Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Most satisfying political images of 2008

Let's try to forget about the depressing state of Canadian politics and leadership at the moment (with the possible exception of Michael Ignatieff, who could become a great Prime Minister one day soon), and instead congratulate our American friends for turning away so thoroughly this year from the terrible legacy of George W. Bush.

As Bush's regime comes to an end, these images more than anything else proved for me the most inspiring and satisfying this year.

Ever the supportive wife, Laura Bush has reminded us the shoe attack was really just an "assault", not to be laughed at. True, but nothing compares to the murderous assaults committed by Bush and his Republican war machine against the Arab world over the last eight years (including the American tragedy of 9-11.)

We now have a chance to heal the evils of right-wing Republicanism. I never thought I'd write this, but thank you, America!

Have a lovely New Year, everybody!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My favourite 2008 flicks and my Best Picture Oscar predictions...

Last year, I published a top ten list for the 2007 feature films I had seen by Dec 31. It was a pretty solid list, but not being a professional film critic with free tickets to see all major feature releases, it was incomplete. And upon viewing the great 'There Will Be Blood' in January of this year, my list became obsolete rather quickly as I now see that great flick as the best of 2007.

So I hesitate this year to provide any kind of similar top ten list, except to point out those films I most enjoyed this year, as well as predictions for this coming awards season (the best part of winter, as far as I'm concerned.)

My two favourite films of 2008: Slumdog Millionaire (pictured) and The Dark Knight. Both were absolutely astonishing and deserving of the Oscar nominations they're due to receive next month; I can't seem to decide which one I like better.

I also loved Milk, The Reader, The Bucket List, Rachel Getting Married and In Bruges.

The most disappointing film I paid money to see this year: George Clooney's Leatherheads (a complete waste of time and talent.)

Those films on my list I hope to see asap, in order of priority:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler
Gran Torino
Revolutionary Road

Thus, it's entirely possible that one of these or other films could overtake my current 2008 favourites (I love everything by director David Fincher, who made Benjamin Button and my 2007 fave Zodiac, among other great films). But we'll have to see.

With movie awards season now upon us, it's anybody's guess which five films will land a coveted Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. But I'm betting when the nominations are announced on January 22nd, these five films will be on the list: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Slumdog Millionaire.

Of these, I expect that Slumdog will take the top prize in February. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dinosaur Pope demands we respect his worldview...

Just in time for Christmas, Dinosaur Pope reminds us all why we can't stand him and all he represents.

Of all the things affecting humanity this year, the Pope picks out my naturally occurring and beautiful love to attack as a threat equal to the destruction of rain forests?

The world and God's creation, I assure everyone, is nothing like the Bigot from Rome describes. It's far more beautiful.

When the Pope demands we respect the so-called "natural" differences he sees between men and women, don't forget he believes women are inferior. That's the "order of creation" he's demanding be "respected."

No thanks. Without a doubt, this heterosexist, misogynistic, misguided man is the single biggest weapon secular humanists like me have for promoting our cause.

And believe me, we will win in the end...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Obama's holiday gift to the world...

I've seen other shirtless/beach pics of President-elect Barack Obama, but man, this guy has been hitting the gym and is looking good! I think I may hit my condo's gym tonight after

Gus Van Sant's 'Milk' a great portrait of leadership...

Since seeing Gus Van Sant's Milk last week, I've been contemplating what to write about this great film that hasn't already been said? What did I like about it most?

There's Sean Penn's uncanny performance, he's still at the top of his game. There's Van Sant's subtle touch perfect for this vital history lesson in queer liberation. There's Dustin Lance Black's screenplay that so thoroughly explores Harvey Milk's unique journey from New York closet case to community leader. There's the meticulous attention to detail that makes it inspiring and unforgettable.

Harvey Milk (pictured in the suit) was the first openly gay man to be elected to major office in the United States (in 1978 as a local supervisor (like a district councillor) in San Francisco.) Milk chronicles Harvey's growth from ordinary man to icon.

The supporting turns are all wonderful. James Franco is mesmerizing, embodying the almost perfect partner that got away. Emile Hirsch is an energetic work of art in this flick. I won't soon forget his "Out of the bars, into the streets!" chants, nor his smooching scene with fellow cutie Joseph Cross. I agree with Susan Cole there weren't enough lesbian characters in this flick, but it's a minor flaw amid the great accomplishments.

This is a story about a community desperately in need of a strong voice to lead it, and how one man's greatness was tragically cut short because of a cold-blooded murderer's inability to cope with the world around him. Josh Brolin captures the disturbing contradictions of his character, Dan White. What an enigma! The climactic scene when White walks Milk into his office to shoot him dead makes clear that White was guilty of first degree murder, not the disgustingly lenient conviction for voluntary manslaughter.

The film does a beautiful job showing how one man's inspirational hope and unique political skills could push for greater gay acceptance. The climate against homosexuals in the 1970s, even in San Francisco, was clearly hostile. The fight over Proposition 6 in 1978, which would've banned gay teachers, shows how important Milk's strategy truly was. Milk advocated that all gay people "come out" of the closet to put a human face on the issue for their straight friends, family and neighbours.

It's sad that our community lost Harvey Milk so early. Sean Penn is probably right that Milk, had he lived, would've fought and raised greater awareness about AIDS much sooner due to his high profile and energy.

In the end, Milk is a portrait of an ordinary man finding it within himself to become the leader he and his community need him to be.

Every gay man (and as many lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals, etc. as possible) should see this movie.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pink Christmas shocks Amsterdam

It seems Christians in Holland resemble many in Canada where they only like freedom of expression when they are the ones who get to practice it...

"By portraying Joseph and Mary as homosexuals, a twisted human fantasy is being added to the history of the Bible," wrote Christians for Truth in a statement ahead of this Amsterdam event.

For the record, it appears that Pink Christmas performers are portraying Mary as a drag queen, not necessarily a homosexual...

And which parts of the Bible aren't twisted to conform to human fantasy?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's choice of Warren refuels 'Is Gay the new Black?' debate...

President-elect Barack Obama's choice of Evangelical mega-pastor Rick Warren to lead a prayer during his inauguration next month continues to inspire much controversy.

"By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table," wrote Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a letter to the incoming president.

In a news conference Thursday, Obama said he is a "fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans." But he said he hopes to promote better dialogue between people of opposing views, and wants his inaugural to reflect that goal.

"That dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign's been all about: That we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we — where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans," he said.

I admire Obama for his leadership in trying to bring some of the extremely divergent views held in his country together for his inauguration. Obama has always gone out of his way to be inclusive, including in his election night victory speech when he said, "It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America."

Obama thinks he's already got the LGBT community in his back pocket (and he's mostly right). So his choice of Rick Warren is meant to send an inclusive signal to the American Right which did not support him. I can see the sense in this. Obama is first and foremost a talented politician. No politician could ever get elected today President of the United States supporting full marriage rights for gays and lesbians. Of all the states in the union, it appears only a handful of states in New England have little problem with the concept.

While Obama is no doubt an ally of the queer community at least in words, we have yet to see tangible proof his words will transcend into real action. The Human Rights Campaign have issued a five-point 'Blueprint for Positive Change' they hope Obama will adopt in the first months of his administration. They also have a petition on their site and I urge everyone to sign it.

All of this coincides with a new round of debate on the question, 'Is Gay the new Black?' Outrage continues over the recent referenda which confirmed that full equality under the law is a long way away for gays and lesbians in America.

But I agree with many that comparisons between the centuries-long struggle for civil rights for black people and the gay community's relatively recent struggle for equality are problematic.

Even stating that 'Gay is the new Black' seems to expose a stunning ignorance of the history of violent oppression suffered by black people. Nothing like slavery ever happened to LGBT people. Homosexuality was only explicitly banned in law in the western world in the last 125 years or so.

The only reasonable historical comparisons that can be made between the black and gay struggles for equality can be made in the last 40 to 50 years, long after slavery was eradicated. I do think that intellectual comparisons between segregation and failures to ban racial discrimination can be made to similar attacks on gay peoples' rights. But the comparison remains intellectual, similar to comparisons to the fight for women's rights and other rights.

On the other hand, in the gay marriage debate, many who reject the 'Gay is the new Black' mantra as false seem to conveniently forget that LGBT people aren't protected from discrimination in many American states. They forget that it's still legal to fire someone for being gay in many parts of the rest of the world. Homosexual acts can lead to execution in many countries, and certainly might include jail sentences. Institutional homophobia is alive and well in most parts of the world (by institutional, I mean written into the law books.) Such institutional racism is long gone in America, and many parts of the world.

Others continue to say that gays and lesbians can choose to hide their orientations if they choose, and thus homophobia isn't as painful an experience as facing full-on racism, which people of colour can't hide from. I've always found this argument troubling because 1) many queer people CAN'T hide their queerness no matter how hard they try, and 2) why should anyone be forced to hide who they are?

The argument is similar to those who discount anti-Semitism because some Jewish people can "pass" as average white Christians.

Of course, whether based on race, or gender, or religion, or sexual orientation, all forms of oppression are wrong. Any such oppression offends the universal principle of human rights: equal dignity and value for every human life. When you discriminate based on race, you violate this principle. When you discriminate based on sexual orientation by banning same sex marriage, you also violate this universal principle.

For some great insight on this issue, check out these two great pieces.

Is Gay the new Black? I don't think so. If nothing else, the fiery debate caused by the passage of Proposition 8 in California has helped to better inform all of us on the challenges we face and how to better strategize to get where we want to go.

There are many still who violently argue that homosexuals aren't part of the human family and deserve no recognition for their love and relationships. They hope to drive a wedge between the black civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, mostly because they know such tensions will only act to delay the drive to full equality for all. We ought not let such bigots get away with it.

Hate the singer, love the songs...

I used to be a huge fan of gay crooner Rufus Wainwright. I couldn't get enough of his sweet, melancholy melodies.

But when he totally trashed my city of Toronto (quite unfairly and unnecessarily), my love suddenly slipped away. I've barely listened to any of his music for months. (Yes I do sometimes let politics get in the way of my artistic appreciation). I guess he figured he could write off the lonely Toronto market without much consequence and perhaps he was right.

Now this little controversy with Rufus once again spouting off at the mouth has erupted - he dissed those who actually like the idea of getting married, and compared gay marriage to marrying one's dog.

The backlash was severe (and obviously widespread) that the opera-loving queen felt compelled to write a less-than-convincing mea culpa on his website yesterday. Unlike my friend Scott, I'm not so forgiving. Rufus is 35 going on 15, as far as I can tell. Grow some brains, Rufus, before spouting off and offending more of your select fan base.

In the mean time, I'll continue to try to forget the man behind the voice (and perhaps even ignore his next foot-in-mouth incident) and just focus on the great music.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back from shooting 'The Golden Pin'; Congrats to 'Slap Upside the Head'

I took the last few days off from blogging (and from my day job) to work on a short film project I co-wrote with Toronto director Cuong Ngo.

The film is called, 'The Golden Pin' and it's the story about a young closeted Vietnamese-Canadian swimmer caught between his conservative family and his gay lover teammate. The film stars L.A.-based actors Kris Duangphung and Ben Bela Boehm, as well as Minh Nguyen of North Dakota, Tien Nguyen of Toronto and Lily Nguyen of Kitchener, Ontario. Produced by Ngo and Igor Szczurko, shooting started in Toronto last Wednesday and ended Sunday. I'm exhausted after the intense schedule we've been keeping (I'm also an associate producer on the film) but I'm absolutely thrilled with how well it went. Ngo is a brilliant director and working with him has been an absolute joy. The crew he and Szczurko assembled was top notch.

Post-production begins now, and we're looking forward to the first screening in Toronto in April, with many more to hopefully follow. I'll keep you posted on these exciting developments.

In the mean time, I was pleased to read today that Slap Upside the Head won the Best GLBT Blog award this year at the Canadian Blog Awards. Congrats, it's very well-deserved without a doubt!

Once I recover from the lack of sleep, I'll be back to my usual blogging self. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The dawn of the Ignatieff era...

I feel a great sense of optimism tonight, seeing my candidate of choice rise to the Liberal leadership. I already love his tough talk. As we know, there is much work to be done, but I really feel the Liberal Party is back on a good track and will now be very competitive with Stephen Harper's Conservatives, both in the House and with Canadians again.

Let's enjoy this moment and then get to work tomorrow.

Day Without A Gay: "Call In Gay!"

Congrats to the U.S. organizers of this unique event. Sadly I'm at work today, but I'm with them in spirit.

As the site says, "Day Without A Gay" is a reaction against recent "anti-gay ballot initiatives in California, Arizona Florida, and Arkansas with anger, with resolve, and with courage. NOW, it's time to show America and the world how we love...Gay people and our allies are compassionate, sensitive, caring, mobilized, and programmed for success. A day without gays would be tragic because it would be a day without love. On December 10, 2008 the gay community will take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes. On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in "gay"--and donate your time to service!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bob Rae is a class act...

...We already knew that, of course, but it was merely reinforced today. Bob took a bullet for the party today and did the right thing for his fellow Liberals and indeed all Canadians.

Now the new leader can get to work on rebuilding the party and challenging this pathetic government on the issues of the day, most importantly the economy. I wish Michael Ignatieff the best of luck as he embarks on this great journey. The country is depending on him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This Ignatieff supporter wants an open, party-wide vote for leader...

There are many interesting stories percolating tonight about the Liberal leadership. I'd be sad to see Dominic LeBlanc drop out of the race, but I do support the apparent plans to accelerate the process so that we have a permanent leader in charge as soon as possible. I also hope that leader turns out to be Michael Ignatieff.

I'm relieved to read in this Star piece that the party is considering giving "every party member a vote by a combination of phone and online ballots," presumably in a major vote in January following a televised debate or two between the remaining candidates. That would be excellent and clearly is the way to go. All 308 ridings should have equal clout in such a vote so that the result is as fair and as accurate a portrait of grassroots support as possible.

Any talk of appointing the leader based simply on the votes of MPs and senators would be illegitimate and damage that leader's credibility going forward. If the Ignatieff camp is pushing that, my advice is to stop doing so immediately.


I'm dead set against this talk of a caucus-only vote. I'll be thoroughly disappointed if Michael Ignatieff agrees to this.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why Stephen Harper is unfit to be Prime Minister...

At this time, I'm really thankful that 62% of Canadians saw fit to vote to deny Stephen Harper a majority government. In our archaic, VLT-style electoral system - into which you punch 38% for one party and it sometimes spits out 57% of the seats for that party - I'm thankful that the splits across the country on October 14th still denied Harper his much-coveted majority.

Why? Because Harper seems to have many personality disorders the longer he stays in office the more dangerous they become. He's an island onto himself. He's willing to pit one part of the country against another and shut down the people's Parliament all to hold onto power. He is simply the wrong person to be leading this country at this crucial time.

Here's an excerpt from Jeffrey Simpson's great piece in today's Globe which fleshes out why Harper is so wrong for national leadership (the article also rightly disparages Stephane Dion's motivations and abilities, but as a lame duck Liberal leader, the points are moot):

"How could we have gotten ourselves into this mess, angry Conservatives wondered a week ago, when the three opposition parties first appeared to be uniting against them, thereby threatening the Conservatives' grip on power? Conservative MPs stood and cheered, as they are supposed to do, for the economic statement they had not read, had not been consulted about, and for which they were unprepared to respond. Where, they asked, had that kinder, gentler, collaborative approach gone, the one Mr. Harper had seemed to have suggested would be his guide?

"The simple answer (apart from the fact that Mr. Harper has never really been terribly interested in other opinions) is that the Prime Minister miscalculated. The wider, and more important, answer is that he has no kitchen cabinet, no Rolodex of friends across the country, and no advisers whom he has deliberately chosen for their different views.

"Mr. Harper makes decisions himself, or in an exceptionally closed circle. When his worst instincts are on the loose, there are inadequate checks in the system he has created around him, and few people willing or able to curb those instincts.

"That's why at the very last minute, the Prime Minister's Office sent over to the Finance Department those political zingers to include in the statement, without ministers or deputies knowing. And that procedure illustrates wider truths about this government: the centralization of power in Mr. Harper's hands, his office's fundamental distrust of most ministers and their staffs, and the Prime Minister's insistence that politics should drive decisions. The way Mr. Harper acted, and the advantage he tried to gain, will be remembered now by all those who feared what he might do with a majority government."

Perfectly said.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The country is weaker today because of Stephen Harper.

Since 2006, Harper has strived hard to make this a one-man government. And after this completely unnecessary political and constitutional crisis, Harper is deeply wounded personally in the eyes of most Canadians. More and more are seeing him for what he is: a bully who would try to use the recession to viciously attack his opponents. We should be embarrassed to have this guy as our Prime Minister.

All players in this psycho-drama are damaged by this crisis. And they all have Stephen Harper to blame. But Stephane Dion probably doesn't have to worry - he knows he'll be gone in a few months. The rest will have to live with Harper's mistake.

Harper is badly wounded by this over the long-term, no doubt about it...

Proposition 8: The Musical

This video/musical satirizing the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California must not be missed. Brilliant!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Coalition would bring stability to Canada; continued Harper minority will bring instability...

We now know the opposition parties want to defeat the government. We also don't need another election.

It's clear that if the Harper government is defeated on Monday and the coalition takes power, we'll know where we stand on government policy to fight the recession by Christmas. If Harper prorogues tomorrow and shuts down Parliament until the end of January, we'll have almost two more months of political uncertainty, followed by a likely Harper defeat on his budget.

If the Governor General agrees to Harper's request to prorogue tomorrow, she'll be seen as abetting in Harper's attempt to hide from parliamentary accountability. I hope the Governor General makes the right decision...

Xtra's Daily Round: Three Men and a Baby

I'm a huge fan of Scott Dagostino's Daily Roundup on It's a great resource for news and tidbits of interest to the LGBT community, always accompanied by Scott's unique wit. Today, he posted this hilarious mock-up which nicely satirizes our problematic Prime Minister at this time of economic crisis. Yes, Scott admits he's a writer, not a photoshopper! Looks good to me, Scott.

Why does Stephane Dion always have to be either crapped or pissed on in these kinds of things?

The Silver Fox humbled by Michael Phelps

I thought we needed a break from the ongoing drama in Ottawa with this light, little piece from this past weekend's '60 Minutes' featuring homoerotic icons silver-haired Anderson Cooper and Olympic gold god Michael Phelps. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Montreal Simon gets my vote, baby!

Sadly, I didn't make the final five in the Best GLBT Blog category in the Canadian Blog Awards this year. I want to congratulate the five finalists, particularly Montreal Simon, Slapped Upside the Head and Gay Persons of Color all of whom were nominated with me last year. Moved to Vancouver looks interesting, I must say. I'll have to read it more often. I'm not a fan of GayandRight, who seems more interested in demonizing Islam than promoting greater understanding of queer issues. Perhaps he's just been trying to appear as non-threatening as possible to his fellow hetero conservatives, hoping that shared hatred of the "other" will make his own otherness less threatening to them? I dunno. His latest post today: denying climate change and the connection between the rising amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rising temperatures. Ugh. Can I nickname him GayandWrong? He's the kind of conservative who reminds us why the Coalition for Change is gaining momentum in this country.

It's been a great year of blogging for me and I look forward to more. And since I'm not in the final five, that makes my vote quite easy: Montreal Simon all the way, baby!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ooh baby! Prime Minister Stephane Dion...

The Liberal caucus, including the three leadership candidates Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc, have endorsed the accord negotiated with the other opposition parties to form a coalition government with Stephane Dion, the duly elected leader of the Liberal Party, as Prime Minister.

We are living in truly remarkable times. Stephen Harper has blown it by historic proportions, using the economic downturn as a chance to attack his opponents and throw red meat initiatives to his rabid base without doing anything to fight the recession. Harper has proven himself to be the wrong leader for the times.

December 8th can't come soon enough.

Michael Ignatieff on CTV's Question Period

Definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it already. Michael Ignatieff at his best, on CTV's Question Period Sunday morning...Andrew Steele is bang on the money here.