Friday, February 29, 2008

"The horror, the horror": Canada's Reform Party Government threatens to stop offensive "gay" films?

Tired after years of corruption under the Liberals and unimpressed with Paul Martin's leadership skills, Canadians turned to the only viable governing alternative in January 2006 and, two years later, we see that in fact we've got what appears to be a Christian fundamentalist/Republican government by stealth, intent on bringing Canada's "offensive" film community to its knees.

Isn't it particularly insidious how this new law has almost come to pass? Tory Prime Minister Stephen Harper tucked away an amendment inside Bill C-10, now facing final reading in the unelected Senate, that would change the Income Tax Act to allow Canada's Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny eligibility to tax credits of productions determined to be "contrary to public policy. " Under journalistic questioning, the Harper government now admits films they deem "offensive" will see their tax credits denied, even if other public bodies like Telefilm Canada have offered financial support. The denial of tax credits could presumably occur after production, when money is still owed and payments pending.

Now today, anti-gay fundie Charles McVety is taking credit for this latest attack on Canada's film industry, claiming he's successfully bent the ear of a number of friendly Conservative cabinet ministers and backbenchers.

"We're thankful that someone's finally listening," McVety said yesterday. "It's fitting with conservative values, and I think that's why Canadians voted for a Conservative government."

Voters wanted to punish the Liberals, not convert our country into a theocracy!

'We Move To Canada' nicely sums up how this change could be disastrous for Canada's film industry and the LGBT community:

"Changing the film tax credit guidelines to exclude films that a small group of people consider offensive is clearly bad for the film industry, both economically and artistically. But it's bad news for all of us, if we don't want the government meddling in personal morality, or especially, pandering to the warped values of the religious right.

"I notice, too, that the story about McVety specifically mentions homosexuality as an exclusion: "Mr. McVety said films promoting homosexuality, graphic sex or violence should not receive tax dollars, and backbench Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers support his campaign."

"As we know, to those people, "films promoting homosexuality" means anything with a queer theme. I haven't seen this in any other story about the tax credit change. If the Heritage Canada tries to exclude gay-themed films solely on that basis, they'll have a huge human rights and Charter issue on their hands."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Not all conservative bloggers are on side, thankfully. This post seems rather reasonable.

The issue for proponents of this change is why should Canadian taxpayers fund through tax credits films and other productions they deem objectionable or offensive. The problem here is that, under the Harper government, we will be sure that "offensive" will be interpreted as "offensive to our conservative religious base." The ability of artists to "offend" is an important part of the creative process, enabling an audience to question some of their own prejudices and assumptions.

What's really annoying here is the fact that most of the conservative religious base of the Conservative party probably has never bothered to view most Canadian films, offensive or not. Most probably exclusively screen big-budget American, Disney-esque, G-rated fare, fantasizing they live in the American bible belt, not a progressive country like Canada. Asked if they liked 'The Sweet Hereafter', most would probably respond, "What the heck are you talking about, I'm still alive the last time I checked...hardy har har..." without a tinge of irony.

If this new Department of Justice panel merely aspires to vet out productions that violate obscenity laws or hate laws, why aren't Canada's existing laws enough to deal with these productions? What other "offensive" content does this mysterious panel intend to weed out? It remains a scary mystery and I'm afraid to see the ending.


For another great post on this issue, check out unrepentant old hippie.

Also, this issue is getting press in Hollywood. Check it out. Of course, U.S. producers who create much work and economic benefit with productions that shoot in Canada could see their tax credits dry up too if their films are deemed "offensive" by this new committee of bureaucrats. This could effectively kill the Canadian film industry, which suits Charles McVety and his types just fine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Truly scary: Harper's Conservatives to police "offensive" Canadian films

Wow, this is truly horrifying and provides more disturbing insight into how Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives truly view arts and culture in Canada. Next to the American giant, Canadian production companies rely heavily on public financing to get their projects off the ground. This new rule, which threatens every production possibly deemed "offensive" by the federal Department of Justice, could possibly cripple movie-making in Canada. At best, it will lead to creative second-guessing and sanitizing of productions before they get made out of fear of losing funding at the end of the production schedule.

Harper's Heritage Department confirms that: "Bill C-10, currently at third reading in the Senate, contains an amendment to the Income Tax Act which would allow the Minister of Canadian Heritage to deny eligibility to tax credits of productions determined to be contrary to public policy...The department has recently standardized and updated the list of illegal and other ineligible content.

Toronto lawyer David Zitzerman of Goodmans LLP says the government's plans smack of “closet censorship.”

“Such a provision could potentially lead to the government acting as ‘morality police.' The existing definitions of pornography and obscenity in the Criminal Code should be sufficient for the government's purposes.

“Would this committee put money into "Juno"? It might not want to encourage teen pregnancy. Would the government put money into a film with a dirty title, like "Young People Fucking"? Would they invest in something like "Brokeback Mountain"? They might not want to encourage gay cowboys to have sex together in Alberta.”

Mark Musselman, vice-president of business affairs at Toronto's Serendipity Point Films and Maximum Film Distribution, said Wednesday that the implications are huge, “both from the perspective of freedom of speech and for the Pandora's box of uncertainty this will open up from a business perspective.”

If certification is denied, the producer would be on the hook to repay organizations such as Telefilm, which invests only in Canadian-certified productions, Mr. Musselman added. “This review panel totally fetters the discretion of Telefilm. What will it do, send the panel scripts it is worried might be too racy or offensive?”

He called a review procedure that determines eligibility for Canadian content certification after the completion of a film or TV show production “unworkable in terms of the cold, hard reality of financing these types of things,” adding that “it's entirely possible the whole financing structure could crumble.”

Once again, we are reminded how devious Stephen Harper can be in achieving his public policy objectives. What constitutes "offensive" content, contrary to "public policy"? The implications of this new rule on Canadian artists are truly scary.

God, I hope that Stephane Dion gets better at his game soon and convinces his colleagues it's time to bring down this scary government. I don't think we can take much more of this.

When did Rick Mercer get word the Liberals would allow the budget to pass?

I will admit this spoof is pretty funny. CBC icon Rick Mercer has been vicious in his attacks on Stephane Dion over the past year since the MP from Montreal beat out Mercer's skinny-dipping buddy Bob Rae.

Anyone who knows anything about TV production understands this kind of thing couldn't have been pulled together in a couple hours in time for broadcast on budget night. Dion and the Liberal caucus publicly announced their decision not to defeat the Stephen Harper government over the budget around 4:45 pm on Tuesday. This went to air at 8 pm that same night.

It has to be said: if Mercer didn't know the Liberal position ahead of time, he took a big risk approving the production of this spoof. How much did this spoof cost to produce? Probably tens of thousands of taxpayers' dollars. Is it possible that somebody tipped off Mercer of the Liberal position a few days in advance so he could pull this spoof together in time for Tuesday night?

According to the Youtube description, MocaMusic was asked at least two or three days ahead of Tuesday to "compose, arrange and record a choir to the lyrics they wrote and have it ready to be shot in 48hrs."

Stephane Dion is really starting to look a lot like Julius Caesar, I must say.

Monday, February 25, 2008

James McAvoy and Josh Brolin heat up the Oscar stage...

Just a few short comments on last night's Academy Awards ceremony, one of the most entertaining in years, I must say. Jon Stewart did a great job, but the opening sequence was shorter than usual. Overall I quite enjoyed the proceedings (my various glasses of red wine certainly helped too.)

No Country for Old Men certainly deserved to win Best Pic. Diablo Cody (the screenwriter who came out of nowhere to write Juno), took home the Best Original Screenplay award, which was awesome.

Marion Cotillard took Best Actress over Julie Christie, which didn't surprise me at all. Her film, La Vie En Rose, had been gaining momentum in recent weeks.

The hottest moment of the evening (pictured): the pairing of hotties Josh Brolin and James McAvoy to co-present one of my favourite categories, Best Adapted Screenplay (as we know, the Academy usually pairs up one man with one woman to present these things.) Said host Stewart introducing them: "One of those Oscar, odd couples...He's the brooding, handsome star of one of this year's top dramas and he's...the brooding, handsome star of one of this year's top dramas..." Yum. I certainly got a homoerotic charge watching these two babes walk out onto the stage in their tuxes. The boys played up that homoerotic appeal with their intro (see the Youtube video above). Well worth a few Is it possible the Academy was throwing gay fans a bone amid all the pageantry? Of course, gay men aren't the only ones who enjoyed seeing these two men together on stage, who are we kidding, ladies?


I forgot to mention a great little queer win last night. Freeheld, about a New Jersey detective's fight to get death benefits for her lesbian partner, took the Best Documentary Short Oscar.

For more info on Oscar's gay content, check out this AfterElton column.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Final Moments of the Democratic Debate in Austin, Texas last night: Class acts

The final question of last night's Democratic debate in Austin, Texas was 'Describe the moment in your life when you were tested the most?'

Barack Obama's answer was notably excellent and presidential, of course. But Hillary Clinton truly hit it out of the park with her great answer, particularly when she reached out to her opponent to say she was "honored" to simply be sitting next to him for this historic race.

For a moment, she seemed to quietly admit that perhaps this "contest" is likely over with Obama's momentum continuing to grow and if she's going to lose, she'll go out on a high note. Clinton is one class act.

If Clinton does lose, I will feel badly for her and I'll lament the loss of seeing America elect its first female president. Of course, if Clinton doesn't triumph this year, there are always other great women who can try to take her place (or even maybe Clinton herself can come back next time, depending on what happens to Obama in November.)

Still, we all know how difficult it is to mount a successful American presidential campaign. It's often seemed to me that if any woman was going to be able to possibly break through and actually win the presidency, it would have to be Hillary Clinton (who, let's face it, has been working toward this all her life.) I've said to many, 'If not Hillary, then who'?

How often in a democracy do voters have to choose between two superb, highly qualified candidates who both tug at the heartstrings? Normally, we simply have to pick the 'Best of the Worst' on the ballot. Not this primary season in the Democratic Party.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Oscar Predictions for Sunday...

The Oscars will be unveiled this Sunday night. This year seems to be even more unpredictable than last year's awards. For what it's worth, here are my predictions for Sunday night, alongside possible spoilers (for those categories for which I have some nagging doubts):

No Country For Old Men

Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Julie Christie, Away from Her
possible spoiler: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose (because why would the Academy honour an older actress when they can honour a younger one?)

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (the toughest race to predict, in my opinion)
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
possible spoilers: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone or Ruby Dee, American Gangster

No Country for Old Men
possible spoiler: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly


There Will Be Blood
possible spoilers: No Country for Old Men or The Diving Bell And The Butterfly


No Country for Old Men

Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd
possible spoiler: La Vie en Rose

Austria's "The Counterfeiters"

La Vie en Rose



Once, "Falling Slowly"



No End In Sight

Freeheld (about a dying New Jersey detective fighting to leave her pension benefits to her lesbian partner. I hope to see it at this year's Toronto Inside Out festival...)

Tanghi Argentini

I Met A Walrus
possible spoiler: Canada's Madame Tutli-Putli

Gays cause earthquakes in Israel but not in Canada?

This is funny and disturbing. Funny because it's so ridiculous, but disturbing because it shows clearly how some religious heterosexuals continue to honestly hold truly wacko opinions about homosexuals.

"Two earthquakes shook Israel last week and a further four struck in November and December...Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".

"Israel decriminalised homosexuality in 1988 and has since passed several laws recognising gay rights. Mr Benizri made his comments while addressing a committee of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, about the country's readiness for earthquakes...He called on lawmakers to stop "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes".

Of course, Canada has gone further than Israel on promoting equality rights for LGBT citizens. But we don't have earthquakes here? I guess God can only manipulate the earth's conditions in certain regions at one time?

But come to think of it - we're having one of the worst winters in recent memory in Canada. That's it! God is punishing Canada with a bad winter because we passed same sex marriage in 2003. True, it's been four years, but I guess God is a little slow in unleashing his nature-based punishments for our

Furthermore, isn't Mother Nature in charge of the planet and its grumblings, not God? And how does Benizri know the earthquakes are due to Israel's treatment of gays? Isn't it possible his vengeful god is angry about something else Israel has done? Perhaps his god was targetting Lebanon (where the quakes originated) and Israel was collateral damage? Maybe his god mistook Lebanon for Lesbian? Or is it possible Benizri is crazy?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Right to Libel" movement gains strength in Canada...

The debate over how best to deal with hate speech continues, with most mainstream commentators I've read this week brushing aside any notion that hate speech could still be a problem in Canada.

Most prefer to couch their arguments against our country's hate laws in sanctimonious "freedom of speech" platitudes, but I think we should relabel these outspoken libertarians as the "Right to Libel" movement.

In effect, by tolerating hate speech, they are fighting for the right to libel.

When anti-gay haters say that homosexuals are just a bunch of diseased pedophiles, they are, in effect, slandering people like me (or libeling, should they publish it.)

Why should it be criminal to libel one individual person, but not criminal to libel an entire group of people based on their skin colour or their sexual orientation?

I've also noted that most of the "Right to Libel" folks are the same types who were vehemently opposed to including "sexual orientation" as a protected group in the Criminal Code in 2003. The big Stephen Boissoin case in Alberta in 2002 could only be considered by that province's human rights commission, not the courts.

Dan Gardner wrote a column in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen which argued that maybe hate speech is actually good for us.

Dan Gardner's dubious premise: In Kansas, the number of same-sex couples willing to identify themselves as such in the American census has risen rapidly. In 2000, it was 3,973. In 2005, it was 6,663. Kansas is the home state for the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, led by the devilish Fred Phelps, who's been spouting off more than his share of anti-gay hate for years. Yet Gardner argues the effect has been to actually help build acceptance for homosexuals in the state. Phelps is so over the top in his vitriol (his followers now picket the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq) that it's easy to suggest that he actually undermines his own warped agenda.

But there's something empty in Gardner's essential argument that hate speech has no real victims.

I'm a 35-year-old man. I've heard everything that Phelps and others like him have spouted off for years. It no longer hurts to hear it, I know in my bones that anti-gay vitriol from the religious (and non-religious) is complete bullshit.

But I've had years to build up a thick skin. I remember being an isolated, lonely, closeted gay teenager. When church leaders or others spouted off against the immorality of homosexuals, the darts were painful. Every attack took a chunk out of my then-fragile self-esteem.

To me, this is the main reason the hatemongers do what they do. They want to inflict pain and suffering on their targets. Sure, if they inspire others to take up arms and do whatever they deem necessary to fight the alleged wickedness of the specified group, that's just icing on the cake.

And now the "Right to Libel" folks are going to bat for these bigots?

The notion that hate speech has no real impact in Canada is utter crap. Why must anyone live in terror in a society where irrational hatred toward their community is openly tolerated?

Elsewhere in the world, hate speech is a sign of dangerous things to come.

Let's not forget the mistakes of the past and make it easier to get away with hate propaganda.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's about time: Ontario mulls alternatives to the Lord's Prayer in legislature

Each afternoon, since 1969 (reportedly), the Ontario legislature opens with MPPs reciting the Lord's Prayer. I used to feel sorry for the Jewish and other non-Christian MPPs who would stand in silence and go along with this long-standing tradition at Queen's Park.

But I agree it's about time this practice give way to something more reflective of the modern Ontario. There are good alternatives:

"Quebec's National Assembly has only a daily moment of reflection, while Newfoundland and Labrador has no prayer in the House of Assembly. Alberta uses a set list of non-denominational prayers that are rotated, and British Columbia also rotates the prayers but allows individual members to select the daily reading...A House of Commons committee agreed on the wording for a new, non-sectarian prayer in 1994, which was adopted in 2004."

I look forward to seeing what Ontario MPPs come up with. I also don't look forward to the predictable howls we'll hear from a small number of small-minded Christians claiming this is yet another unfair attack on their religion. Of course, the vast majority of reasonable Christians will have no problem with this.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's nice to see some cooperation on Afghanistan; Obama is on a roll...

Our two major national leaders in Canada performed well today, reaching a new consensus on the best way forward in Afghanistan.

It's nice to finally see that Prime Minister Stephen Harper can be mildly non-partisan when he needs to be.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's amendments showed he's reasonable and willing to compromise for the good of Canada and Afghanistan.

"Liberals will not abandon the people of Afghanistan," Dion told reporters Tuesday. "The mission must change...The mission must have a clear end date. The mission must be more than about the military. The wording of the motion has been carefully chosen to maximize the possibility of an agreement for the sake of Canada, Afghanistan and the mission."


Obama's momentum is starting to look unstoppable. I'm thrilled for America and the world! If Obama wins the nomination, he'll have an excellent chance of besting McCain this November.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rosie DiManno misrepresents Liberal position and Afghan mission

Egotistical, hothead Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno rarely lets the facts get in the way of her self-righteous indignation.

But this is pure balderdash.

DiManno attacks the federal Liberal position on the Afghanistan mission by misrepresenting both. She uses the same flawed logic as Michael Den Tandt in a Sun Media column last month: that roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are causing the most deaths for Canadian soldiers, not combat fighting. If we stop hunting down and killing the Taliban in Kandahar region, we'll be sitting ducks and will die even more, she claims.

Can the stupid war apologists stop using this pathetic analysis, please?

The Taliban are using IEDs or roadside bombs to target Canadian forces in Kandahar because we are there to hunt them down and kill them. Our mission is to seek them out and destroy them - so should we be surprised they are using IEDs to target us and kill us back? The huge spike in Canadian casualties in Afghanistan took place after our mission changed to become one of hunting down the Taliban in the Kandahar region. Seventy of our 79 deaths have taken place since the Canadians were rotated into a combat role in Kandahar in early 2006.

I guess DiManno (like other war apologists) assumes if the Liberal position is implemented and our forces focus more on providing security for development and re-construction, no other NATO forces will be rotated into Kandahar to replace Canadian combat efforts.

Now it's true that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's long reluctance (until recently) to engage our NATO allies into supporting or replacing Canadian efforts has made finding replacements on the Kandahar rotation very difficult.

But to assume that no other NATO forces would replace Canada taking on the combat role in Kandahar is pure folly. This is DiManno's argument: without Canada playing the combat role, the Taliban will run rampant and overwhelm Canadian forces unable to shoot back. If this were true, it would be a truly deplorable policy. But this isn't the Liberal position.

Of course that doesn't stop DiManno from suggesting otherwise and writing a big column designed to misinform Canadians about this complicated issue. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. This is the Toronto Star after all.

You can't persuade other NATO countries to step up to the plate when your commitment to remain in a combat role in Kandahar is indefinite, or seems to be.

We were rotated into Kandahar, but now it seems, thanks to Stephen Harper's mishandling, that the wheels on the NATO rotation machine have broken off and we're stuck there indefinitely. I've said it before and I'll repeat it: this suits many neo-cons just fine.

Tell that to your sons and daughters, Rosie!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

U.S. Writers' strike almost over, the Oscars likely saved!

It looks like the Writers' Guild of America strike will soon be over as a tentative three-year deal has been reached with production companies.

Union officials briefed WGA members about the tentative deal at meetings yesterday in Los Angeles and New York. WGA officials are claiming victory as it looks like they succeeded in winning better benefits for members on the strike's most contentious issues.

As the New York Times reports:

"Writers had demanded a much bigger share of returns from downloads and Web streaming than they had received in the past from the distribution of shows on older media like cassettes and DVDs, as well as expanded jurisdiction over reality television and animated features."

"Company representatives initially responded by insisting on a complete revamping of Hollywood’s time-honored residuals system, under which writers, directors, actors and others are paid for re-use of their work on television and home video."

"The tentative agreement became possible when the sides reached a handshake deal nine days ago on a crucial term under which writers would be paid a fixed residual amounting to about $1,300 for the right to stream a television program online. In the third year of their contract, the writers would achieve one of their major goals: payments amounting to 2 percent of the distributor’s revenue from such streams."

"The percentage formula is viewed by many writers as protection against the possibility that traditional reruns — which have paid them residuals amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per episode in the past — will disappear because of Web streams in the near future."

"Other major gains include a pay plan that pegs residuals for electronic downloads of movies and televisions shows at nearly double the rate paid historically for DVDs, and calculates the rate as a percentage of the distributor’s revenue, junking an old formula."

So writers get a better deal for the future (should they approve it, which looks likely now.)

And two weeks from today, Oscar lovers will get their much-needed, mid-winter, awards night fix! (Not to mention all the other shows we've lost out seeing the last three months.) This is great cause for celebration, indeed...

********* UPDATE********

The strike's over. The union voted to endorse the new agreement on Sunday.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Keith Martin and Jonathan Kay are simply wrong on hate speech

Jonathan Kay critiques in the National Post today his colleague, Warren Kinsella, and others who oppose taking hate speech protections out of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Kay spends much of his argument doing the typical, right-wing commentator thing: if it's not a burning cross or a swastika emblazoned across the front of a synagogue, it's not hate. For Kay, there is no racism or hatemongering of any kind in Canada.

And if there is, victims can use the Criminal Code provisions against hate to prosecute, Kay suggests.

This whole debate has sprung out of a private member's motion recently put forth by Liberal MP Keith Martin, who refuses to back down despite the protests of his leader, Stephane Dion.

The conservative approach (and I include Martin here as a conservative, he used to be a Reform MP after all) to this issue seems to be simple: deny there's any hate problem at all in Canada and then fight to eliminate the most effective means of fighting any hate in Canada.

I do agree with some of the commentators that the current case against Ezra Levant (for publishing pictures depicting Mohammed as a bomb-toting terrorist) does seem to go too far and that Levant is likely innocent of spreading hate.

But Kay, Martin and others believe that the complainants in that case shouldn't even have the right to complain.

Of course, if one can't turn to their provincial human rights commission for protection from hate propaganda, is getting someone charged instead under the Criminal Code an easy thing? Hell no. As Kinsella pointed out on his blog recently, only a mere handful of cases have been successfully prosecuted.

Consider for a moment the case of the Alberta pastor who published a disgusting, hate-filled letter in his local Red Deer newspaper in 2002. In it, Stephen Boissoin denounced, "Homosexual rights activists and those that defend immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities." In the letter, Boisson urged readers to, "take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine."

"Whatever steps are necessary"? Two weeks later, a young gay man was gay-bashed in Red Deer.

As a gay man, whenever someone with power like Boissoin urges all citizens to "take whatever steps are necessary" to "reverse" my "wickedness," I feel very, very threatened. Was Boissoin charged under the Criminal Code? No. Was he brought forth before the Alberta Human Rights panel and forced to answer for his hate-inspiring words? Yes.

We need the protections in the Canadian Human Rights Act. It's up to individual human rights boards to dismiss frivolous cases, while at the same time provide those being attacked by hatemongers a chance to have their cases heard.

The right-wingers in this debate deny there is any one spreading hate and promoting violence against anyone in Canada. We know that is a load of right-wing crap.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fab Magazine: Diablo Cody is my hero

The following piece by yours truly appeared in today's issue of Toronto's Fab Magazine on the Conversation Page. People who change careers like Diablo Cody give the little people like me great hope. Just think, an Oscar nomination could be just one produced screenplay away!

Diablo Cody is my hero

Sometimes you don’t find out until well into your adult years both what you’re good at and what you like doing. How many of us wish our missions in life had been crystal clear earlier? That our passions were complementary, not divergent?

I used to have a career in politics but, to paraphrase a great prime minister, I felt like I was “stuck in the snow.” Three years ago, I backed up and restarted my journey.

But when it comes to career changes, nobody beats Diablo Cody. The 29-year-old first-time screenwriter from Chicago used to be a bored secretary and proofreader before becoming a stripper and phone sex operator. Now she’s an instant star for penning the hit film Juno. How’d she do it?

Cody wrote about her stripping career on her blog Pussy Ranch. It became a popular site and caught the eye of Hollywood producer Mason Novick, who approached Cody to encourage her to become a screenwriter. “I didn’t recognize [Novick’s email] as lifechangingly important at all,” Cody says, “It was just an email and it seemed kind of random and creepy, in fact.” But she wrote a film and now she’s nominated for an Oscar.

Had I known that stripping could lead to a successful Hollywood writing career, I might’ve lost my kit in public long ago. I did pose nude two years ago for Toronto artist Rob Waters [above]. Doesn’t that count?

Maybe I should change my name. Cody’s real name is Brook Busey-Hunt but her new name came from hearing the song ‘‘El Diablo’’ while passing through Cody, Wyoming, after getting married in Las Vegas. As I work on my next screenplay, should I sign it “Angel Arkansas” or “Fantasma Ohio?”

Matt Guerin’s blog is He welcomes any and all emails from Hollywood producers.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tied for 4th Place: 2007 Canadian Blog Awards Best GLBT Blog

Let me give my wholehearted congratulations to Gay Persons of Color for placing first tonight in the Best GLBT Blog category at the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards. Well done!

Also congrats to the other nominees - Slap Upside the Head, Screw Bronze! and Montreal Simon (who tied me for 4th place.)

This was my first year blogging, so it was very humbling just to be nominated next to these great folks. All the best for the coming year!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

No matter what, Obama should be on the Democratic ticket this fall...

Like most progressives, I've struggled to make a choice between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama these past few weeks.

I like both of them immensely, as I'm sure most people do.

This being Super Tuesday, it's time to get off the fence. If I were American, I'd be a Democrat. And if I were a Democrat voting on Tuesday, I'd vote for Barack Obama.

As Caroline Kennedy wrote so eloquently in the New York Times recently: "All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible."

I like the idea of a woman being elected President of the U.S. But I also like the idea of a man of colour who opposed the Iraq war and everything evil it's come to represent replacing George W. Bush as President even more.

I'd be very happy if Hillary Clinton took the nomination and beat out John McCain this fall. I'm sorry to say I greatly fear that McCain would best Clinton in that competition. I have no doubt that Obama would wipe the floor with McCain's butt.

If Obama doesn't win the Democratic nomination, I truly hope that Clinton does the right thing and names him her running mate, to take advantage of the substantial phenomenon he has created in his country. Only with Obama at her side will Clinton have a chance of beating McCain this November.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back from Moving Hell: Not a Happy Customer!

My partner and I are nicely settled into our new condo in west-end Toronto. We moved on Friday during the snowstorm. Yes, you read that correctly.

We had clear skies on the Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and of course today, but the one day we needed clear weather we instead got 25 centimetres of snow! Sorry for the venting, but it feels good.

We started looking for a new place in mid-autumn and found this great place in late November. The former owners wanted to close on or before Feb 1, 2008 so as to avoid Toronto mayor David Miller's new gouging land transfer tax so we obliged them. Needless to say I've spoken with the former owners about their move and it was just as hellish.

The weather was a major inconvenience mostly because it made it impossible for my brother and his girlfriend to drive into Toronto to help us out.

But the worst part of the move had almost nothing to do with the weather: our fly-by-night movers made what was going to be a difficult day into one of the worst days of my life!

Those who have ever used movers (typically listed on online websites or in the classified pages of major newspapers, etc.) understand probably how pathetically slow they can be.

Normally, good businesspeople try to work hard to earn their pay, provide a good service, make the customer happy and benefit from the positive word of mouth. Not the goons from Empire Movers who helped us out.

They were two hours late arriving at our old place. But that didn't stop them from taking their sweet time moving our furniture out of our modest two-bedroom apartment (i.e. we didn't have much furniture). It took three friggin' hours for them, with our help of course, to get our stuff out of our old building. The lazy movers took every opportunity, when out of our sight, to slack off and take their time. We didn't leave for the new place until close to 8 pm on Friday evening. Unloading at the condo was easier as they merely emptied out the truck into a nearby moving room. In total, it took six hours to finish the entire job. We were done by 10 pm Friday evening.

Furthermore, they overcharged us, first demanding a blank, signed credit card slip as a "security deposit." Then they charged us for 7.5 hours, plus one more hour for travel time (when it took 15 minutes), plus gas, plus 5% for paying with a credit card.

For six hours of work, they walked away with $855. An absolute rip-off for which I am still angry. The company had quoted a figure of $79 per hour when we booked them. They failed to mention the extra travel fee and other costs. I figured it might cost us between $400 and $500 for the move. $855 was obviously disgusting. However, after the worst day of my life, exhausted beyond explanation, I had no energy to quibble with the professional hucksters. So I accepted the amount, filled in the credit card slip and ushered the goons to the door.

I know many others who have also experienced the lazy, pathetic services of these fly-by-night movers in Toronto and I'm sure everywhere. They're all the same. My only advice to all movers: stop using these rip-off services. They overcharge, they're purposefully slow so as to gouge you for every penny and don't believe in providing good service or making their customers happy. They take advantage of people going through major stress while moving to make a quick buck. Anyone can rent their own truck and even pay your own friends to help move and still save $300 to $400 dollars, and have fewer frustrations as a result.

I'm ecstatic about the new place. I can honestly say I intend to stay here for as long as possible simply to avoid this kind of gouging again. Between land transfer taxes, lawyer's fees and these moving costs, I'm bummed out, but recovering nicely.