Thursday, July 31, 2008

Would Stephen Taylor lie about that alleged communications leak?

Having read through the allegedly leaked communications document posted on Tory blogger Stephen Taylor's site, which mocked a Green Shift 10-percenter for federal Liberal MPs using catch phrases that sound like they've been lifted directly from Tory talking points, one has to wonder if Taylor is credible.

If I were a Liberal mole trying to undermine the current leadership in favour of presumably some other Liberal leadership aspirant, would I use Tory catch phrases evident in Taylor's mock-up, like this?:

"Dion launches new bold shaft whereby the Liberals screw western Canada (no votes there) and use the Shaft Plan to redistribute money to their friends....All money raised from polluters (bad, polluters!) will fund the tax cuts for families, companies and workers. Except for a few bucks that will be redirected to advertising companies in Quebec - very few. Also, some consultants here and there."

Sure reads like a Tory wrote it. Taylor claims on his site the anti-Dion mock-up simply, "landed in my inbox courtesy of LRB." He doesn't provide the email address, of course.

Writes Taylor: "This spoof on the ten-percenter by LRB is disrespectful of Dion and is juvenile. The lit piece leak in its original design format and the forwarding of the derivative piece mocking Dion are evidence that there are members of Dion’s trusted staff that are undermining their leader at this critical time....The derivative version of the Liberal ten-percenter is a bit disturbing as it is insulting to francophones as Dion’s staffers mock his accent."

The only evidence Taylor has provided is that he, a Tory insider, is in possession of this mock-up, his source unclear. And the last time I checked, it was the Tory party that was putting out ads making fun of Dion's accent.

The mainstream media I'm sure will ignore this likely Tory prank. Too bad National Newswatch deems it newsworthy.

'Dark Knight' hype is justified...

I saw Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight' this past Sunday and was very impressed. Everything the pundits and critics have been saying about this flick was true: it is almost the perfect superhero movie for our morally ambiguous times, where the fine line between doing good and doing evil can often be blurred.

And yes, the late Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is mesmerizing and unforgettable. He blows Jack Nicholson's previous incarnation out of the water. And Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent character in this one makes Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face (from the 1995 version of Batman Forever) look pathetically childish.

Longtime fans of Batman have told me that director Nolan has reinvigorated the franchise and returned it to its basic roots, putting to shame previous efforts in many ways. For those who haven't seen Nolan's first Batman Begins from 2005, it could be worth a look before seeing this one. But still, The Dark Knight is a self-contained masterpiece that will be talked about for years, I'm sure. Go see it.

I am so watching 'Weeds' this fall...

Wow. I couldn't help but notice the recent buzz about the TV show 'Weeds,' now well into its 4th season down in the U.S. on Showtime (Showcase will pick it up north of the border starting in September.)

It seems that 21-year-old actor Hunter Parrish (pictured above) has been causing quite a stir this season with American gay male fans, with frequent shirtless scenes and apparently this past weekend on Showtime his first butt shot. Considering the queer friendly vibe of the show, it's clear the producers are looking to expand their viewership greatly this season and they are certainly being smart about it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Three by-elections called...

Along with Westmount-Ville-Marie and Saint-Lambert in Quebec, my hometown of Guelph will be going to the polls on September 8th for federal by-elections called today by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Guelph blogger Matthew Hayday posts today with his first of what should be many posts on the upcoming race. I'll be checking out his blog regularly for insight. As a former Guelph resident and co-chair of Brenda Chamberlain's 1993 campaign, I prognosticated on the possible Guelph by-election race earlier this year and I stand by that analysis today. This is popular Grit candidate Frank Valeriote's race to lose. Dipper Tom King and Green candidate Mike Nagy can do well, but in the end will only be spoilers in this race. The real fight is between Valeriote and Tory appointee Gloria Kovach.

One note: it will be very interesting to see how well Liberal leader St├ęphane Dion's bold Green Shift plan sells in progressive Guelph. If enough progressive voters in the city - and I'd estimate about 70% of Guelph voters could be described as such - coalesce around the local Liberal (the same goes for the two ridings in Quebec), we'll have good reason to be optimistic about Liberal chances in the next election.

Loved "How to Solve A Problem Like Maria?"

Summer is the time to kick back, enjoy the weather and catch a few summer blockbuster movies in air-conditioned theatres. And in recent years, it's also been the time to catch the odd summer evening T.V. hit, preferably light fare that only tries to charm.

This summer, for me, that T.V. show is the CBC's 'How To Solve A Problem Like Maria?'. Like many gay men, I've been a fan of the 1965 movie 'The Sound of Music' since I first saw it as a child. And there has been a decidedly gay bent to the CBC show this year: hosted by gay comedian Gavin Crawford, with at least one gay judge on the panel (the amazingly charismatic John Barrowman of Torchwood fame, whom I wouldn't be surprised to see play Captain Von Trapp in this fall's Toronto production alongside the winner) and as many as 10 very talented singing divas vying for the top spot. I've been hooked, as have about 700,000 other Canadians. For another take on the hit show, check out Xtra's article.

Good on CBC for such a success. This isn't Canadian Idol where the winner goes on to an uncertain and likely unsuccessful future. The winner on Maria goes on to star as the lead in this fall's remounting of The Sound of Music.

The final three - Elicia, Janna and Jayme - are amazing. Personally, I think Elicia will take the top prize but it could easily go to any of them. This Sunday night, they compete one last time with final performances, one is eliminated from competition and then Canadian viewers vote on the final two overnight, with the winner announced Monday night at 8 pm on CBC. You can bet I'll be watching!

*********** UPDATE JULY 29 2008 **************

As it turns out, I was correct predicting Elicia would take the top prize. I'm quite pleased. Watching the Sunday night show, I had a difficult time choosing between Elicia and runner-up Janna Polzin, but in the end gave Elicia my vote for her general likeability, her stronger ability to connect emotionally with the audience and her tomboyishness. That being said, I have no doubt that runner-up Polzin will go on to a great musical theatre career.

Surprising news out on Tues July 29, though, that the absence of Maria panelist Simon Lee from this weekend's final shows was due to more than simple 'personal reasons.' The National Post has the alleged sordid details here. Ouch.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Margaret Wente must love the Hells' Angels...

...Maybe she's taking kickbacks from them? ;-) lol

Can someone please explain to me why this pathetic dope of a writer (and a thinker) continues to be given the soapbox she so regularly abuses with this kind of bafflegab?

Her arguments against legalizing cannabis would also see, if taken to their full extent, the return of prohibition and the banning of all gambling in this country. She also ignores the fact that keeping cannabis illegal ensures that the criminal underground in this country maintains one of its biggest sources of revenue. Hmmm....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Prue's gaffe good policy, bad politics

I read with great excitement yesterday the opening line in this story about NDP MPP Michael Prue's campaign launch for the leadership of Ontario's third party.

"New Democrat Michael Prue launched his bid for the leadership of Ontario's NDP today by saying it may be time to review public funding for two school systems."

For a moment, I thought that Prue was finally showing some long missing guts, taking a daring and much-needed policy position on the subject of religious school funding. I have long disagreed with my own party, the Liberals, about the status quo for public school funding in Ontario where the public funds one public school system and one separate Roman Catholic system, while shutting out all other religions.

The status quo is discriminatory, unfair and should be fixed as soon as we get a leader who has the guts to do the right thing. PC Leader John Tory recognized the current injustice, but was dumb enough to propose the wrong option in last year's provincial election. In this day and age, giving Catholics special rights, while refusing to provide the same rights to other religions, is simply wrong. The public doesn't want to provide public funding to all faiths, so the only just option remains shutting down the Catholic system.

The NDP decided to support full funding for the Catholic system in the 1980s, as did the other two major Ontario parties, ignoring the discriminatory aspects of such a policy.

So when Prue started to muse on this issue yesterday, I got excited. I figured Prue was not going to be a leading contender for his party, so this kind of bold statement promising to spearhead a tough issue might change that. Unfortunately for Prue, he backtracked as soon as the words accidentally bounced out of his mouth:

"The NDP policy is there, it says that we support the dual system," he said. "It is time though, I think, that we take a look at that, but we need to leave that to (the) convention. It cannot be my position or an individual's position."

As handlers tried to end the news conference, Mr. Prue insisted he wasn't trying to re-open the debate about religion and schools that caused so much trouble for Conservative Leader John Tory in last year's election and accused reporters of trying to put words in his mouth.

"I think Tory ran a very poor campaign in the last election in terms of faith-based schools . . . and he suffered the consequences and dragged us down a little with it," he said. "I think the NDP policy is quite clear and it is there until such time as the convention reviews it."

Prue's message: "I want to be leader, we need to reconsider this issue and that requires leadership, I won't be providing that leadership."

Had he come out and promised to lead the charge to change the NDP's policy to promote ONE SYSTEM for all, a change that would be supported by 70% of Ontarians (in my estimation), he'd have transformed the NDP leadership race and perhaps made himself a leading contender.

But after yesterday's gaffe, up against colleagues Gilles Bisson, Peter Tabuns and Andrea Horwath, Prue can probably look forward to finishing at the end of the pack. As many of us who know a bit about Prue and his weasel-like instincts, yesterday's stupidity is unsurprising.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Heath Ledger's Joker named 5th Best Movie Villain of All Time: Moviefone

Moviefone has published a very interesting list of their top 25 movie villains of all time. Landing at number five, just behind Anthony Hopkins' legendary performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, is the late Heath Ledger for his take on the Joker in this week's big release, The Dark Knight.

Only the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Darth Vader from Star Wars and Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter are considered better screen villains by Moviefone. Ledger is two notches ahead of Javier Bardem's Chigurh from last year's No Country for Old Men (and Bardem won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that one.)

That's quite the accomplishment for the late actor and will no doubt add to the ongoing Oscar buzz surrounding his performance. I can't wait to see The Dark Knight.

What does this have to do with queer politics? Not much, except that I continue to admire Ledger for his tragically brief career and talent. He touched my heart so profoundly in Brokeback Mountain. It would be truly amazing to see him receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for his final screen performance, or indeed the Oscar this winter.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

'New Yorker' cover might help dispel lingering anti-Obama prejudices

Six months ago, my mother sent me and various other members of our family an email string she had been forwarded with the subject heading, "read it - spread it - scary!"

The original emailer, some guy named Sam Meerkin, wrote, "I'm not an American, but I'm frightened at this revelation. Please tell all of your U.S. friends to beware."

The email went to list the litany of anti-Barack Obama prejudices with which we news junkies are now well familiar. This despicable underground campaign has been simmering in certain circles for months, even forcing the Obama campaign to launch its own website to counter the smears.

Now the shit hit the fan yesterday with the release of the New Yorker's latest edition, specifically the magazine's controversial cover illustration by the Canadian-born, Connecticut-based artist Barry Blitt, titled 'The Politics of Fear' (pictured). The Globe has a great piece today detailing the controversy.

The New Yorker says it intended the illustration as a satirical thumb in the eye of those who have attempted to smear Mr. Obama as unpatriotic or a terrorist sympathizer.

Initial reaction has been swift and predictable. The Obama campaign condemned the illustration, calling it "tasteless and offensive". The John McCain campaign agreed.

At the Huffington Post, the novelist Trey Ellis said that, while, "I get the intended joke ... dressing up perhaps the next president of the United States as the new millennium equivalent of Adolf Hitler is just gross and dumb."

A coalition of African-American media and political organizations called for the magazine to be pulled from store shelves, while irate readers deluged the publication's midtown offices with phone calls and e-mails that were met with automated responses.

Commentators on the right, who were the caricature's presumed target, reacted with glee. Many promised to sell T-shirts bearing the image.

I think those right-wing types simply expose their own stupidity by reacting this way. My initial reaction to the illustration was also mild outrage. Then I saw the media explosion that ensued yesterday in reaction. Clearly, the New Yorker has hit the mother load with everybody now talking and thinking about its latest issue.

Will this cover and the ensuing controversy actually hurt the Obama campaign? I highly doubt it. Quite the opposite.

Will it help expose these underground rumours and falsehoods that continue to make the rounds as the lies we know them to be? It may just. By bringing these whispers out into the open, we help dispel them. Such crap can't withstand the shining light of full public discussion.

The New Yorker cover is satire at its best.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

ON HIATUS for early July

After a very successful June for this blog (almost 5,500 visits, my best month yet), I'm going to take a week or two off to re-charge, relax and enjoy this weather. Of course, if inspiration or outrage strikes, I'll be back with my thoughts. But until then, please take it easy and enjoy the summer.

Talk soon...