read like this one

"South Bend, Indiana, October 26 -- Grace Gilbert -- who has been the 'bearded lady' attraction of several road shows, was married here today to Giles E. Calvin, a farmer, of Kalkaska, Mich. The bride has a beard 18 inches long, while the groom boast of nothing but a mustache."

- from the October 27, 1910 Gazette of Montreal. (Yup, I read 'em all, folks!)

July 10, 2005 8:05 PM

The search for perfection

The gay and lesbian Toronto-based newsmagazine Xtra is now collecting nominations for its annual "best of" issue.

Question number 64 (yeah, you read right, 64 -- you need to answer at least 30 questions for your ballot to be counted) is "Best Gay-themed Website."

Why am I telling you this? Er, no reason.

It's located here, though, if you're curious.

July 8, 2005 8:28 PM

Survived by... ehrm... his mother

R&B legend Luther Vandross died on July 1 at 54. "The black singer who proudly declared that he would never don a 'blond wig' to achieve mainstream fame among white fans, nonetheless hid his own love life to placate his heterosexual female fan base," writes Chris Crain in today's Washington Blade.

"That kind of study in contrasts would make for great reading, but you wouldn’t know it from the obituaries and 'appreciation' stories published in the mainstream press after Vandross died.... With rare exception, the straight press sidestepped long-standing speculation that Vandross the 'lifetime bachelor' was, in fact, gay.

"The de-gaying of Vandross is only the latest example of a long-standing media tradition of glossing over the personal life of anyone who does not live a publicly heterosexual life. On the obituary page, at least, homosexuality remains the love that dare not speak its name."

Asked once whether he was gay, Vandross answered: "You're trying to zero in on something that you are never gonna get. Look at you, just circling the airport. You ain't never gonna land." (From a book, Craig Seymour's bio, "Luther: The Life & Longing of Luther Vandross.")

Writes Crain: "Let it be noted that in the history of humanity, no straight man -- and certainly no straight African-American man -- has ever refused to say whether he's straight or gay."

Crain points out that the DIY community -- the Internet -- does the job the mainstream journalists who get paid to ask questions won't do: "If [the Associated Press wire service] can't manage to say the 'G word,' and Wikipedia can....

"The truth is that the mainstream press is afraid to ask famous people if they’re gay, and even more afraid to print their responses. And when the famous person dies, the same lily-livered editors claim that the public record is, tragically, too skimpy to merit mention in post-death coverage."

July 8, 2005 6:44 PM

For those who are slow on the uptake

I once sat in mute shock as a supper guest slandered the Chinese as a race. In the cozy confines of my own dining room, I don't expect, am not prepared, to cope with blunt racism. By the time I had found my tongue, the conversation had moved a million miles.

I have learned that it can be hard for me to form angry riposte from scratch. And I'm already reading accounts of intolerance in the media coverage of the London transit bombings: "Next to me was an elderly couple waiting for an ambulance to pass before crossing the street," wrote a correspondent in this morning's paper. "An Arab man walked by. 'Look at that son of the prophet smiling away,' said the man next to me. 'Bet he's thrilled about all this.'"

So I'm warming up. Form the words, say them out loud, and they will be easier to find when I need them, perhaps while window shopping through the downtown core, or when crossing a street in my neighbourhood, or as I buy coffee in the supermarket.

"Hey, you're a bigot! We don't want your kind here."

I'm saying it loudly, and I'm saying it often, here in my little office, all alone. Practice makes perfect.
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