My Links


Listed on BlogsCanada

December 2005 - Posts

December 23, 2005 2:17 PM

Indecent delays? Exposure, surely

This Supreme Court of Canada swingers decision is going to take a while to digest. A new definition of what's indecent is welcome -- but the use of "harm" can hurt us, or help us, depending on... whatever. The good folks at Vancouver's Little Sister's bookstore, fighting Canada Customs censorship of their imported books, are themselves unsure of things, and waiting for their own lawyer to get back to them. I'll post more in a week or so, once bigger brains than I have had a chance to ruminate. I'll also be taking a break for the holidays; back after the new year.

December 21, 2005 2:02 PM

Swap yer partner, 'round and 'round!

The good judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, stuck with coping with a really stupid law, have argued themselves into knots around it. That is, they today released two interconnected decisions that hetero swingers' clubs are not bawdy houses, and so are legal. Ha!

Bathhouses too, are going to, er, come under this judgement, I expect. At least, I'd be celebrating if I was a tubs customer. The two rulings are here and here.

Much more after I've had a chance to dig through 'em.

December 21, 2005 1:49 PM

A woman's truth

One of the extraordinary things about "Capote" is that it's a flick about a world of men -- Capote, his editor boss, male cops, male murderers -- that yet has a strong female character in it. Harper Lee (played by Catherine Keener), who went on to publish the anti-racist "To Kill A Mockingbird," has lines, a personality, whole scenes, even! Be still my heart.

Her portrayal stands in stark contrast to the chicks in the two big George Clooney movies out these last two months. George (I used to be a matinee idol, but then I got politics) Clooney has turned into such a cutie leftie. First was his cautionary "Good Night, and Good Luck" retelling of newsman Edward R. Murrow's nerve as he helped shut the door on the hysterical red-baiting of American senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Then "Syriana," a movie that (simplistically, but hey, it's a movie) tells of the U.S. of A.'s determination to keep oil-producing nations under its thumb.

"Syriana" features many silent women, holding babies or nodding acquiescence or sleeping through panicked telephone calls intended for their Very Important husbands. "Capote" went out of its way to add character-building scenes for a woman; Syriana treats them all like mannequins.

"Good Night and Good Luck" has one female character who does have a few lines -- but frankly, the writers could have tried a little harder.

I enjoyed both of Clooney's flicks. But to be a thoughtful politico, Georgie, means you need to remember women, too.

December 21, 2005 10:00 AM

The lies that go into truth

In "Capote," the title character protests (too much) that he tells only the truth. It's a wonderful movie, the tale of screaming queen and auteur Truman, a five-foot-three elf believably played by the giant Philip Seymour Hoffman, even down to speaking in a "baby voice as if a bee sting had swollen his tongue" (thank you Denis Brian).

Capote is a scheming bastard, worming his way into the confidence of two killers whose story he tells "In Cold Blood." The pair slaughtered a family of four when they were unable to find a reputed stash of cash under the floorboards.

As reporter Janet Malcolm once famously wrote (in "The Journalist and the Murderer"): "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns -- when the article or book appears -- his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and 'the public's right to know'; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about making a living."

Capote, at least, did have talent, despite bleating about "art."

Malcolm continued: "[T]he journalist -- who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his [the interviewee's] vision of things -- never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own."

Indeed, Capote was even creepier than in the movie, if you can believe it. "To induce the two caged killers to confide in him, Capote used his breakdown... technique" as portrayed in the flick, in which he tells sad stories about his own life in order to evoke similar confessions. But he also gave the two killers mondo cash -- "fifty dollars each for a start." At least, according to Denis Brian in his 1994 book "Fair Game: What Biographers Don't Tell You," a look at lies in journalism.

A decade after the executions, Brian noted that Capote could barely talk to him when asked about the state-sanctioned death of the killers. One of the murderers, Perry Smith, wrote Capote a 100-page good-bye letter. "All the time they had been prison," said Capote, "all those years, they were only allowed to have a certain amount of money, and I always gave them each whatever it was they were allowed to have. Anyway the thing was in the letter there was a cheque for the money. Perry had never spent a penny of it and he was, you know, giving it back to me.

"I don't know why, but that one thing upset me more than any other thing. It just tore me up. Because, I mean.... Oh, God.... It was touching, as though all along.... I can't go into it."

December 20, 2005 3:07 PM

I meant yucky -- it's really, really, really, really, really yucky. You know, really yucky

Blogger Andrew Sullivan links (a few entries down) to two Catholic News Service reviews of the gay cowboy flick, "Brokeback Mountain." Vatican officials apparently found the first write-up to be too favourable, so they changed it: "Editor's Note: 'Brokeback Mountain,' originally rated L (limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling), has been reclassified O -- morally offensive. This has been done because the serious weight of the L rating -- which restricts films in that category to those who can assess, from a Catholic perspective, the moral issues raised by a movie -- is, unfortunately, misunderstood by many. Because there are some in this instance who are using the L rating to make it appear the church's... position on homosexuality is ambiguous, the classification has been revised specifically to address its moral content."

And from blogger Keith Boykin: "But there's one thing they haven't said about the film that needs to be said. If these characters had been black, they would have called this movie a film about the down low. Instead, they're calling it a classic love story. It's for that reason that I love 'Brokeback Mountain' and I hate it. I love Brokeback as a film that is able to move beyond the down low pathology, but I hate what it says explicitly and implicitly about the double standards in America based on race and sexual orientation."

December 20, 2005 11:46 AM

Every so often I give in

Okay, okay, here's an election tidbit, a link to the Maclean's mag "Svend him Packing" eye-gougingly-nasty call to dump monsieur Robinson, the disgraced pol who hopes to return to the House of Commons in January. Robinson was the first member of Parliament to come out, back in 1988.

December 20, 2005 9:27 AM

The link between imagination and destruction

"Barbie, that plastic icon of girlhood fantasy play, is routinely tortured by children, research has found." Indeeed, scientists were shocked by "the rejection, hatred and violence she provoked when they asked the children about their feelings for the doll. Violence and torture against Barbie were repeatedly reported across age, school and gender. No other toy or brand name provoked such a negative response," it sez here.

Why, oh why is the dolly tortured so? Academics were swift to offer hypotheses. "The girls almost always talked about having a box full of Barbies. So to them Barbie has come to symbolise excess. Barbies are not special; they are disposable, and are thrown away and rejected." And on "a deeper level Barbie has become inanimate. She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person. This may go some way towards explaining the violence and torture."

Or try this one on for size: "Previous research from the U.S. into Barbie abuse suggested that prepubescent girls destroyed the doll because she reminded them of adulthood at a time when they were still clinging to their childhood, but [important scientist somebody-or-other] found no evidence of this. She also dismissed the idea that overweight little girls might be jealous of Barbie for being the girl who had everything, including a tiny waist. It was more likely to be a simple reaction against a toy that the children had grown out of, she said."

"[W]hile adults may find a child’s delight in breaking, mutilating and torturing their dolls to be disturbing, from the child's point of view they were simply being imaginative in disposing of an excessive commodity, in the same way as one might crush cans for recycling." Finally, insight into what little girls are really made of.

December 19, 2005 11:02 AM

How to be a proper homosexual

Cults are evil. Why, see this here story about poor Tom Cruise, "indoctrinated in Scientology at secret desert compound."

His needs were catered "around the clock.... Behind the guarded gates of the 200-hectare compound near Hemet, [California], Cruise had a personal supervisor to oversee his studies in a private course room, ex-members said.... Ex-church members contend while staying in a bungalow near a golf course, Cruise had a special staff to prepare his meals, do his laundry and handle other tasks around the clock."

In short, he was coddled and brainwashed and that is very, very bad.

Except that this brainwashing panic is a load of hooey. As if there exists a group out there that doesn't indulge in efforts at mind control. Wal-Mart has its employee warm-ups every morning, complete with explanations on how to be cheery! Companies regularly send people out on team-building seminars. You're expected to fit in to corporate culture.... And lesbians have the total environments that are bars, and butch dress codes and intense peer pressure and... so much more. You don't think that's a form of brainwashing?

I do.

December 16, 2005 11:31 AM

Math is hard

The San Francisco Chronicle has corrected a mathematical error made on 'The Simpsons' TV show that the paper repeated without checking. The story "mistakenly said that 1,782 to the 12th power plus 1,841 to the 12th power equals 1,922 to the 12th power. Actually, 1,782 to the 12th power plus 1,841 to the 12th power equals 2,541,210,258,614, 589,176,288, 669, 958, 142, 428, 526,657, while 1,922 to the 12th power equals 2,541,210,259,314,801,410, 819, 278,649, 643,651,567,616."

That is all.

December 16, 2005 11:09 AM

Iran, the Holocaust, and Stalin

Why do people behave so? Iran's new president, enjoying his ability to shock la western bourgeoisie, has announced that the Holocaust was all a big fake. Jews and American soldiers had nothing better to do at the end of World War II than stumble about empty factories planting false evidence of mass death and science experiments practiced by the all-too-sane on their victims' hearts and spinal cords. The hoax helped liven up a boring few weeks, I guess. Just filling up time when you're hanging around waiting to be shipped home.

I wonder how long we'll remember the Holocaust at all once the last few survivors of concentration camps have died. Experts -- no, I dunno who such people are -- estimate that there are "fewer than 10 homosexual survivors of Nazi internment camps still alive."

I'd say that until last month there were 11, but that seems wrong. Pierre Seel sounds like he led a life that was too complicated to be "homosexual."

"Pierre Seel, who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II for homosexuality and later broke decades of silence to speak out about the horrors he endured, died of cancer Nov.25 at his home in Toulouse, France. He was 82....

"Survivors include his companion, Eric Feliu of Toulouse; his wife; and three children." So said the Washington Post, as reprinted here.

"Arrested on suspicion of being a homosexual, Seel served six months in a prison camp before he was released and, improbably enough, drafted into the German army. After the war, he married and had a family and revealed nothing of his ordeal."

I hadn't realized that some actually managed to be (purposefully) released from the camps. (More than 100,000 were arrested for homosexuality, with somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 sent to the camps.) Seel was French, nabbed during the occupation.

Some bishop screeched about the evil homos in the 1982, and Seel responded with a book, 1994's "I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual." "On May 3, 1941, when Seel was 17, he was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured for 10 days.... he described how he and other suspected homosexuals were beaten, had their fingernails pulled out and were raped with broken rulers. Seel was sent to Schirmeck-Vorbruck, the only German concentration camp on French soil, where he said he was 'tortured, beaten, sodomized and raped.' He was forced to build crematoriums and to stand as the camp staff tossed syringes at him as if he were a dart board."

The worst experience, he wrote, came when German troops marched a prisoner into the center of the yard, stripped him naked and placed a bucket over the man's head. Seel recognized him as his 18-year-old friend and lover.

According to Seel's book, German shepherds tore the man apart, and ate him.

"'Since then I sometimes wake up howling in the middle of the night,' Seel wrote. 'For 50 years now that scene has kept ceaselessly passing and repassing through my mind.' After six months, he was released and conscripted against his will into the German army. He was sent to the Russian front and later was wounded in battle in Yugoslavia....

"In 1950, he married, and eventually had two sons and a daughter. He and his wife separated in 1978, and he fought a drinking problem and ailments caused by his captivity."

"As for myself," Seel wrote in his memoir, "after decades of silence I have made up my mind to speak, to accuse, to bear witness."

The queer scholar E.J. Graff has written about another who bore witness, Heda Kovály and her memoir, "Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968."

In it the author "tells of having escaped Auschwitz during a forced march at the age of fifteen; meeting and later marrying her childhood sweetheart, Rudolf Margolius; seeing him prosecuted and killed in Czechoslovakia's first Stalinist show trial; and thus of living through two of the most barbaric episodes of a barbaric century. Kovály's keenly observed, politically astute memoir offers intimate insight into how people behave under totalitarianism, how the human psyche can surrender to absolutism in the pursuit of beautiful ideals, how idealism can result in genuine evil (a noun I use advisedly) -- and yet how civilization can restore itself, even after such horror. 'Under A Cruel Star' has helped me think about the motivations and distortions of a vast range of political and social movements -- McCarthyism, the Iranian revolution and its aftermath, Al Qaeda, any 'radicalism' (left or right), and any movement that claims the word 'liberation.' Strangely enough, it has even taught me about the virtues of both skepticism and optimism."

Graff believes that it's Kovály's kind of personal political reportage that helps us understand ourselves. The survivor also adds another layer, that of ignorance. "Kovály impulsively screams at her overseer -- a business person who had paid for Auschwitz labor -- that she and the other girls could not be expected to work well while starving. Terrified, the other girls try to silence her, certain she will be shot. Instead, he pulls her aside and asks her to explain. She does, and he is visibly stunned. As she says later: 'That man lived in Nazi Germany and had daily contact with a concentration camp and its inmates, yet he knew nothing. I am quite sure he did not. He had simply thought that we were convicts, sentenced by a regular court of law for proven crimes.' When we ask ourselves the important question -- How can citizens let their government do such things, in their names? -- it's essential to know that the answer is, at least in part: they didn't always know.

"After spending only 20 pages on the Holocaust, 'Under A Cruel Star' moves on to what Kovály finds to be the greater puzzle: 'It seems beyond belief that in Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup in 1948, people were once again beaten and tortured by the police, that prison camps existed and we did not know, and that if anyone had told us the truth we would have refused to believe it.' And yet it happened."

The idea that a handful of nasty overlords could be overthrown and riches distributed equally was intensely attractive, especially given the psychic exhaustion of so many. "[T]he war had beaten the confidence out of Czechoslovaks of all stripes. They had been forced to live as slaves, terrorized paupers, outlaws, or humiliated subjects of a brutal occupation, scrambling to make it from one day to the next. Nowhere else have I read such a vivid parsing of how national shame, personal humiliation, defeat, deprivation, and perpetual fear can lead the thoughtful to abandon their senses and yearn to be perfect -- while the craven cloak themselves in the language of the good.

"Kovály is especially good at examining the mentality of the camp survivors. 'It is hardly possible for people to live for so many years as slaves in everyday contact with fascists and fascism without becoming somewhat twisted,' she writes. She and her fellow prisoners were tormented by having survived while everyone and everything they loved had been turned into lampshades and ash. They were too devastated even to stand up for themselves and insist that their former neighbors return stolen apartments, paintings, china, carpets. Living for the small everyday pleasures -- home, family, friends, music, theater -- seemed petty after such loss. To redeem their lost lives, they wanted to sacrifice themselves for a noble effort: creating a perfect future 'in which this could never happen again.' And so they joined the party.

"'Never again,' in this book, is shown to be a dangerous sentiment, a fundamentally religious belief, because it allows a vision of a perfect eternity to eclipse everyday reality. With the promise of a perfect future, who could be so petty as to complain about a few bread lines and shoe shortages, or a few moments of a hideously kitschy state-sponsored film? Silence was easier than enduring the endless self-critique sessions that spontaneous honesty could have engendered. But silence was the problem. 'It is not hard for a totalitarian regime to keep people ignorant,' Kovály writes. 'Once you relinquish your freedom for the sake of ‘understood necessity,’ for Party discipline, for conformity with the regime, for the greatness and glory of the Fatherland, or for any of the substitutes that are so convincingly offered, you cede your claim to the truth.'"

Was Hitler mad? Who cares? "Kovály concentrates on personal decency. For her the key questions are not about what politics or religion you follow, but rather, how you treat the starving deportee who unexpectedly knocks at your door, the social pariah who desperately needs medical care, the widow who demands that her dead husband’s good name be restored. Is your response honest and sensible, or fearful and full of excuses? From that, all else follows -- including the fate of governments."

December 15, 2005 10:18 AM

Blood red

Finally! A big ole homo has been appointed to the board of directors of Canadian Blood Services (and thanks to the Egale Canada listserv for the pointer). He's Toronto's Tom Warner, a CLGRO stalwart and author of "Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada."

This is a political appointment, really. Not necessarily from within, I mean.

December 14, 2005 10:53 AM

I mis-spoke myself

The quest for the why-of-lie has led me to Sissela Bok's Very Important 1978 work of philosophical ethics, "Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life."


I put it away and found Mark Twain's "On the Decay of the Art of Lying." Read in five parts, two to four minutes per bit.

And yay for Project Gutenberg, which creates and collates free e-books for the reading challenged. Homo authors read by a real live human bean include kiddie storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, poet Walt Whitman and, er, no lesbians in English that I could see. There are also a few hundred computerized readings, but Oscar Wilde's jailbird agony in "De Profundis" is lost when read by a machine. An Edith Wharton fan ensured that much of her friendly oeuvre is on there, too.

But I think I'll stick to hetero pulpist Sax Rohmer's "The Insidous Dr. Fu Manchu." There's a book whose lies can only be enhanced by a machine.

December 13, 2005 4:09 PM

What I meant to say

Regret The Error is a Montreal-based website that tracks humiliating mistakes made in the media. "Ladies and Gentleman, the Correction of the Year for 2005, as published in the Denver Daily News on July 27:
The Denver Daily News would like to offer a sincere apology for a typo in Wednesday's Town Talk regarding New Jersey's proposal to ban smoking in automobiles. It was not the author's intention to call New Jersey 'Jew Jersey.'

More awards and honorables here.

December 13, 2005 10:39 AM

Frighten the horses

I grew up with Rough Trade's Carole Pope creaming her jeans for some tease who, even as she did not exist, kept me awake late into the night. Although the band formed in 1974, it didn't get a disk out until a few years later.... making Patti Smith's 1975 "Horses" the "it" lesbo anthem album. And this year marks its 30th anniversary.

"'Horses' starts with what might be the most arresting opening line of any album ever: 'Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine,'" recalls this recent interview. "It's from Smith's poem 'Oath', a declaration of what she dubbed 'positive anarchy'. The insolent saunter of the band slowly builds into a canter and the poem mutates into a song, an exhilarating dash through 'Gloria'. Originally sung by Van Morrison in his first band Them, this horny rasp of white R&B became a standard for American garage bands in the mid-60s.... Ogling a 'sweet young thang', Smith throws herself with such swaggering rapacity into lines like 'I'm gonna uhnuhn make her mine' that most listeners assumed she was purposely subverting 'Gloria' into an anthem of lesbian lust."

Darn tootin'. Now Pope, at least, really was and is a lesbian -- back in the day, she was having a quiet but intense and messy relationship with Dusty Springfield. Smith is not a dyke -- but she played the game before lesbian chic made it cool. "Smith herself compares ['Horses'] to 'Paul Revere, waking up the people'. REM's Michael Stipe heard the album as a 15-year-old and has described the experience as life-changing and galvanising: 'It pretty much tore my limbs off and put them back on in a different way... I decided then and there that I was going to be in a band.' Smith says her mission was precisely to reach out to people like Stipe (now a close friend), 'disenfranchised persons, whether they were nerds, or the one gay kid in the school'....

Smith also says too many people see art as reality. "'Sexually I'm really normal,' she says, confessing to be if anything somewhat strait-laced. 'I always enjoyed doing transgender songs. That's something I learnt from Joan Baez, who often sang songs that had a male point of view. No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist. On 'Horses,' that's why the sleevenote has that statement about being "beyond gender." By that, I meant that as an artist, I can take any position, any voice, that I want.'

"Given her 'third gender' aura on the Horses cover, though, it's easy to see why 'Gloria' was taken as a sapphic love song. 'Redondo Beach', the song that immediately follows it, was also widely interpreted as the lament of a woman whose girlfriend has committed suicide and whose body washes up on a Los Angeles beach popular with lesbians and gays. Actually, says Smith, it's a song about her sister Linda, a sort of morbid fantasy rooted in remorse: the pair, rooming together in the Chelsea Hotel, quarrelled, and Linda disappeared, causing Patti much anguish. Written in 1971, the verses languished in a drawer for several years...."

Oi. Frankly, back in the day, I needed to believe that art was truth. And that it was my truth. It certainly was life.

NPR's "All Songs Considered" features a cut from Smith's 30th anniversary performance of the "Horses" oeuvre. Go listen.

December 13, 2005 9:34 AM

Nigger this, nigger that, you motherfucker

More on the queer complications of language…. I’m too young to have paid attention to the career of Richard Pryor, I guess. So I’ve never really listened to him, although a writer for the gay Blacklight magazine quoted Pryor from an old interview: "Straight black people often have a hard time dealing with gays. All my life I've seen that macho shit in the black neighborhoods, where you try to eliminate someone mentally, to get out of dealing with them by saying, 'Oh, you're a faggot, you don't know from nothing.'"

But this isn’t about comics and fag humour. Pryor used the word “nigger” like there was no tomorrow.

Recalls one fan: "When I was coming of age in the late 1960s and '70s, the release of a new Richard Pryor album was a major event. We ran to the record store to purchase a copy of ‘That Nigger's Crazy’ or ‘Bicentennial Nigger,’ seduced by the brashness of the titles, the daring cover art, even before we even heard all that funny, cold-blooded, true shit Pryor was talking. He was an antidote to Richard Nixon, the Moral Majority, the decline of mass movements for social change. Richard Pryor kept it real, and then some."

And from NPR, in one of many homages to the comedian, who died Saturday: "Pryor used the N-word in a way it had not been used before on stage: openly, and before mixed audiences, according to Randall Kennedy… author of the book ‘Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.’

"‘He showed the wide variety of ways in which nigger could be used. Nigger as insult, nigger as window on racism, nigger as a sort of ironic play on race relations, nigger as term of endearment.’ But after a trip to Africa, where Pryor said he saw the beauty of blackness, he stopped using the word."

December 9, 2005 1:45 PM

Pants on fire

To be a reporter is to tell The Truth. All. The. Time. It's a worthy, earnest, and dull trade. The endless prim and proper of professional goodie-goodiness.

Makes me want to lie. But of course, I would be pilloried in a world where a reporter's truth has become a hysterical imperative. Only a handful can lie and be lauded for it. Like the late Hunter S. Thompson, who made it all up and became a journalistic hero.

"This seems like a good place to bring up the issue of the real vs. fantasy in Hunter’s pieces," writes one-time Rolling Stone editor-type Robert Love as he recalls efforts to turn screed onto genius. "In his 1974 Playboy interview, Hunter said: 'Unlike Tom Wolfe or Gay Talese, I almost never try to reconstruct a story. They're both much better reporters than I am, but then, I don't think of myself as a reporter.' Hunter called himself a doctor of journalism, but his specialty was something quite different, 'part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention and wilder rhetoric,' as Tom Wolfe rightly called it. In my own experience, the dividing line between fact and fancy rarely blurred, and we didn't always use italics or some other typographical device to indicate the lurch into the fabulous. But if there were living, identifiable humans in a scene, we took certain steps. (And sometimes it wasn't obvious. He did, after all, talk football with Nixon for an hour and a half in New Hampshire in 1968, and he knew Jackie Onassis; but he totally made up the fact that Senator Edmund Muskie had overdosed on the hallucinogen ibogaine during the 1972 primaries.) Hunter was close friends with many prominent Democrats, veterans of the 10 or more presidential campaigns he covered, so when in doubt, we'd call the press secretary. 'People will believe almost any twisted kind of story about politicians or Washington,' he once said, and he was right."

Love may believe the fact-fiction line was obvious, but sometimes the real was deleted altogether by editors. Thompson once scribbled to his copy boss: "But what the fuck am I suppose to think when I see that YOU have very shrewdly cut (dropped, deleted, excised (sp?) 'edited out') the only two pages I’ve sent that have anything to do with real events that occurred on either the DAY or the NIGHT of November 3 at Clinton headquarters in Little Rock (see attached/below Pages 26 & 27 -- which I wrote and & planned & intended to be my LEAD INTO Election Day/Night...."

And here: "Fact-checking Hunter Thompson was one of the sketchiest occupations ever created in the publishing world. For the first-timer, it was a trip through a journalistic fun house, where you didn't know what was real and what wasn't. You knew you had better learn enough about the subject at hand to know when the riff began and reality ended. Hunter was a stickler for numbers, for details like gross weight and model numbers, for lyrics and caliber, and there was no faking it.

"In 1982, Hunter was on assignment to cover the Palm Beach divorce trial of Roxanne and Pete Pulitzer, and he decided early on he wanted to call the piece 'A Dog Took My Place.' When I phoned the magazine's libel attorney, Victor Kovner, to tell him, I heard only a sharp intake of breath, and then Victor's sonorous $300-an-hour-best-legal-advice basso profundo voice. 'Great title. Too bad you can't use it.'" Bestiality's not a smart bet in court.

"After he calmed down, Hunter had written a new set piece, a 30-paragraph digression to justify keeping the title. In the new insert, he meets a surly bartender in the middle of the day and the man, enraged by the excesses of the rich and powerful in Palm Beach, lunges over the bar at Hunter, grabs him, and begins screaming about the Pulitzers and their like: 'I look at this scum,' he screams, 'and I look at the way they live and I see all those shit-eating grins on their faces and I feel like a dog took my place.'

"This was a classic Thompson melee, a violent confrontation conducted over a counter of some sort that separates the authority from HST and produces truth for the reader, vindication for Doc, and abject humiliation for the poor sot who threatened him. In the encounter, Hunter then slaps the man, grabs him by the flesh of his cheek, douses him with mace, and threatens to rip his nuts off. Then Hunter squeezes off the final insult. 'You must be a lawyer.... What's your name? I work for the IRS.'

"Necessity, in this case, was the mother of some fine gonzo writing." Er, "gonzo." That would mean "lies."

Or take the journalism of the fabulously famous fiction writer, the Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote profiles of villains for a newspaper in the 1930s, from Billy the Kid to the Tichborne Claimant. And included some big fat lies.

They led to great acclaim.

"I should define as baroque that style which deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) all its possibilities and which borders on its own parody," Borges wrote in a later introduction to the collected stories of "A Universal History of Infamy."

"The very title of these pages flaunts their baroque character. To curb them would amount to destroying them.... They are the irresponsible game of a shy young man who dared not write stories and so amused himself by falsifying and distorting (without any esthetic justification whatsoever) the tales of others."

I am not worthy of such great heights of fabrication.

And so instead, I lie in conversation. Just little lies. Goofy, obvious things. They burble out before I can stop them.

Asked once whether I get my shirts dry cleaned, I said no -- that I'd just grabbed this out of the laundry basket. It was instantly exposed as a lie -- the shirt was new, so finely pressed no human hand could have ironed out the creases or so sharpened its angles. My interlocutor didn't call me on it -- she let it go.

They always do.

December 9, 2005 11:02 AM

My word!

An update to this older story: Dyke is no longer considered a sickening word in the United States legal hierarchy. Or within a part of it, anyway. "San Francisco lesbian bikers have won a major battle with the US Patent and Trademark Office. For more than a year the San Francisco Women’s Motorcycle Contingent has been trying to trademark the name 'Dykes on Bikes'.... The Trademark Office twice rejected the group's application on the ground that the word 'dyke' is disparaging to lesbians.....

"They then submitted more than two dozen expert declarations from scholars, linguists, psychologists, and activists demonstrating how the word “dyke” has evolved to become a positive term and that lesbians view 'Dykes On Bikes' as empowering. Nevertheless, the Trademark Office then denied the request a final time.

"The group appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.... This week the appeal board reversed the decision and notified the group that it can trademark the name."

December 8, 2005 3:25 PM

Vivre Montreal

You left Montreal, did you? But you can't erase its joys from your heart, can you?

Now you want to come back. Well, be warned. It won't be easy.

December 8, 2005 3:16 PM

Blood and bigots

Yoiks. I keep running to catch up. Like here, with the ban on gay male blood donors. As earlier, I don't have a problem with the blood ban itself. An Advocate reporter recently dug about, and Jonathan Adler "finds... evidence that the ban has a solid rationale -- no matter how poorly it's expressed." And the American and Canadian blood supplies are closely linked.

But that just means that Canadian Blood Services needs to try harder, to smarten up and visibly include gay men in its other volunteer recruitment campaigns. I demanded this a year ago. Did it happen? No.

PR guy Ron Vezina spouts some platitudes about how pamphlets and advertising is directed at everyone, but we all know what that means: Nothing. And that is the real homophobia at Canadian Blood Services.

For the other side: the Canadian AIDS Society doesn't like the ban. Its policy was passed unanimously at an AGM in 1999, according to media relations officer Mark Creighan. Their policy sez: "Whereas the current donor screening process used by the Canadian Blood Service is outdated and discriminatory implying risk of HIV infection is dependent on membership/association with particular population, rather than on risk behaviours and activities, and whereas such misleading characterization and misinformation contributes to a greater public health risk and further stigmatizes these populations. Be it resolved that the Canadian AIDS Society  continue to work with the Canadian Blood Service and the Health Protection Branch to reform the donor screening process to reflect current HIV transmission.

"CAS believes that Blood Services should target activity which puts people at risk and not groups. It is the activity of unprotected insertive and receptive sexual intercourse (anal and vaginal) which puts people at risk. Not the gender of those individuals. For example, oral sex carries a negligible risk of HIV transmission. Not all sex between men is high risk."

No. But gay men are. I'm sorry, but it's true.

ADDENDUM Dec. 13: Ron Vezina reads the blog, discovers I've called his employers a bunch of pigs, and responds: "To begin, please note that we are aware -- and very much appreciate -- that there are Canadians who are unable to donate blood, but who still wish to contribute to the blood system in other ways. Many times, when people have expressed their disappointment about not being able to donate blood, we have provided them with information about becoming a volunteer with Canadian Blood Services. You may be interested to know that many of our volunteers are unable to donate blood and have opted to generously give their time in lieu of blood to save lives. After all, it is not just the blood of donors that saves lives; without our volunteers, we may not have the resources to be able to collect the blood that recipients so desperately need." Er, yes. Where are the ads targeting volunteers from the gay community, which has been made vulnerable because of your ban? What are you specifically doing to mitigate the bigotry that is being engendered by the ban?

"Currently, we have more than 17,000 volunteers across Canada, representing a diverse cross-section of Canadians. As discussed, while we are always looking for more people to volunteer with us, we do not target specific groups of people, opting instead to promote our volunteer program in marketing materials that will be applicable to the general population. As a non-profit organization, I hope that you can appreciate we have limited resources which we must allocate as efficiently as possible. That being said, we happily welcome any individual who has been deferred, regardless of the reason why, to consider becoming a volunteer with Canadian Blood Services. For more information about our volunteer program, interested individuals can visit us online or call 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

"You may also be interested to learn about our Network Centre for Applied Development (NetCAD) in Vancouver. This facility was built in order for us to conduct research on a variety of development concepts aimed at improving the blood system in Canada.

"Because of the nature of our research, it is essential for us to test new products, procedures or equipment on actual blood taken from volunteer donors. Because none of the blood collected at this facility enters the system for transfusion use, we are able to welcome deferred individuals, including men who have had sex with men, to consider donating their blood for research purposes.

"Unfortunately, blood cannot be collected at other Canadian Blood Services sites and shipped to the NetCAD facility; deferred donors must donate in Vancouver. However, we certainly encourage you to inform friends and family in the Vancouver area to contact the NetCAD facility at (604) 221-5515 to book an appointment. I would also be happy to send you a brochure called "How can I give blood for research?," if you would like to reply with your mailing address."

December 7, 2005 3:49 PM

When girls are boys

The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled today that a rape crisis centre can refuse a transgender volunteer. The decision in Vancouver Rape Relief Society versus Kimberly Nixon is here. It's going to be a fascinating 22 pages of reading.

December 7, 2005 12:14 PM

The bravery of the every day

The last 24 hours have featured -- as usual -- media coverage on violence against women, it being the anniversary of the "Montreal Massacre." And activists have, for many years, argued that part of the problem is silence. Which is why I'm starting to lose my patience with the court- and media-mandated requirement that women (and the fewer men) who file sexual assault charges cannot -- must not -- be named.

No one even thinks about it anymore: No names is the norm. (The Federation Professionelle des Journalistes du Quebec requires it, for example -- just because. No discussion.) There was a time when this protection of women was justified. But now, the only thing that publication bans do is reinforce the idea that there is something shameful here -- and I'm not talking about the perpetrators, but that there is still something shameful about being a victim. Silence has become institutionalized, and it's reinforcing the very victimization it was intended to combat in the first place.

I hope that Natalie Simard will show the way. She is the Quebec child star who, now an adult, filed criminal charges and a civil lawsuit against her manager, Guy Cloutier, for repeatedly raping her as a teenager. After the case was over, Simard went public.

Her revelations were met with enormous support and interest. Simard's book is selling well, and money is flowing into her foundation. She's mobbed during public appearances by other victims of childhood sexual assault and well-wishers, all of them thanking her for coming forward.

Simard, by the way, was not the only person to go to the police; a second victim was also involved in this case, one whose identity remains hidden. Sort of. That's another problem with identification bans: they're actually bans on regular people knowing what's up, a way of separating out members of society into the "knows" and the "know nots." The elite -- media types, politicians, high falutin' business folks with gossipy connections, they all have the scoop. In short, I know who the second person is, but you can't. Loser! But that's another discussion.

This is about Nathalie Simard. Her experience shows us that the time for secrecy is at an end. That there is a thirst for plain-spoken truth. Rape is a reality. Fighting back is something all women can do: it's an every day heroism that needs to be seen as such.

December 7, 2005 12:11 PM

Stop the hysteria, I wanna get off

Repeat after me: No more Karla Homolka bla bla bla. Be gone, K. And don't screw it up.

December 6, 2005 10:55 AM

For the Christmas rush

Today is a good day to give blood. No, I do not boycott those people because they refuse gay male donors. No, I have no problem with that restriction. Here's why.

December 6, 2005 10:08 AM

Equal time

Tranny Nina Arsenault has a column in Toronto's Fab magazine, which this issue tackles the micropenis. "We were already en route to his Rosedale home when I told him what I am... 'No, you're hardly going to notice it,'" she said of her own tucked away piece of extra flesh. "It'll be easy for you to pretend it's not there."

"He gasped and gripped his Calvins. The tiny white tent pitched between his legs couldn't have been more than half an inch high. He was smaller than, well, me."

Arsenault is not impressed with teeny little soldiers. Like those of Keith, Mario, and finally, Chad. "Chad called me on a shemale sex phone line more for therapy than for getting off. He'd been married three times to women he loved dearly. His button-like penis could barely rub against their labial folds. Filling their vaginal cavities with battery-powered plastic wasn't doing it, either. They left him with a nervous breakdown and an array of toys.... He knew his wives had entered into relationships with him without much sexual attraction. That is what he found most painful. I thought back to the men I had known and said, 'They must have really, really loved you to do that.'"

Only one guy -- a straight man -- has ever discussed his penis size with me. He announced his length -- which was no where near the eight inches advertised in the classified ads I see regularly. "Is that good?" I asked. He looked at me, and his brow furrowed. "It's above average," he said. "That's why I told you."

December 5, 2005 10:03 AM

My humps

I hate bra shopping. Abhor, loathe, abominate, execrate, despise, detest. Some strange chick pulls you into a tiny closet and grabs your breasts for size -- then leaves. Yet returns expecting nudity. I stand there red in face, increasingly crabby sweaty lemme outta here. Can I just get two dozen of those? Let's go.

But now I've discovered what's worse: the changing booby vogue. Remember when cramming those two puppies together was all the rage? A few buttons undone and -- instant attention! It was all about the curve and the plunge. (Hey, I may be a bit butch, but I noticed pretty young that my large endowments translated into rather a lot of notice. I'm shy, but not dumb.)

Everything has changed.

Suddenly, Madonna torpedo tits are in. It's all about separate but equal. My mashed girlies look freakish. Gotta lift and subdivide. Bust 'em up! My bosoms, that used to be impressive but to which I paid no heed, are now taking up twice as much width and frankly, are getting in the way.

I used to make fun of men who adjusted their willies in public. No more: Hey! I... oh, just a second.... yow... there, that's better.

Oh new black bra, thou art a cruel mistress. And itchy, too.

December 2, 2005 12:32 PM

Political junkies....

... will want to regularly check the Election Prediction Project, which has a great track record when it comes to federal election prognostication. As of now, it's suggesting the Liberals will get 82 seats to the Tories' 75, with 84 ridings too close to call. Yikes.

EPP was created by the very out and proud Milton Chan, whose personal website notes: "CBC National once noted, 'Milton Chan's stomping ground is Toronto's gay village,' and that was more than just assessment on my partying routine. I have been volunteering for gay youth and student organizations since I came out in Vancouver at the age of 17." And also: "Surprising to many people, I actually attend Catholic mass every week, though that has never stopped me from demanding accountability and church reform. I took on a leadership role in organizing the Alternative World Youth Day in 2002, and am active in women ordination, lay people participation, and pro-choice initiatives."

I presume Chan's new gig, as Young Liberals of Canada vice president policy, won't mean the election project info gets skewed -- he's been a Grit for a while, and the results for the last federal poll were 88 percent bang on, regardless of his political leanings.

December 2, 2005 11:42 AM

The 'fraidy cat argument

And Karla. Today the Homolka coverage is all about fear. It is "a mistake for her to be deemed safe at this time," reads the Montreal Gazette's editorial, which attempts to deflect the vengeance worry by stating that "Once a person has served his or her sentence, the justice system should not be allowed to follow that person forever, not without compelling proof of continued menace."

But Homolka is a menace, the Gazoo claims, pointing to her lack of repentance (she said on TV that she would be trapped forever in a prison of her own making -- the Gazette isn't accusing her of lying, nor of spouting clichés, but of not being repentant at all; apparently they missed that interview); videotapes show she was excited by sexual torture and killing (I'm not in a position to know this, but say it's true: the thought of stealing a $7,000 laptop for my own delirious use makes me wet, but I'm not gonna actually do it, and I sure wouldn't do it again if I'd been to jail for such a crime previously. By the by, the Gazette shouldn't be in a position to know for sure either, since viewing the tapes was and is illegal); Homolka could be an evil killer's pawn again (sure, and she could blow up the sun after discovering the world's most deadly new weapon while making toast -- "could" is such a great word, isn't it?). And finally, "In five months of freedom, Homolka's only known job was working in a hardware store for a man who turned out to have a criminal record. That was not her fault, but it shows the need for continued controls." Come on: Who's gonna offer her a job? Seriously?

Fear and logic, they sometimes don't go together so well.

ADDENDUM 1:20 pm: Quebec will appeal Karla Homolka decision.

December 2, 2005 11:18 AM

Feet, AIDS Kills

I hope to be the only English media in Montreal spelling out the f-word today. Damn, I'm rad.

Sez da Gazoo: "AIDS activists took advantage of World AIDS Day to criticize city of Montreal officials, the transit system, McGill University, CEGEP Vieux Montreal and The Gazette for refusing to carry controversial ads for their AIDS Awareness Campaign whose slogan is F---, AIDS Kills....

"The city has refused to allow the slogan to appear on billboards, the transit system won't carry the ads on buses or in the metro, and, unlike French-language newspapers, The Gazette has declined to print them." Well, thank God for the search function at this crosswords help page, which tells me the most likely word, given the missing letters, is "free." Followed by face, fact, fade, fair, fare, fast, fate, fear, feed, feet, fern, feta, fete, fiat, file, fire, flat, flea, and fled.

FEEDBACK "Fool, AIDS Kills": From an AIDS activist type: "I saw the ad yesterday over someone's shoulder... in Le Devoir. Also, the ad is surreptitiously anti-sex. As in (don't) fuck, AIDS kills."

December 2, 2005 10:49 AM

Buy, buy, buy

The Xmas thing. Keeee-rist. Okay, try this: A lesbian black basketball player dolly. Right here, at Dyke Dolls, "the world's first lesbian action figures." Click on the "baby dykes" button. Comes in two different team uniforms!

Shameless ripoff, but hey.

And here's the Human Rights Campaign's Buying for Equality guide. Because stopping people from shopping their brains out at this time of year is fucking near impossible.

ADDENDUM Dec. 10: So some stranger's features aren't doing it for ya? Turn yourself into a superhero figurine, here. About 400 smackeroos (clothing's extra). And be warned, it's hard to sculpt features from photographs.
1 2 >