Saturday, October 31, 2009

ON HIATUS: Taking a blogging break to focus on screenwriting...

This message might be redundant to those who have already noticed my absence from blogging. But I thought I'd make it official: I'm on hiatus from blogging for the foreseeable future.

The main reason: most of my energy, spare time and creativity is currently dedicated toward writing a feature screenplay adaptation of my recent short film, The Golden Pin. Turning a 15-minute short into a full-length feature is proving a tricky exercise, balancing the original story's varied characters and tensions, keeping in mind market expectations (I'm also a producer on the feature) and trying to remain true to our artistic vision. Needless to say, when I have a free evening, I feel guilty if I'm not working on the script. Hence, why blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I do love blogging. I love the immediacy of typing thoughts and feelings and publishing them to the world. I'm even enjoying writing this post right now, it's easy to remember the appeal. So I know I'm not through with blogging for good. But for now, with so much on my plate, it doesn't seem likely I'll have much time for it in the near future.

There are many issues on the queer liberation front that deserve commentary. Just this week, we saw a major victory when the U.S. finally ended its despicable ban on allowing HIV positive people into the country. Gay rights issues continue to simmer around the world. There is much to comment upon. Sadly, I'm going to have to relinquish the stage to other fine bloggers and commentators like Montreal Simon, Slapped Upside the Head, Andrew Sullivan and my friend Scott Dagostino.

With my full time job, plus my writing on the side, I just don't seem to have the same fire in the belly about some issues like I used to. Hearing that Stephen Harper hired another dinosaur to work in his office just doesn't elicit the same reaction in me as it did a year ago. Perhaps I'm becoming jaded, or maybe I just don't know what to think of our chameleon Prime Minister any more. On the one hand, he continues to show Canada's queer community official disdain (demoting ministers who treat us equally, hiring anti-gay speechwriters), but on the other hand, he seems to privately show less hatred (gay John Baird accompanies his wife Laureen often to Ottawa functions with Harper's approval.)

Michael Ignatieff's horrific stumbles this summer and fall have also taken their toll on my political self-esteem. Let me see - I endorsed Stephane Dion in 2006 and look how that turned out. And then I endorsed Michael Ignatieff in 2008, and thus far, while things got much better at first, Iggy has proven less than stellar. Is he still learning? Of course he is. Hiring Peter Donolo might actually make a major difference, I'm truly hoping so. The last thing our country needs is a Harper majority and it may just be that Donolo is the guy to help make Iggy the leader he needs to be to stop it from happening, and hell even get him into 24 Sussex.

I still have much hope for Ignatieff. New leaders always go through hell like this. This is Iggy's baptism by fire and I hope it's as painful for him as it needs to be. How soon we forget how unelectable Jean Chretien seemed between 1990 and 1993. I also described Stephen Harper as unelectable from 2004 to 2006. Things change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My film heads to San Diego!

My apologies. I've been so busy that blogging has fallen by the way side the last two weeks.

There have been a few issues tempting me to write, but I've had too much going on lately with work, script-writing and Thanksgiving to find the time or the energy. I hope to be back on my blogging feet soon, but that might have to wait for a little while longer.

My short film, The Golden Pin, is heading to San Diego, CA for an official screening in the San Diego Asian Film Festival this Sat Oct 17th. The whole team is going to support it, including myself, and I can't wait.

Perhaps I'll find the time to do a little blogging from down south...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

'The Golden Pin' makes its European debut!

'The Golden Pin,'
the short dramatic film I co-wrote and helped produce, has its European premiere today at the Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in Norway. Sadly we are not wealthy enough to attend, saving up valuable vacation time and money for later. But it's an honour to have been selected by the festival's programmers. We wish we could be there!

'The Golden Pin' is about a young swimmer torn between the expectations of his family and the demands of his heart. Here are our Facebook pages, which include details of future screenings.

Friday, September 25, 2009

New United Nations president legitimizes homophobic violence and discrimination

Thanks to Bruce for alerting me to this story.

The new President of the United Nations General Assembly, who took office last week for a one-year term, has some 'unacceptable' views on the human rights of LGBT people in the world.

When asked during a press conference this week about last year's U.N. resolution calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality throughout the world, Ali Abdussalam Treki (pictured) called the matter “very sensitive, very touchy.”

"As a Muslim, I am not in favour of it…it is not accepted by the majority of countries. My opinion is not in favour of this matter at all. I think it's not really acceptable by our religion, our tradition...It is not acceptable in the majority of the world. And there are some countries that allow [homosexuality] thinking it is a kind of democracy…I think it is not,”
he added.

Individual human dignity and equality is the basis for democratic rights, as we know. It's too bad that fact is lost on the new United Nations president.

His comments are disgusting, especially since they were spoken on the same day Treki also declared, "Dialogue and mutual understanding are the way to resolve our problems."

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs committee, blasted the new president's comments. “The anti-gay bigotry spewed by this Qaddafi shill demonstrates once again that the UN has been hijacked by advocates of hate and intolerance,” she said.

After giving a platform this week to Iran's bigoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, I would tend to agree.

I also heartily agree with the words of Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, co-Presidents of EveryOne Group, and Roberto Malini as published on this site.

“Ali Abdussalam Treki made a very serious statement which cannot in any way be justified. Like every other Member of the General Assembly, the President has a duty to represent the principles and the aims of the United Nations, according to the Charter adopted on June 26, 1945 in San Francisco with its respect for Human Rights and fundamental freedom for all the human beings (article 1).

"In fact, with such a declaration, the president of the General Assembly has legitimized the violence, the imprisonment and the death penalty for thousands of homosexual people all over the world.

"Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau are appealing to the General Secretary and to the Security Council - whose duty it is to solve controversies in the General Assembly regarding the principles of the United Nations - to immediately remove Ali Abdussalam Treki from his role of President for his non-compliance to the aims and principles of the UN.

"EveryOne Group is also appealing to the associations and LGBT organisations, the EU Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of the democratic countries, particularly France and Holland - who put forward the above-mentioned moratorium - to stigmatize the statements made by the President of the UN General Assembly, and to ask for the immediate removal of Ali Abdussalam Treki from the presidency of the UN General Assembly."

To tolerate Treki's comments is to welcome any and all violence against LGBT people the world over. Sad thing is, I'm sure Canada's government under Stephen Harper probably has nothing to say about this outrage. I look forward to standing corrected on that.

Wounded Miller moves on

I guess Toronto mayor David Miller saw the writing on the wall. Voters, even progressive ones in his downtown base of support like myself, were appalled with how he managed the recent municipal workers' strike. With the loss of a major fundraiser, it was clear Miller was facing a big, perhaps insurmountable challenge next year were he to run again.

Overall, Miller has been a much better mayor than his lousy predecessor, Mel Lastman. When he opens his mouth, I don't wince. In fact, quite often I've been quite proud. He's choosing his exit wisely.

Now we have a new race to watch. We'll see if George Smitherman, John Tory or anyone else makes a major run for it. It will be a very interesting race!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Evangelical voting study comes to faulty conclusions...

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous studies I've ever read. There is no basis for its main conclusion that "the Liberal Party alienated its evangelical base over a decade sending former supporters in search of new political homes."

As we know, it's true that overall voter support for the Liberal Party in Canada went from 41% in 2000 to 37% in 2004 to 30% in 2006 and finally 26% in 2008. Over this same period, support for the Liberals among evangelicals also dropped, according to the study.

Meanwhile, support for the Conservatives started at 30% in 2004 (down from a combined 38% in 2000 for the Canadian Alliance and the old PCs), then increased to 36% in 2006 and then 38% in 2008. The NDP has also gone up among the general public: from 9% in 2000, to 16% in 2004, to 17.5% in 2006 and then 18% in 2008.

If the study's numbers are true, then evangelical voting trends mimic voter shifts in the general public. Yet the study's authors make the assumption dropping Liberal support among evangelicals has mostly to do with alleged Liberal denigration of evangelical Christians, rather than other issues like the sponsorship scandal, voter fatigue with the same party in power, as well as weak leadership after Jean Chretien.

The study's authors point to a handful of alleged Liberal insults as having done the damage to evangelical support, including Warren Kinsella's infamous Canada AM appearance during the 2000 election sporting a Barney the Dinosaur doll.

The report's authors even suggest that a minor comment made by former Liberal cabinet minister Pierre Pettigrew in 2005 during the equal marriage debate was offensive and drove more Christian fundamentalists away from the Liberal Party. What comment was that, you ask? Pettigrew said, "I find that the separation of church and state is one of the most beautiful inventions of modern times." The study claims many evangelicals saw that statement as a threat to religious freedoms.

So let me get this straight: somebody praises the division of church and state and many evangelicals find this offensive? The division of church and state is the basis for religious freedoms, not a threat to them.

This study is pure bunk and does a disservice to the evangelical community in Canada. Too often, assumptions are made in this study about how "many" evangelicals felt about a certain incident or a minor comment without any data to back up those assumptions.

And lo and behold, Sun Media reports on the "study" as news because that's what Sun Media does: it reports bullshit right-wing propaganda as fact.

Support for the Liberals dropped 15% among all Canadians between 2000 and 2008. Support for the Conservatives, NDP and Greens went up during that time. Those shifts also appear to be present in evangelical voting patterns. The only conclusion one can seriously draw is that evangelical voting patterns are largely in sync with the general populace in Canada.

The intentions of this study, based on its faulty conclusions, do appear clear to me: this is nothing but a baseless, partisan, cheap shot against the Liberal party.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Iggy should let democracy do its thing in Outremont!

Continuing press coverage of the recent decision by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to block former Liberal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon from running again in the Outremont riding has forced me to speak up.

Let me add my voice to the growing chorus of Liberal bloggers in favour of democracy in the riding of Outremont. I've always been a fan of Martin Cauchon, particularly the leadership he showed in promoting equal marriage, as well as the decriminalization of marijuana. These are issues which stand us apart from the ruling troglodytes in the Conservative Party.

I also have little respect for the likes of Denis Coderre, a man who actually enjoys the sleazy aspects of political life, as far as I can tell.

Michael Ignatieff, please let Martin Cauchon run for the nomination in Outremont. He's a proven winner there, with a great following among progressives right across the country. Let's not botch that riding again and hand Thomas Mulcair another victory!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ignatieff needs a narrative asap!

Michael Ignatieff, please read (if you haven't already) and learn from this column. I used to complain about Chantal Hebert's hate-on for Stephane Dion when he was leader. I was unable to admit that she was correct in her analysis of that great man's poor leadership qualities because I was too busy drinking the Dion koolaid (and wanted to stay loyal). The voters made clear my mistake (and those of other Liberals) last October.

Since then, I've developed a great respect for Hebert's thoughtful opinions. And on Ignatieff today, she is completely right, including her remedy, shared by many observers, for Ignatieff's current problems: Iggy needs to articulate a compelling narrative to Canadians, not only for an election campaign but for his own leadership.

Until Ignatieff does this, he's doomed to fail as Liberal leader. If we go into an election campaign and Ignatieff hasn't figured out a way to win over the hearts and minds of Canadians, he will lose to Harper, whether it be 2009 or 2010.

As we know, Ignatieff has little government/political experience. But such a lack of experience isn't a recipe for failure as long as he can communicate passionately to voters who he is and why he wants to lead us. Barack Obama's success is testament to that fact. What Obama lacked in actual experience, he made up for in perceived capability. In a year when voters wanted change, he inspired and he won big.

Ignatieff will have to do the same with his own unique, inspiring message that sums up his leadership and where he wants to take the country. And it better be meaty, yet simple enough to capture hearts and minds. Voters aren't yet tired of Harper, so in lieu of an inspiring alternative they simply can't resist, they'll keep Harper. I'm sure if we had an election this fall, Harper would've won. He might've even squeaked out a majority and Ignatieff's leadership would likely be finished. Now that Ignatieff has a bit more time, I hope he does his home work and comes up with that narrative asap!


How's this for a narrative?

Ignatieff is true to his own principles: he's a smart liberal who's learned to reconcile and maintain his own values in the face of the harsh realities of this world. We don't have to give up our values as Canadians to succeed in this world. Ignatieff's tough. He straddles the political divide between left and right, always prepared to do what's right for Canadians.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Liberals easily win St. Paul's byelection...

All the biased pro-Conservative stuff masquerading as news from the Toronto Sun in favour of Sue-Ann Levy in recent weeks has been a bust. In the end, Liberal Dr. Eric Hoskins (pictured) won today's St. Paul's provincial byelection with about the same percentage of vote won by his predecessor Michael Bryant in 2007. In fact, Levy has barely increased her party's support in the riding from the 26% it got in 2007.

Final results are here.

Still I respect Levy for making a go of it. There aren't many lesbian Tories as we know, so I hope she remains active in her party, if nothing else than to encourage it not to stray too far to the socially conservative right. I do fear that this failure to make any gains in the 416-area code might inspire Tory leader Tim Hudak to retreat back to a divide-and-conquer, rural versus Toronto strategy aka Mike Harris.

All of that talk of a grassroots revolt by voters against the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax was just that. Voters just aren't incensed about the proposal, I guess. Or maybe Hoskins' big win tonight is simply due to his own strength as a candidate and campaigner.

Regardless, the people seem pretty happy right now with the Grits at Queen's Park. Congrats to all of my former colleagues on this great win and congrats to Dr. Hoskins as well!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tony Clement may not be 'folkophobic', but most of his Tory colleagues are definitely homophobic...

I don't buy Industry Minister Tony Clement's recent denial that LGBT tourism events were given "special scrutiny" after he pushed Diane Ablonczy aside and took over full control of his government's Marquee Tourism Events Program last June.

As you may recall, Ablonczy had committed the chief Tory sin of treating LGBT Canadians as full and equal citizens, worthy of government attention and a bit of funding (we do, after all, pay taxes). She gave Toronto Pride as much as $400,000 from the program and posed with local organizers for photographers at the funding announcement in June alongside a drag queen. Two weeks later, she lost control over the program.

This Canadian Press story outlines the facts quite well, including new information gleaned through Access To Information.

"This is to formally advise Minister Clement has revoked delegation of authority for the Marquee festivals program," Clement's chief of staff, Bill King, wrote to senior bureaucrats on June 29. "All files, projects, correspondence and communications are now to be managed, approved and signed off by Minister Clement instead of Minister Ablonczy."

Clement's spokesperson maintained at the time it was always envisioned that Clement would take the file over from Ablonczy after a prescribed period of time. But Industry Canada did not provide any documents through Access to Information that indicated the pre-planned transfer of responsibility. As Canadian Press reports, an 'official notice of revocation of authority is generally communicated through senior bureaucrats charged with a department's finances, rather than by a political staffer such as Clement's chief of staff.'

In early July, a Tory backbencher bragged to a conservative Christian propaganda site that protests from a "large majority" of Harper MPs about funding Toronto Pride led to Ablonczy's demotion.

Soon thereafter, Montreal's Divers-Cité gay cultural festival was told by bureaucrats it met all the criteria for funding under the program, but was rejected at the ministerial level.

"The fact of the matter is some of those programs got grants, others didn't," Clement said yesterday. "We didn't fund every folk festival. Calgary Folk Festival got funding, but Mariposa Folk Festival didn't. That's doesn't make me folkophobic."

True, but nobody from the Tory backbench bragged to an anti-folk music website about how the former minister was specifically removed because she had funded, God forbid, the Calgary Folk Festival.

But it's a matter of public record that there was an outcry of opposition in the Tory backrooms against the funding of Toronto Pride. A message had to be sent to the Conservatives' dinosaur base of supporters and punishment needed to be handed out. Ablonczy got the shaft.

We did the math, Tony. We know most of you Conservatives still hate us! Enough with your bullsh*t!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thunder Bay residents unite to protest anti-gay attack...

Thunder Bay residents are walking and rallying Friday evening to protest the recent attack on Jake Raynard, a local gay man who was left severely injured and in hospital after last weekend's incident. I'll be with them in spirit...

The following press release was sent out today to the Facebook group, 'Unified Community around Jake Raynard'

Press Release
September 10, 2009

Our Community Response to Violence

Friends and family of Jake Raynard are inviting the greater Thunder Bay community to a walk and a rally starting at Waverly Park at 6 pm on Friday, September 11 to positively respond to the targeted violence Jake and some friends experienced a week ago.

On Friday, September 4th, Jake, a 30 year old gay man and some of his friends were attacked by a group of men outside a bar in downtown Port Arthur. The beating left Jake with 15 fractures to his cheekbone, a broken eye socket, a broken jaw and a broken upper palate. This violent hate crime has shocked, devastated and enraged Jake, his family, and the entire Thunder Bay community. This is not the first time this type of attack has taken place and it is time for the community to respond in a positive display of support.

The Unified Community around Jake Raynard is calling on all people in the greater Thunder Bay community to attend this rally to:

1. Welcome Jake back into our community from the hospital, give him support, help him with his desire to put a face to hate crimes of all kinds, and acknowledge his courage in coming forward.

2. To stand united as a community and declare that WE the residents of the greater Thunder Bay area and our response to this hate crime define this community, not the attackers or this terrible crime.

This is a matter that concerns the safety of all groups in our community, the image of our beloved city, and the future we build together.

Stand up for your community as we march through the Port Arthur downtown district, and return to Waverly Park to hear from a diverse group of community leaders.

This is a crucial time for the greater Thunder Bay community-- let’s make Jake’s heroism and our community response be the stepping stone for healing and positive change on our streets and in our homes.


Here's another link to the Facebook group.

The Real, Ugly, Un-statesmanlike Stephen Harper

If you haven't seen this video of Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaking privately to Sault Ste Marie Conservatives, I suggest you do, if only to get a rare and authentic glimpse into the chameleon who is currently controlling Canada's government.

As this video makes clear, Harper is still the rabidly right-wing ideologue he's been his entire life. He hasn't had the power in Parliament to ram through his true Reform Party agenda because our voting system, as archaic as it is, has to date denied him a majority.

Harper now wants a majority so he can shut down gun control in this country. He now wants a majority so he can put the screws to the opposition and, as Harper puts it, their "little coalition."

Harper is petty, bitter and possesses base, divisive instincts that are unsuitable for governing a country as diverse as Canada. He continues to demonize those who share different views than he, including those he calls "socialists" and "separatists." He's more than happy to demonize every Quebecer who's voted for the Bloc Quebecois in order to win votes elsewhere in the country. This is the same Stephen Harper who, unchecked by his advisers, right in the middle of a recession, proposed to declare war on the opposition just weeks after Canadians confirmed another Harper minority.

Harper says he won't work with the opposition, despite the repeated wishes of Canadians as expressed in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Harper is not Prime Minister material, never was and never will be. If he's unwilling to work with the opposition, he needs to be replaced outright as soon as possible. I have every belief that Michael Ignatieff would make a better Prime Minister in virtually all ways, with either a minority or a majority.

Regardless, it's time to remove this petty, ugly, bitter Harper from office!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vicious anti-gay attack in Thunder Bay!

This is shocking and repulsive news. A Thunder Bay gay man is in hospital for reconstructive surgery after being attacked early Saturday morning in what his family calls a hate crime.

John "Jake" Raynard (pictured) reportedly suffered 15 fractures to his cheekbone, a broken eye socket, a broken jaw and a broken upper palate when six to eight men surrounded him and two friends outside a Thunder Bay bar.

I look forward to the police investigation and hope those bigots involved are brought to justice!

Raynard's friends and supporters have set up this Facebook group to keep those concerned informed.

George Smitherman for Mayor of Toronto!

I'll be hoping that George Smitherman makes a run for Mayor of Toronto in 2010.

David Miller's performance in his second term as Toronto mayor has been largely unforgiveable. The damned land transfer tax imposed by Miller and his cronies continues to annoy me, especially since we know waste continues at City Hall. (I truly hope Smitherman promises to do away with the tax.)

But I'm sure most will agree that this summer's fiasco of a strike was the last straw. If Miller had meant to capitulate the entire time and allow existing municipal employees to keep their banked sick days, why did he let the strike go ahead and drag on for six weeks? Complete and total mismanagement on his part. The city still stinks!

Like many Torontonians, Miller has lost of my confidence and I hope to be able to put my 'X' next to George Smitherman next November. Please, George, make it happen!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Michael Ignatieff launches 'Worldview' TV ad

After years of being bullied by Harper's Tories with pre-election advertising, it's SO NICE to see Michael Ignatieff's Liberals get into the game. And their first effort this election season is to go positive, putting Iggy front and centre along with the essence of his message to Canadians. I am truly excited about getting this guy elected as our Prime Minister as soon as possible.

Bring on the election and let's get rid of this interim Reformatory government!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

John Greyson's bold stand against TIFF's showcase of Tel Aviv...

I'm not sure if I completely agree with Greyson's reasoning for pulling his film Covered out of this year's Toronto International Film Festival in protest over its inaugural City to City program on Tel Aviv.

Regardless of one's position on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (and vice versa), no doubt Greyson's move (and those of other filmmakers who are boycotting TIFF this year as well) will create considerable discussion. It already has.

Last night, CBC's The National ran a puff piece by reporter Margaret Evans on rumours of a mermaid off the beautiful coastline of a northern Israeli resort town. It contained many beautiful shots of beaches and people enjoying the sunset, the kinds of images no doubt being promoted by any "Brand Israel" campaign. Perhaps Greyson has a point that we ought not forget about Israel's ongoing treatment of Palestinians.

Here's an excerpt from Xtra's news piece on Greyson's move:

"In a public letter dated Aug 27 Greyson zeroed in on press comments from the Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin describing the Tel Aviv spotlight as the culmination of the Israeli government's "Brand Israel" campaign.

Despite being a supporter of an economic boycott campaign against Israel, Greyson's letter discusses the "specific and strategic" details of when he participates in such a boycott. He criticizes the Tel Aviv spotlight as too one-sided, lacking diverse voices from displaced Palestinians or underground artists.

"What eventually determined my decision to pull out was the subject of Covered itself," Greyson writes. "It's a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to brutal anti-gay violence. The film focuses on the bravery of the organizers and their supporters and, equally, on the ostriches, on those who remained silent, who refused to speak out: most notoriously the Sarajevo International Film Festival and the Canadian ambassador in Sarajevo. To stand in judgment of these ostriches before a TIFF audience, but then say nothing about this Tel Aviv spotlight — finally, I realized that that was a brand I couldn't stomach."

You can view Greyson's Covered on Vimeo until the end of the festival. It's quite stunning.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sue-Ann Levy's candidacy doesn't mean Tim Hudak's gone centrist...

I wrote an article on gay Tories in 2005 for Xtra and, at the time, couldn't find a single out Conservative lesbian to interview. If I recall, now-Conservative senator Nancy Ruth, formerly Nancy Jackman, was still sitting as a Progressive Conservative in the upper chamber, so she didn't qualify at the time for an article on gays in Stephen Harper's party.

I have no idea if Sue-Ann Levy was a card-carrying Conservative in 2005. But now that Levy is running for Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming St. Paul's by-election in midtown Toronto, we can now finally point to a high profile out lesbian who's active in Conservative politics. (We can also point to Jackman, who joined the federal Conservative caucus in 2006, but clearly she's not as high profile as Levy.)

Will Levy's candidacy cause a cascade of right-thinking lesbians to join the PCs or Harper's Tories? I doubt it. But I guess I'm the wrong person to ask.

Levy's by-election run greatly reminds me of Nancy Jackman's run in 1993 in the old riding of St. George-St. David, which encompassed parts of Rosedale and Toronto's gay village. Jackman ran under the pre-Common Sense Revolution banner of former Ontario PC Leader Mike Harris. Similarities with today's run by Levy are obvious.

In 1993, Mike Harris's endorsement of an out lesbian candidate was undoubtedly a one-riding strategy masking a larger, regressive agenda. Jackman, of course, lost the by-election to Liberal Tim Murphy. Harris went on to unleash his far-right platform in 1994 once he realized there were more votes to be won by vilifying the gay community and any other group or profession deemed unpopular at the time. In 1994, Harris led his entire caucus in voting against equal rights for same sex couples (I do admit the Liberal record that year was almost as dismal.)

I suspect that Levy's candidacy today now merely masks a similar, far-right and thoughtless agenda by new leader Tim Hudak, a protege of Harris who won the leadership this year promising to turn back the clock to 1995. If Hudak can stoke the fires of resentment and ignorance, he seems like the kind of guy more than happy to do it, Levy or no Levy.

Had Jackman won the 1993 by-election, would her Red Tory presence in Harris' caucus made them more open-minded to diversity? I highly doubt it. If Levy wins the St. Paul's by-election, I don't think it'll signal a new direction for Tim Hudak either. The strategy of putting up Levy in this very Red Tory riding smacks very much of local opportunism: running a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, Jewish columnist to win a high profile race.

The sad thing is should Levy lose, it'll likely embolden the Randy Hilliers of the party to steer as far right as possible in the run-up to 2011. I'm not sure how the by-election will go. The Tories will be putting their best Red Tory face forward. And now the Grits are sounding a little scared. Their candidate, Dr. Eric Hoskins, is impressive, but not as feisty or well-known as Levy. It'll be an interesting result, whatever the outcome.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Golden Pin makes its international debut...

The short film I co-wrote and helped produce, The Golden Pin, enjoys its international premiere today, screening for the first time outside Canada at the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in Durham, NC.

Sadly, I nor my filmmaking partners, including director Cuong Ngo, are able to attend this weekend due to personal financial constraints. This is the reality for truly independent filmmakers who spend their own money to make films and promote them. As we roll our short film out on the festival circuit, we have to choose carefully which festivals to attend, balancing networking opportunities against our own budgetary constraints.

The Golden Pin will be screening next at the LGBT film festival next month in Oslo, Norway, and then at the San Diego Asian Film Festival in late October. We're hoping to add many more festival screenings as more festivals get back to us. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, if you want to follow our progress, join our Facebook group.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bravo: David Popescu found guilty of promoting hatred...

I was away this weekend with no access to Canadian news. I just found out this evening that David Popescu was convicted Friday of promoting hatred for telling a group of high school students last fall that all homosexuals should be executed.

This is a just decision. Advocating the mass execution of an entire group of people, especially in front of impressionable minds, is evil and I'm glad our country outlaws it.

Below is an excerpt from the Sudbury Star article:

Popescu, 61, made the comment during the 2008 federal election campaign in the Sudbury riding, where he ran as an independent, then repeated them in an interview broadcast over a Toronto radio station.

He was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 18 months.

During a one-day trial in Sudbury court, Popescu argued he was only repeating what was in the bible when he made the comments. However, Ontario Court Justice Guy Mahaffy ruled he was "not at all satisfied with the explanation by Mr. Popescu that his statements are based on his religious beliefs."

Popescu "basically picks and chooses what is in his best interest, according to his interpretation of the bible," said the judge.

Popescu testified Friday the bible lists homosexuality as a sin for which one should be stoned to death.

Prosecutor Andrew Slater then suggested that, by the same rule, Popescu should have been stoned to death in 2003 when he was convicted of assaulting his mother.

Popescu, however, said the assault was a false accusation.

"I never did hit my mother," he said, even though he was convicted of the charge.

In court in 2003, he admitted he had given his mother a "small swat and a light shake" to get her attention when she was not paying attention to him during a dispute over the placement of towels in their home.

Mahaffy said it was hypocritical of Popescu to say he should not be punished for an assault on his mother, then suggest it should be done to homosexuals.

If he felt he was not guilty, Popescu could have appealed the assault conviction, but he did not, the judge said.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno: Not Yet Recognized Genius!

I finally got a chance to see Brüno on the weekend. Designed to simultaneously poke a gigantic hole (pun intended) into the deep-seated homophobia that still thrives in most parts of the world, as well as poke fun at vapid, fame-seeking vanity, Brüno knocks both balls out of the park. lol

I found myself giggling as I walked out of the theatre and I'm still giggling.

I’ve read some reviews that criticize Brüno for missing a major story hook; Brüno only wishes to become famous. Is that motivation less compelling than wanting to bag Pamela Anderson (again pun intended) in Borat? Perhaps it’s less specific, but it still provides Cohen with a wide palate of material with which to make his point(s).

I didn’t laugh out loud as much as I did for Borat, but I think Brüno is far more significant a film politically and socially. We live in an era where virulent homophobia still very much dominates much of North America and most of the world. What Brüno does is pit possibly the worst gay stereotype imaginable against raving, far-right bigots and waits for the fireworks to go off. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. The scenes where Brüno camps with some Alabama hunters were interesting in that the hunters were so restrained amid Cohen's come-ons.

Cohen brilliantly ties these episodes together as a full frontal attack on closed mindedness. The hypocrisy he exposes is biting. He uses shock to expose and challenge virulent homophobia head-on. Indeed, as media reports have indicated, Cohen’s own safety was frequently put at risk while filming this movie, not to mention afterwards. His sheer bravado is to be applauded.

Brüno makes Cohen an artist before his time...

One day they'll look back and view Brüno as a great historical record of the homophobia that still gripped much of America at the beginning of the 21st century...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why doesn't John Baird just get it over with and tell us he's gay?

This is a pretty good profile by Linda Diebel in today's Toronto Star of federal Tory cabinet minister John Baird.

I once shared drinks with Baird back in 2004 along with my then-young Tory boyfriend and a few other gay Tory acquaintances at Toronto's Byzantium. He's a sweet guy and obviously very talented at his chosen profession as political pit bull. Before then, I had little awareness of the large numbers of gay Tories out there. Those in the know will be aware that the friends of Baird quoted in the piece are gay themselves: Jaime Watt, Bob Richardson...

Yet the article remains decidedly in the closet - there's no clear indication that Baird is gay himself. Too bad. Instead, we only get the following lines:

"[Baird]'s single, lives in a Nepean townhouse characterized by Richardson as "a permanent bachelor pad" with his grey tabby, Thatcher."

And most interesting is how Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no problem letting Baird escort his wife Laureen to events in the capital.

"Mrs. Harper is fantastic," says Baird. "We get along fine."

It's interesting that Harper, with a reputation for being quite regressive on gay issues, seems to have no problems with such an arrangement.

Baird states that he has no plans to run for Conservative leader one day: "I don't have any plans. I think some people probably think about that. I don't."

A possible leadership bid would be one major reason for Baird to remain discreet about his queer sexuality, with his party still dominated by Stockwell Day types. Yet if running for leader isn't in the cards, why can't Baird just come out publicly? It would do the queer movement enormous good to have such a high profile and capable politician come out in the Conservative Party.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Terrorist threat to Sacha Baron Cohen over Brüno ridicule

I loved Borat. I have not yet seen Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up mockumentary Brüno this summer. Although I have every intention of seeing on the big screen very soon (probably this weekend), after which I'll post my thoughts on it.

There has been decidedly less buzz about Brüno this year than Borat, I'm sure most will agree. Gone are the multiple threats to sue Cohen we saw following Borat's release. Instead we have threats against his life. Scary indeed. This is inspiration for me to get to the theatre as soon as possible to see it.

I suspect that Brüno's subject matter - chronicling an over-the-top gay Austrian fashionista, with multiple scenes of male frontal nudity - has turned off many of Cohen's heterosexual fans. They'll rush to the theatre to see Pamela Anderson forced into a sack, but they won't rush to see Cohen have fake sex with a male midget. Hmmmm....

Others have said it's simply a case of Brüno being less entertaining than Borat, or perhaps the shock value is gone and the stunt tactics Cohen uses in Brüno are becoming a little old hat.

Regardless of the reasons for Brüno's less than stellar box office, I'm looking forward to finding out for myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Toronto musical 'Bare' soars...

I had the chance to take in the great production of 'Bare, The Canadian Premiere' this weekend at University of Toronto's Hart House Theatre, which chronicles the secret affair between two closeted Catholic schoolboys. (FYI, despite its title and provocative poster, this musical features no nudity, nor does it need any.)

I'm proud to say the musical, first performed in Los Angeles in 2000, was exceptional, entertaining, sweet, romantic, tragic, touching and occasionally sexy. The musical nails all the hidden contradictions of Catholic youth, from the unnerving guilt to the wild and secret partying. My own Catholic public high school was very similar to the private one depicted on stage. I never had an affair with a hot schoolmate, mind you. My personal repression was so strong I never told anyone about my homosexuality until I was safely ensconced within a secular university.

While the musical hits many familiar notes often seen in gay melodrama (love triangle involving a sweet, but clueless girl, an unsupportive mother, etc.), there are still a few surprises. And the Toronto cast never fails to impress, bringing much zest to their roles, particularly the two leads, Wade Muir and Graham Parkhurst. Standouts among the ensemble include Nichola Lawrence as Sister Chantelle (the nun every Catholic gay boy wishes they knew in high school), Renee Stein as Claire, Muir's mother, Alison O'Neill as Ivy, Parkhurst's girlfriend, and Claire Rouleau as the particularly hilarious nerd Nadia.

Wade Muir has a great voice as Peter, the lead, but the better actor is Graham Parkhurst as Jason, his closeted lover. I wasn't impressed with Parkhurst's voice in Act One; luckily he seemed to be saving his energy for the more dramatic and tragic Act Two, in which he excels. Muir and Parkhurst make tender and believable lovers and they don't shy away from the script's considerable affections. Be prepared for many wet audience eyes after the curtain falls at the end.

The Canadian premiere is being produced by WatersEdge Productions Inc, and runs until this Saturday August 1st. If you have the chance to check it out before then, I highly recommend you do. Tickets are available here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Isn't this discrimination based on sexual orientation?

It seems to me that this is pretty clearly a case of discrimination based on sexual orientation - the Harper government, in what seems to be a clear desire to appease its bigoted base, decided to stick it to the Montreal gay festival simply because it was gay.

Here are the facts: Diane Ablonczy gave Pride Toronto $400,000 from the $100 million Marquee Tourism Events Program. Two weeks later she lost the control over the program, it was handed to loyal Tony Clement. Then a backbencher from Saskatchewan bragged about how Ablonczy had lost the file because she gave money to Pride Toronto. Now suddenly Montreal's Pride festival Divers/Cite fails to receive any funding despite being a major international tourist attraction.

I hate the way many out there excuse this deliberate discrimination as somehow okay in modern Canada. As far as I'm concerned, the Harperites are guilty of discriminating based on sexual orientation, which is supposed to be illegal in this country.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Roundup: Freddie Stroma dancing in his underwear, Religious Freedom and those funny Tories...

Who's Freddie Stroma, you're probably asking? I hadn't heard of him either until I found this YouTube video posted on Perez Hilton this week. My friend Scott also linked to it this morning on his Xtra blog, so I thought I'd get into the action too here.

Stroma is a U.K.-born actor who's got a supporting role in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince out in theatres tomorrow. Last year, he did this beautiful little modeling gig, showing off Acne Underwear's 2008 collection as well as his considerable assets in almost eight minutes of dancing. I quite agree with the emerging gay consensus that this is required viewing! Scott says he could only make it through 85% of the video; I'm proud to say I enjoyed the entire thing (although I did find the absence of music to be strange, although it did allow us to singularly focus on Stroma instead.) So I offer readers the video to test how long they can ogle a gorgeous, young Harry Potter star in his skivvies.

With the sexy stuff out of the way, I do have a couple of serious issues to discuss.

This case sounds interesting, although I do agree that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has no jurisdiction over who a Catholic Church chooses to let work on its altar. If you agree with the division of church and state, I can't see how Jim Corcoran's case can be supported. Yes his fellow parishioners displayed incredibly unkind and, I would say, un-Christian behaviour in launching their complaint against Corcoran, getting him removed from his altar server duties in St. Michael's Church in Cobourg. Yet religion does often seem to give its followers a free pass to be inhumane toward their fellow men and women.

But not all religious people are mean to gay people, if this new book called 'Jesus Was A Liberal' is to be believed.

Finally, for a funny read, check out this Tory spin by Michael Taube, who used to write speeches for Stephen Harper. He tries to spin that most Tories don't hate homosexuals, despite the recent demotion of Diane Ablonczy for giving Pride Toronto a grant through the Marquee Tourism Events Program.

I couldn't get past this paragraph by Taube without laughing: "Following that train of thought, Pride Week is not the celebration of diversity its supporters claim. Rather, it's a polarizing special interest event which represents a narrow cross-section of society. It's not a festival that brings Canadians together in the same way Canada Day celebrations, supporting our troops rallies, and Santa Claus parades do."

Typical of a Tory to call Pride divisive, but not rallies supporting our troops, or even Santa Claus parades, which are just plain annoying, as far as I'm concerned. The traffic jams they cause and all ;-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Three day story: Gotta love it!

Well it appears kowtowing to the social conservative dinosaurs in your caucus and movement doesn't win you rewards among Canada's moderate and fair-minded mainstream. I take great joy in the fact that the mainstream media has taken up the story of Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy's demotion over funding Pride Toronto and run with it. It seems no one believes the official Tory spin on this.

Some of today's great reads include Kady O'Malley, Lyn Cockburn, even Don Martin, who laments how poorly Ablonczy continues to be treated in Ottawa (I quite agree, I rather liked Ablonczy before this controversy, and I like her even more now.)

Even the Toronto Star's editorial board, never my favourite group of journalists, does well today with this piece.

And this is why I continue to be proud to be a gay Liberal. Thanks, Dalton.

I yearn for the day when someone intelligent, worldly, fair-minded, measured and thoughtful, like say Michael Ignatieff, takes over the PMO in Ottawa and relieves us of Stephen Harper's small-minded, mean-spirited interim prime minister-ship. That day may come sooner than we think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What small people run the Harper government...

This internal Tory backlash against federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy just for acknowledging our existence in this country and helping our biggest festival has truly pissed me off. What percentage of the Canadian population would describe themselves as socially conservative, religious fundamentalists? Probably less than 10 per cent. Yet they seem to be in complete control over the Harper government, now don't they?

Apparently, one of Ablonczy's biggest sins was allowing herself to be photographed near a drag queen at the June funding announcement for Pride Toronto. If you wanted to understand how our micro-manager Prime Minister makes decisions, this case is a perfect example!

My message to so-cons because you seem to have forgotten: LGBT citizens pay taxes too! As such, we should also get a piece of the federal pie too, not just those who love the Calgary Stampede! You do not get to control 100% of the budget just because 38% of Canadians marked Tory on their ballots last October (despite the flaws of our electoral system, that still only translated into 46% of the seats.)

If there are decent, fair-minded heterosexuals out there, let this "controversy" provide further proof why the Harper Conservatives are clearly out of sync with modern Canada and need to be removed at the first possible opportunity.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tory dinosaurs secretly clobber Diane Ablonczy for funding Toronto's Pride...

I wonder what John Baird and Jaime Watt will think of this!

According to this religious bigot propaganda so-called "news" site, there's been quite the backlash against federal Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy for providing $400,000 in funding for Toronto's Pride parade (pictured with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff taking part this year), which the propaganda site described as "notorious for its inclusion of full frontal nudity and public sex acts by homosexuals." Did the "reporter" from LifeSite actually watch the parade this year and witness the "public sex acts" on display, which were mysteriously missed by virtually all the other million or so people in attendance? Iggy looks fully clothed to me. Hmmm...

LifeSite interviews Saskatchewan Conservative MP Brad Trost, who says the decision to fund Pride came as a "shock to most of the Conservative caucus, even those inside the Prime Minister's office...The pro-life and the pro-family community should know and understand that the tourism funding money that went to the gay pride parade in Toronto was not government policy, was not supported by - I think it's safe to say by a large majority - of the MPs. This was a very isolated decision."

Trost reportedly "hinted" that Minister Ablonczy, who was responsible for the funding, lost the file as a consequence of what he called the "embarrassment to the Party...It should be noted that the file has been reassigned to a different Cabinet Minister since that announcement was made...The whole tourism program and funding for major tourism events is being reviewed...Canadian taxpayers, even non-social-conservative ones, don't want their tax dollars to go to events that are polarizing or events that are more political than touristic in nature," Trost said.

Pride Toronto brings about one million tourists to the city every year, creating a huge economic boom for the entire region. How could such an event be seen merely as "political" and not "touristic" as Trost claims?

Kudos to BigCityLib for his post on this today, inspiring Kady O'Malley to work her journalistic wonders to get to the bottom of Trost's claims.

I agree with BigCityLib that it's highly likely that Trost's comments are just the latest bone being thrown to the Conservatives' religiously bigoted base. It will be interesting to find out if Ablonczy really has been punished by Harper's PMO for giving money to Canada's biggest LGBT festival.

The Harper-ites gave Toronto's Caribana $415,000 recently, also through the federal government's Marquee Tourism Events Program. Can you imagine if such a move caused the "majority" of Conservative MPs to protest secretly in the backrooms, demanding the Minister be removed from the program because she dared to acknowledge "those people"? Or if a propaganda website, say 'WhiteSite' instead of 'LifeSite' wrote an article making a big deal about the funding "controversy", claiming that children are routinely murdered during the Caribana parade? (As far as I'm concerned, the folks behind 'LifeSite' and the KKK aren't really all that different.)

If such a funding backlash were to take place in the Conservative caucus against any other community in Canada and it got public, I would hope that 90% of Canadians would rebel against the Conservatives for being bigoted, and hopefully the old Reformatories wouldn't be so competitive in opinion polls anymore. I also hope, if this story is true, the Harper-ites pay for their bigotry.

More on this as it develops....


UPDATE - Susan Delacourt reports that Ablonczy is still the Minister of Tourism. But the case isn't closed, as Kady O'Malley correctly points out. Brad Trost claimed in the LifeSite "interview" that the Marquee Event Funding Program file "had been taken away from Ablonczy and given to another, unnamed minister to manage, and in the most recent funding announcement, Ablonczy is no longer mentioned as the responsible minister, nor is her office listed as a contact. We’ll just have to wait to hear from Industry Canada before we know for sure whether the tourism minister is, indeed, still in charge of the Marquee Event Funding Program."

FINAL UPDATE - It's been confirmed that Minister Ablonczy is no longer taking the lead on the Marquee Event Funding Program. The Tories are claiming that has nothing to do with Ablonczy's decision to provide $400,000 to Pride Toronto in June. I don't buy it. This smacks of the kind of internal decision meant to send a subliminal message to the country's so-cons that, 'Don't worry, we gave them some money, but now the woman who did it has been punished, we still hate those people!'

Let's face it, this incident is further proof that Harper's Conservatives, including all of those dinosaur backbenchers, remain decidedly to the right of the Canadian mainstream. Most Canadians have no problem with annual Pride festivities and take a live and let live attitude, especially if such festivals create huge economic spinoffs, like Pride Toronto does. Sadly, that live and let live attitude has no place inside Harper's caucus.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wrong on so many levels: Saskatchewan tries to legislate anti-gay discrimination...

Some conservatives need to be dragged kicking and screaming to accept full equality and fairness for everyone. When it comes to picking and choosing which groups should receive special treatment (religious conservatives) and which should receive second-class status (LGBT people, the poor, artists, etc.), their records in various jurisdictions are clear. So consistent is their opposition to justice and equality, it reinforces the opinion that prejudice and willful ignorance are cornerstones of the conservative movement.

Saskatchewan’s conservative government is the latest to show its regressive colours, sending proposed legislation to allow publicly-licensed marriage commissioners the right to discriminate based on their “religious beliefs” to the courts for feedback.

I quite agree with this Star Phoenix editorial calling the move by Justice Minister Don Morgan cowardly.

Apparently the goons who run the Saskatchewan Party government see gains to be made by going to bat for dinosaurs who’d love to return to an era when the word ‘citizenship’ didn’t include LGBT people.

I hope the court quickly shoots down this misguided proposal as unconstitutional. If a Muslim public servant in Saskatchewan deemed it against his “religion” to serve Jewish residents, would that be acceptable? According to the spirit of this proposal, yes. Virtually any form of discrimination could be justified based on "religious beliefs." If we allow religious public servants to discriminate based on sexual orientation, how could we deny them the right to discriminate against other groups they find objectionable?

Centuries ago, we determined that there should be a clear division between church and state. We’ve also determined that public servants need to serve all people in their community, not just those they deem worthy. Apparently, those lessons of history have been lost on Saskatchewan Party officials.

If a publicly-licensed and publicly-paid official is not willing to carry out his or her duties, including providing marriage services to qualified same-sex couples, that public servant needs to resign. Allowing a public servant to discriminate based on vague, highly subjective “religious beliefs” would create a terrible precedent that must never be allowed.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

India decriminalizes homosexual sex

This is wonderful news!

Click here for some great reaction from pro-equality activists on the Indian court ruling today striking down the country's law against homosexual sex. This could be quite the tipping point in the developing world on the subject. I hope so.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yuck! Not more of this poison...

Ontario Progressive Conservatives turned back time over the weekend by electing lifetime politician Tim Hudak, the 41-year-old MPP from Niagara region, to lead them into the next Ontario election in 2011. I'm now suffering from some unwelcome deja vu as this guy seems to be a clone of Mike Harris, minus the golf pro status (although I'm sure Hudak's the type of guy who'd love to spend hours on the golf course, not that there's anything wrong with that!)

I've got to say I'm disappointed that Christine Elliott, with her 'Ontarians are all equal, let's treat them that way' approach to politics, came up short. Instead, the Tories have settled for easy answers and divisive politics again. We should expect more demands to cut taxes in the face of our multi-billion deficit, more scape-goating, more attacks on the 40-50% of people out there who fall outside the Tory universe of privilege and respect.

I expect Hudak's Tories will now sit and wait, hoping that the rough economy and voter fatigue takes its toll on the Liberal incumbents at Queen's Park. By 2011, Ontarians will be ready for a change, I'm sure Hudak's hoping.

But I don't think that's going to happen. It's true that Hudak's leadership will probably inspire the McGuinty Liberals to work harder. There's nothing like the threat of an intolerable opponent to focus the mind. I'd be more inclined to fork over some donation money to the Ontario Liberals now. The Ontario Liberals, despite recent spending scandals, do have a decent record of governing and McGuinty remains respected, if not loved.

Recent history could be repeating itself: in 2007, John Tory's ill-conceived and far-right policy to fund private religious schools with public money became a lightning rod and cost the Tories the election. It's ironic the one policy in Tory's platform that was a major sop to the neo-cons of his party ended up costing him the election; now the right-wingers behind Hudak have successfully duped party members into believing the answer isn't avoiding far right policy traps like private school funding, or say, ending human rights protections in Ontario. No, the answer is more of what got them crushed in both 2003 and 2007.

Hmmm....Hudak's promise to abolish Ontario's human rights watchdog should send shivers down the spines of all Ontarians who have faced discrimination. Already, Hudak is writing off a huge portion of the Ontario populace in his bid for power.

Combined with a charming new NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, who will make some noise but probably be as ineffectual as Howard Hampton, it's beginning to look a lot like another Liberal majority in 2011. Yes, Ontario Tories, you made a big mistake electing a Mike Harris clone because it proves you've clearly learned nothing from the last two elections. Best of luck in 2015 under hopefully new leadership!

Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Michael Jackson

Yes, Thriller was his greatest video, but Black or White is probably my favourite video by pop icon Michael Jackson, minus the strange solo dance sequence at the end of the musical number, which freaked many of us out when we first saw it in 1991. For me, that end dance sequence was probably the first major sign that Jackson was more than a little kooky. It was a harbinger for what was to come. Now that Jackson is gone, like most, I choose to focus more on the positive and celebrate his life.

Michael Jackson was just becoming huge just as I started paying attention to pop music at age 11. Thriller, the top-selling album of all time, was my introduction to the music industry. Since then, nobody has come close to that level of success. Today, I actually feel privileged to be 37 as I was just old enough to experience and appreciate Jackson's Thriller phenomenon as it was happening. I had only started paying attention to the Chum Radio Top 30 countdown, that weekly video show on Citytv on Saturdays at 5 pm (if I'm recalling correctly, I'm sure there are many others like me in the GTA who clearly recall that great video show.) Much Music was not yet on the scene and MTV wasn't available, at least not on my family's cable.

Jackson's follow-ups, of course, never hit the heights of Thriller, although they still had huge impact. I downloaded a whack of Jackson tunes last night from Limewire after I realized I had nothing by him on my iPod. I'm sure many are doing the same right now.

Yes, Jackson was an enormously troubled individual. I'll let others chronicle his sad history being abused as a child, being denied a real childhood in most respects, plus his mega-fame and megalomania. There is so much about this complicated boy man to dissect, it's hard to know where to start. Andrew Sullivan does a great job here.

For me, the one major aspect that sticks out in my memory was that Michael Jackson was, in the 1980s, often criticized by the macho, straight boys in my life as "girly" and "gay" or "gay-looking." Just a closeted teenager myself, I and others would often defend Jackson, claiming he can't be gay, just listen to the lyrics to "Billie Jean." It was interesting in retrospect how all those heterosexuals out there who made Jackson a superstar were able to accept Jackson despite the fact that he was a slightly femme, genteel, and delicate man, very unmanly and unmacho. Of course, there were other far more androgynous men on the music scene who also had huge followings, but none had been as big as Michael, who became a black icon and a pop icon to millions, crossing all cultural barriers. He was the epitome of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream: through sheer talent and drive, Jackson catapulted himself into the stratosphere, into the hearts of people everywhere.

Was Michael Jackson gay? Was Michael Jackson a pedophile? On both counts, I hope not. On the first count, I highly suspect he was heterosexual. Perhaps his feminine attributes gave reassurance to other men out there, both straight and gay, black and white, that you could be extremely cool and still be thin and girlie. Was it homophobic for many to insist so often that Jackson was straight? Sure it was. Had Michael Jackson come out as gay, would he have been the success he was? No way.

But maybe I'm over-analyzing. Today, I've been watching numerous straight guys on T.V. talk about how much Michael Jackson changed their lives and entertained them. Jackson's immense genius overpowered other elements to his personality we found unsavory. And there were many, particularly late in his life when he retreated into a bizarre fantasy land.

There are many child stars who felt robbed of their childhoods. Not all continue along the path that Jackson chose in his "adulthood." Jackson's legacy is very much his own making. We ought not to feel sorry for him.

Today, I want to focus on the great things he brought to this world: his music, his dancing, his love, his innocence. While much of it was a little weird, much of it remains strangely sympathetic.

We love you, Michael! Rest in Peace!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pride Week thoughts: Canadian politics almost bores, Obama continues to betray LGBT community....

I have almost no time to blog these days. Screenwriting takes up most of my spare time. Plus there hasn't been much in the news to really inspire a post. That was always my technique for blogging: wait for something to inspire me, or anger me, or make me extremely happy enough to write about it.

Alas, the federal political scene is boring as hell with Michael Ignatieff still trying to find his federal leader feet and Harper proving as cunning as ever. I do hope that Iggy finds a way soon to connect with ordinary Canadians and communicate to them clearly what his leadership would provide the country. My fingers remain crossed. The provincial scene is far worse, although the race for the Ontario PC leadership has caught my attention. It will be interesting to see if Ontario Tories, after veering to the centre-right under John Tory, stay there or regress back to 1995 when Ontarians mistakenly believed we could cut taxes irresponsibly and still maintain basic public services.

This may be my last post for the month, not sure. But I do want to wish everyone a Happy Pride Week! I was pleased to see even the Harper Tories are now acknowledging the huge economic windfall that Pride brings to the Ontario economy with this recent announcement, even if the Christian Heritage Party refuses. One question for the CHP: did your anti-abortion protest bring one million people to Ottawa and hundreds of millions of tourist dollars? Nah.

After almost six months of Barack Obama in the White House, it's starting to feel a lot like the 1990s, with little to no gains for American queers despite the many promises from the Democrats on the election trail. I quite agree with the sentiments expressed in this post last month by Andrew Sullivan. But I'd take it a step further: Obama's betrayed his supporters in the gay community and we should make him suffer politically for it. In the end, Obama is nothing more than an extremely talented politician. His delicate and hypocritical stand against equal marriage is proof of that.

I've always believed that smart politicians know how to tend to their base. George W. Bush definitely understood that. And the LGBT community and its friends are one of the basic foundations of the Democratic Party, no doubt. I'd love for Obama to win a second term and do right for his country, including queer Americans. But so far he's been very disappointing on equal rights. If this keeps up, why should LGBT Americans feel any urgency to keep Obama in the White House in 2012? (Unless of course the Republicans find some scary nutbar to run as their presidential candidate.)

In any event, I'm hoping things start to look up soon. In the mean time, I'll keep to my screenwriting and red wine. Enjoy Pride!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The questionable talents of political staffers...

I've been watching with great interest the ongoing Lisa Raitt controversies out of Ottawa, plus the E-health spending scandals out of Queen's Park. As a former political staffer, the Raitt affair has been quite a reminder of the perils faced by political staffers who screw up. On that, former Raitt communications director Jasmine MacDonnell (pictured behind Lisa Raitt) has to take the cake for biggest screw-ups in the shortest amount of time. Due to MacDonnell's negligence, her former boss has been publicly humiliated and the government has suffered greatly in the short term.

You might ask: how did someone so forgetful ascend so quickly and at such a young age to such a senior position in the office of one of the most powerful cabinet ministers in Ottawa? As anyone who's worked in the political back rooms knows, it was likely through personal connections and networking. Somebody somewhere, perhaps in the Prime Minister's office, liked MacDonnell enough to approve her hiring for the job she lost last week. My experience at Queen's Park showed that every senior staffer in ministers' offices had to be approved by the centre as well.

Forget talent, experience, education, all of those things we tell our children they need to succeed in their chosen profession. All politics demands of those who seek powerful, high-paying positions is knowing the right person at the right time. I don't know of any other profession (if you can call working in the political back rooms a profession) where individuals with little talent or ability can use personal connections and rise so rapidly so fast. These are the folks who surround the most powerful people in our society! It's scary.

Hence, we shouldn't be surprised when a political staffer screws up so badly as MacDonnell has done. In truth, these kinds of screw-ups happen all the time. They just rarely cause political headaches this big.

I got into politics because I foolishly wanted to fight for a better province, because I had values I wanted to see implemented into government policy. I first started in opposition at Queen's Park in 1999, inspired by my dislike for Mike Harris's far right agenda. For four years, we opposition Liberals, both elected and unelected, were on a mission: to discredit the government and bring a better government to power. Dalton McGuinty's 2003 election platform was a perfect antidote to the Harris/Eves years and the public rightly agreed.

However, soon after the 2003 election, I noticed a distinct change in many of my young colleagues. While many colleagues fought for position, title and bigger pay brackets, I chose to try to follow my heart, going to work for the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of Democratic Renewal. I would quickly become painfully aware of my own naivete as it was soon obvious that most of Dalton McGuinty's promises with respect to democratic renewal (and many others) were never going to be implemented.

I learned that the qualities needed for success and happiness in the political back rooms were not principles or a desire to do what's right for the people; good political staffers need to be excellent liars, generally amoral and constant "players". Excellent organizational skills and an ability to ignore things that offend you are also helpful. If you want to see a particular policy implemented, you're in for trouble. Compromise is the name of the game in politics, as we know. Even cabinet ministers have to put their principles aside if they're not going to be driven mad by the system.

I don't mean to paint all political staffers with the same brush. There are many with good values who are in it for the right reasons; they simply have a much higher tolerance for the bullshit game of politics than I. I left the political world because I knew I was not particularly talented at playing the "game", and I had many other dreams (like screenwriting) that I had been neglecting. So I moved on.

It's strange years later reading articles about former colleagues I used to know as humble and well-meaning in opposition, who now consider themselves worth $330 per hour for work of little discernible value. Me, I had no desire to milk my connections for all they were worth. I have no interest in lobbying for corporations or causes I don't believe in.

I do feel badly for Jasmine MacDonnell. More than likely, she's got few interests outside politics, so it will be hard for her to move on from this. What political boss or any high-powered boss would want to hire someone after those mistakes?

In the real world, it takes many years of hard work to develop one's skills and abilities so that when you do attain a high ranking position in your chosen field, you've already learned how to avoid the pitfalls that can screw up one's career. Political staffers, who probably volunteered on someone's campaign, learned how to schmooze well and then suddenly found themselves with a salary of $100,000 at age 27 following a cabinet minister around the country, unable to turn off a tape recorder, rarely have that kind of background experience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert comes out, signs record deal"

American Idol 2009 runner-up Adam Lambert has finally ended the speculation about his sexuality: "I don't think it should be a surprise for anyone to hear that I'm gay."

Adam Lambert said it in his highly anticipated Rolling Stone cover (pictured). He reveals that he put off the topic of his sexuality for so long because he just wanted to make sure he came out in the coolest way possible: "Right after the finale, I almost started talking about it to the reporters, but I thought, 'I'm going to wait for Rolling Stone, that will be cooler,'" he says in the issue out this Friday. "I didn’t want the Clay Aiken thing and the celebrity-magazine bullshit. I need to be able to explain myself in context."

This is great! He didn't wait years like Clay Aiken until the revelation was a bit of a redundant joke. This will help Lambert's career big time, I predict.

Read the full Entertainment Weekly article here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yay for New Hampshire! Yay for most of New England!

New Hampshire became the sixth U.S. state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Governor John Lynch signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon.

Read all about it here.

New Hampshire's decision leaves Rhode Island as the only New England state not to allow same-sex marriages.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California backslap: Fight for equality continues and we will win eventually...

In 2000, 61% of Californians voted to ban equal marriage (although not explicitly in the constitution.) In 2008, 52% of California voters also marked ballots banning equal marriage, this time explicitly in the state constitution, a drop of almost 10 points from 2000.

The trend is clear and, according to a poll released today, support for equal marriage may indeed now be over 50% in California. I haven't had a chance to dissect various aspects of today's Supreme Court ruling, which upholds the ban passed by 52% of voters in November, but allows those same sex couples who married in California last summer to stay married. But I suspect the majority of judges probably made their decision to uphold Proposition 8 long ago, and simply found the legal justification to back up that conclusion.

It always seemed unrealistic that the Court would overrule the wishes of voters. I also do believe that progressive change like this is best achieved through legislatures, not through the courts (although I'll take the courts when politicians often prove too gutless to do the right thing.) For a great analysis by someone who has read the ruling, check out this article.

Today's ruling just means that full equality under the law for LGBT citizens in California is delayed for a couple more years. The next referendum on equal marriage in California, I predict, will go our way.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My film 'The Golden Pin' wins Best Canadian Short Award at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival

Last night, the short dramatic film I co-wrote and helped produce, The Golden Pin, by Toronto director and my dear friend Cuong Ngo, won the top short film prize at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival, the Colin Campbell Award. All of us who worked on the film are enormously humbled and thrilled to have achieved this accomplishment. I want to thank all of my friends, family and colleagues who have given us much support and love during this incredible week!

This marks the beginning of the festival run for our film; we have 10 festival submissions pending, including two in Toronto later this year. Plus many, many more to come. Stay tuned. Below is the press release we issued today:

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Golden Pin wins Best Canadian Short Award at Toronto's Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival

Toronto – Toronto director Cuong Ngo's The Golden Pin won the Colin Campbell Award for Best Canadian Short at the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film & Video Festival's closing night party on Sunday.

"I'd like to thank my team for everything. Without them, we can't go together this far," says Cuong Ngo. "It's such a great collaborative work. I'm so glad to prove to the world how strong my love is."

Ngo has great praise for his team, including co-writer Matt Guerin, producer Igor Szczurko, production designer Tom Yarith Ker, DOP Stu Marks, composer Mike Freedman, executive producer Doug Dales, as well as his actors Minh Ngoc Nguyen, Kris Duangphung and Ben Bela Boehm, and everyone else who worked on the film.

Ngo also thanks his professor and mentor, Canadian director John Greyson, as well as the rest of the faculty at York University’s Film Department, who provided Ngo with much support and advice during the production of The Golden Pin.

The jury award comes with a $500 cash prize, which Ngo intends to donate to the AIDS Committee of Toronto. "My dream is to make people happy and help people. Now, my dream came true and I wanted to offer this prize to the community."

The Golden Pin screened during Inside Out's Hogtown Homos showcase on May 20th at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, ON. Many more festival screenings are planned, with pending submissions across Canada, the U.S. and the rest of the world. Together with producers Igor Szczurko, Matt Guerin and Tom Yarith Ker, Ngo's in the development phase of adapting The Golden Pin into a feature film.

Additional information and bios of the filmmakers and cast are available online at


Cuong Ngo - Director/Co-Writer, The Golden Pin

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he graduated at the Cinema and Theatre University of Ho Chi Minh City, BFA (02) before pursuing his second degree in Film Production at York University in Toronto, BFA (09). Cuong directed 2 award winning short comedies in the years of 2003 and 2004 while studying Writing and Linguistic at International Royal Melbourne Institute of Technologies University. Cuong has also directed short films, documentaries and video arts such as: Oops! (06), The White Day (07), Dana (07), Visual Poetry (08), The Hitchhiker Project (08), Cultural Anthropology, National Identity through Ukrainian Dance (08). Cuong Ngo's The Hitchhiker Project (08) was officially selected for presentation at numerous International Film Festivals. His most recent film The Golden Pin (09) world premiered at the Toronto Inside Out Film Festival in May 2009. Together with producers Igor Szczurko, Matt Guerin and Tom Yarith Ker, he's in the development phase of adapting The Golden Pin into a feature film.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tom Flanagan's dumb argument against human rights commissions..

Tom Flanagan's right-wing tendencies seem to have gotten the better of him today with this bullshit article about human rights commissions being unnecessary. Flanagan argues that discrimination in the private sector is unprofitable, therefore there is no need to legislate against it; instead, we should let market forces slowly, gradually convince bigots to stop their evil ways.

It's like saying murder is unprofitable to the murderer. After killing innocent people, the murderer will find himself shunned by his fellow citizens, they won't trust him, he won't be able to work and live in peace, so eventually he'll be convinced that he should give up his murdering ways. We don't need criminal laws against murder, market forces will do the trick.

Dumb, Tom, really, really dumb! It's the kind of argument made by older, conservative, straight, White guys who have never really experienced any kind of discrimination in their lives and therefore can't understand the real damage that it causes.

Reasonable people know that market freedom alone cannot stop things we deem undesirable. If you let the private sector govern itself with little regulation, we get the excess that helped lead to the 2008 economic collapse, you get environmental degradation, you get anything private forces deem the most profitable for them. Without the sober, objective stick of government regulation, the private sector runs amok and leads us all to disaster.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Film on the brain: Four queer movie reviews...

I've been meaning to write reviews on a few movies I've seen lately. The four films below represent a wide gamut of what's currently being put out there by queer or queer-friendly filmmakers, ranging from sharp and thought-provoking to mindless and amusing.

First up, Outrage, which I managed to see during the recent Hot Docs festival in Toronto. Directed by straight filmmaker Kirby Dick, this extraordinary feature documentary shines a light on many closeted, mostly Republican U.S. politicians and other politicos who have found success by scapegoating other gays and lesbians, or at least remaining indifferent to their cause. Many of you have likely heard the names before: Larry Craig, Mark Foley, former New York mayor Ed Koch and many others...

One name I hadn't heard before seeing the doc is current Florida Governor Charlie Crist (pictured right). Watching the numeous clips of Crist in the doc, the assertions are made all the more obvious. The filmmaker interviews two separate sources who claim Crist's former boyfriend once told them about their relationship. Crist, a longtime bachelor, of course, has been a vocal opponent of equality for gays and lesbians since becoming governor of Florida. His opposition to same sex marriage is said to have been a determining factor in the recent 62% victory banning equal marriage in that state's constitution (it needed 60% to pass.) When Crist was running for governor in 2006, he suddenly revealed a female fiancee. After being elected, their relationship came to an end. In 2008, when Crist's name was being bandied about as a possible running mate to John McCain, Crist suddenly came up with another woman who agreed to marry him. They tied the knot in December, just in time for Crist's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Kirby Dick has claimed in interviews that he's got ample proof on every politician he outs in the film. Most of that info. comes to light before the final reel. He doesn't do so to embarrass them, but to instead expose their hypocrisy. One interviewee in the film compares the terrible, anti-gay voting records of these closeted politicians with young closeted gay men, who tend to be the most outwardly homophobic to try to seem as "straight" as possible. There's no doubt this film is a public service and should be required viewing. I also hope it puts to an end any talk of Charlie Crist running for U.S. President in 2012. Truly Crist fits the bill of a politician who's willing to say and "be" anything in order to win higher office.

Patrik, Age 1.5 was the opening night screening at Toronto's Inside Out festival on Thursday. It's the polar opposite of Outrage, profiling a mostly happy same sex couple living in Sweden seeking to adopt a little baby. Due to a bureaucratic mix-up, the men think they're about to adopt a child aged 1.5 years named Patrik. When the real Patrik, aged 15, with a troubled history, shows up on their doorstep, all hell breaks loose. I loved it!

No doubt Patrik, Age 1.5 represents the "coming of age" of queer cinema, in which gay men's lives not only begin to strongly resemble their straight counterparts, but queer cinema itself becomes very PG-rated and family friendly. There's no nudity in this flick, just sweet, well-rounded performances and many predictable, yet satisfying plot twists. It's feel-good film at its best and definitely deserves a watch for those looking for light, untroubling entertainment.

Two other queer films I saw recently are definitely not family-friendly.

Casper Andreas' Between Love and Goodbye, filmed in New York and starring Simon Miller and Canadian Justin Tensen as ill-fated lovers, could be described as the feature narrative polar opposite of Patrik, Age 1.5.

French immigrant and wannabe actor Marcel (the stunningly hot Tensen, the blond on the right) is madly in love with his boyfriend Kyle (Miller), a wannabe musician who plays gigs around the East Village. In order to stay in the U.S., Marcel fake marries their lesbian friend Sarah (Jane Elliott), and it looks like happily ever after is about to begin. Unfortunately, Kyle's troubled transsexual hooker sister/brother April/Cole (Rob Harmon) reappears after a year out of the picture and needs a place to crash. Eventually, sis gets in the way of our two lovers and high drama and much angst ensues.

For most of Andreas' flick, the melodrama works, with frequent flashbacks to various stages of the boys' relationship, showing early passion and love giving way to resentment and deterioration by the end. I was quite taken with the film's theme exploring how a relationship can strangely turn from beautiful to ugly, and the non-linear script highlighted that devastating contrast. Plus the frequent nudity by the two incredibly hot leads certainly spices things up.

But Andreas loses it at the end, torturing us with a terrible conclusion that not only undoes his entire theme but also undermines his characters. I felt cheated. It had been a decent movie up until that point and all I could ask was, 'Why didn't anyone with an ounce of writing talent stop Andreas from leaving this dumb ending in the final cut?'

Stiff Luv, by Toronto director Adrian Keats, is a quirky comedy filmed in the manner of John Greyson's Lilies (i.e. all parts, male and female, are played by male actors, mostly in drag.) That's where the similarities with Greyson's 1996 masterpiece end as Stiff Luv is slightly amateurish, yet not lacking in charm and gusto.

The silly story centers mostly around Liz, played by Sean Kaufman entirely in drag, as she conspires to cover up the death of her fiance. The ultra low-budget flick tries to be a gay slapstick comedy. On that front, it works occasionally, with several laugh-out-loud moments including the hilarious open bar at the funeral home! Why haven't more real funeral homes opened their own?

But the acting is uneven. Some of the drag performances were stunning to watch, while others were not as impressive (sadly I'd have to include the two leads in the latter). Adrian Keats, himself, who shows up near the end as 'Alice Big,' is truly impressive and tears up the scenery in a role reminiscent of Terence Stamp in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Too bad he/she didn't show up earlier. I also really liked the hilarious 'Brian Arser' character played by Bartholomew Sammut, and all the actors playing the male characters were quite cute. Overall, Stiff Luv is watchable and funny, but probably could've used a few more screenplay drafts before proceeding to principal photography.