banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dear God, no

Please tell me that this is some kind of early April Fool's joke:
Controversial Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda is expected to portray former Republican first lady Nancy Reagan in director Lee Daniels's upcoming White House-set drama Butler
Hanoi Jane playing Nancy Reagan? That ought to play well in fly-over country. But wait - it gets better:
John Cusack is negotiating to portray Richard Nixon
Ugh. What, Leonardo diCaprio wasn't available?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Love, politics & boxing

On March 31, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau will step into a boxing ring and face off against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, and in an unusual alignment of circumstances that I thought would never happen, I'll be sitting ringside with my boyfriend. He surprised me with the tickets a few weeks ago and said "I couldn't think of anything that would make you happier than seeing Justin Trudeau getting a beat-down from a Conservative."

I came out in 2007 at the age of 48 (I wrote about that here if you're interested) and after a difficult period of adjustment and self-examination decided to start dating after many years of self-imposed seclusion. It wasn't easy, especially since I live in a rural area and meeting other gay men usually involves travelling to a city where I sometimes feel like a fish out of water. I met a few nice guys and some real jerks, but in every case a budding relationship ran up against the brick wall of politics. I'm a conservative - I was born that way. However, being a conservative in the gay community is usually an insurmountable obstacle to dating. (I wrote about one such foray here.)

I dated a guy who dumped me when he asked me "You're all for lower taxes - tell me exactly what you would cut from the budget to pay for it?" When I suggested that the CBC and the LCBO should be privatized and transfer payments to the provinces eliminated to force them to deal with their own economies, he went apoplectic and ended our relationship the next day. I met another guy on a blind date whose first attempt at polite conversation was a joke about Stephen Harper; when he noticed I wasn't laughing, he said "Don't tell me you're a Conservative?" When I replied that indeed I was, but I considered myself more of a libertarian, he actually banged his head on the table of the restaurant where we were eating and moaned "What, don't you believe in roads?" I went on another date to a cabaret theatre where the main act was three drag queens making jokes about Conservatives (example: "Stephen Harper is so stupid he thinks the Kyoto Accord is a car made by Honda") while my companion roared with approving laughter.

So, it was with a little trepidation that I went on a blind date in August 2010 with Michel. I didn't have high hopes. We had chatted on the phone and I'd found out that he was French Canadian, born and raised in Montreal, but had lived in Ottawa for almost 30 years where he works as a financial analyst for the Federal Government. Little warning bells were going off; bilingual French Montrealer, federal civil servant - probably a Liberal. Oh well, what did I have to lose? I met him for lunch in Ottawa's Byward Market and, as usual, tried not to talk much about politics.

We hit it off well, and lunch extended into a four-hour stroll through the Market, stopping at cafes and ice cream shops. The subject of the Harper government inevitably came up, but Michel surprised me when he said "You know, this is Ottawa's dirty little secret - working in the civil service under the Tories is no different than working under the Liberals - we're just doing our jobs. They won the election and they have a right to implement their policies." Wow. When we walked past a grocery store with some Portuguese signs in the window he said "Why does anyone speak Portuguese anymore? There are only, what, three countries in the world that speak it? Why don't they just speak Spanish in Brazil like all their neighbours?" I cautiously said, knowing that he was a Quebecois pure laine, "Doesn't that same argument apply to Quebec?" and he floored me with his answer. "The difference between Brazil and Quebec is that Brazil is an emerging nation - nothing has emerged from Quebec except spite. That's why I live in Ottawa."

At this point I was smitten. When I dropped him off at his house, I said "I'd really like to see you again" and he replied "Of course!" We've been in a relationship ever since. Michel is a real rarity - an independent thinker. He loves to discuss politics but isn't shy about challenging me or sensitive about being challenged. We watch Ezra Levant on Sun News and his head doesn't explode. He doesn't think Pierre Trudeau is the greatest thing to ever happen to this country.





















So, a few weeks ago he called me up and said "Guess what I got you for your birthday?" Then he revealed that he had bought two ringside tickets for the Fight for the Cure fundraiser for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. It features a four-course gourmet dinner, but the undoubted highlight of the evening will be when Justin Trudeau steps in the ring with Patrick Brazeau for three rounds of Olympic-style boxing, announced by Ezra Levant. Brazeau is a 37 year old bruiser with biceps the size of hams and has a black belt in karate. Watching him box Trudeau is going to be epic; and watching it with my boyfriend is like a dream come true.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection - Feelin' Bad Blues featuring the great Ry Cooder on slide guitar.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leftists are funny that way

A friend sent me a link the other day hoping to push my buttons and stir me into ranting; mission accomplished. The article in question is a report from CNN reporter Brandon Griggs - Is political comedy inherently leftist? Well, Brandon - I guess it is if you spend your entire life surrounded by leftists, working at a news organization dominated by leftists, socializing with leftists and attending leftist cultural festivals.
The vast majority of comedians lean to the left. Right-wing comedy is a rarity on the Internet. And Republicans are typically easier to make fun of than Democrats.
But comedians shouldn't take a political stance when trying to be funny.
That was the consensus of a panel of admittedly left-leaning comedy experts at South By Southwest Interactive, the digital culture festival under way in this Texas capital.
OK - first of all, the discussion is being held in Austin; an island of liberals in a conservative Texas sea:
Residents of Austin are known as "Austinites". They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty & staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers and businesspeople. The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the "Silicon Hills" nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World", a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits . In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird". This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and, as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community.
The occasion for the panel is the South By Southwest Festival. Here's how CNN describes it:
Every March, thousands of young, jeans-wearing techies, filmmakers and musicians descend upon Austin, Texas, harboring dreams of getting noticed and hitting it big. They come not just for the balmy weather or the Tex-Mex food but for South by Southwest, a collection of conferences and festivals that’s considered one of the most influential happenings on the annual cultural calendar.”
I'm just guessing, but there are probably not a lot of G.W. Bush fans in attendance.

CNN goes on:
"Comedy has a recklessness that doesn't lend itself to the conservative lifestyle," said Rory Albanese, an executive producer and writer for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." "It's the same reason why Christian rock bands aren't as good as regular rock bands."
Albanese was joined on the panel by Carol Hartsell, comedy editor of The Huffington Post, and comedian-author Sara Benincasa, a contributor to Vice.com -- although Albanese did most of the talking. During a freewheeling hour, the trio riffed on everything from the nature of humor online to GOP candidate Rick Santorum's recent comment that President Barack Obama is "a snob" for wanting young people to attend college.
Albanese admitted that after eight years of making jokes about President George W. Bush, it was difficult at first for "The Daily Show" to take aim at Obama. He said Obama's measured statements aren't easy targets for parody.
"There's funny stuff on the left, but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper. I can't say all the lies in politics come from the right. I think a lot of them come from the left," he said during the event Friday. "I do think it's important to try and come at things from all sides. What we do is poke fun at the [political] system, poke fun at the process."
Ah yes, I'm sure it's just so difficult to make fun of Obama. After all, what's funny about an inexperienced, narcissistic social worker who's in love with the sound of his own voice? What's funny about a guy who picks Joe Biden (!), a one-man gaffe machine, as his running mate? What's funny about a guy who says with a straight face, referring to his own nomination by the Democratic Party, "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"? A Nobel Peace Prize winner who is blowing Pakistani tribesmen to smithereens with unmanned aerial drones while sending the US Air Force to pound Libya into submission and aircraft carrier groups through the Strait of Hormuz to piss off Iran? Yup, that sure must take some deep digging.

Just for fun, I searched for Obama jokes from late night comedians to see how hard it was to make fun of the President. They make for some interesting reading. Most of the time, when the comics can bring themselves to joke about him, the humour indirectly targets Republicans and pokes fun at Obama for being unfortunate enough to have to govern such an ungrateful country. Here's an example from David Letterman:
One by one the Republican candidate potentials have been shooting themselves in the foot making huge, horrible gaffes and they just look silly. It's gotten so bad that President Obama is now worried he may actually be re-elected.
Here's another from Conan O'Brien:
A man jumped the White House fence, but after a brief chase, the Secret Service was able to talk President Obama into coming back and finishing his term.
Another recurring theme in late night monologues is the use of Obama as a vehicle for making fun of Republicans. For example, four years after G.W. Bush left office, Jimmy Fallon just can't let go:
Rush Limbaugh said yesterday that Obama never would have tracked down bin Laden if it weren't for George W. Bush's policies. Although in fairness, Obama never would have even been elected if it weren’t for George W. Bush's policies.

"President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. That's right, bin Laden is dead — just like the Republicans' chances in 2012.
Ha, ha - those are real knee-slappers there, Jimmy.

Griggs continues:
Albanese said the 2011-2012 Republican primary campaign, with such colorful candidates as Rick Perry and Hermain Cain, has been comic gold for "The Daily Show" and other jokesters.
"With all due respect to the candidates, there is the view that all of them are insane. A guy like Santorum, who's taking an anti-college stance? That's funny. I mean, who the f--- is against college?"
Yeah, I guess that would get a few laughs from the slackers and stoners at South By Southwest where all the U of Texas undergraduates in their sixth year of Post-colonial Queer Women's Studies hang out collecting ironic T shirts. I'm sure the guys drinking beer at the VFW in Bismarck North Dakota got a real chuckle out of that one.

Leftist comics are like leftists in general - they live in a bubble surrounded by like-minded people who constantly tell them how funny and insightful they are. When they do venture more than a hundred miles from the coast it's to go to South By Southwest or Burning Man, which are mercifully free of people living the "conservative lifestyle". They look at conservatives like Dian Fossey looked at the Gorillas in the Mist - an alien and primitive species not as intelligent as they are. Those people in fly-over country are so cute when they try to understand complex things like politics, like watching a dog walk on its hind legs.

You know, conservatives don't find this condescension remotely funny.

Where's the Kony 2012 money going?

It seems that Invisible Children, the "advocacy and awareness organization" behind the Kony 2012 viral video that has slackers all over the world suddenly interested in Uganda, is a little less than forthcoming about where the approximately $15 million in donations it has received is being spent. Reason has the details - be sure to read the whole thing:
One of the first blogs to call attention to IC's finances, Visible Children, notes that IC has sold over 500,000 action kits over the past week. At $30 a piece that equals roughly $15 million in revenue. The action kits include posters, stickers, a Kony bracelet, etc. According to IC, if you buy an action kit, "people will think you’re an advocate of awesome."

But not a humanitarian.

In an interview with GOOD magazine, Jedidah Jenkins, IC's director of ideology (yes, that's his real title), explained IC's finances and mission:
Thirty-seven percent of our budget goes directly to central African-related programs, about 20 percent goes to salaries and overhead, and the remaining 43 percent goes to our awareness programs. Those include things like flying Ugandans to America to go on cross-country awareness tours we pay for. And our staff in America has to go to Uganda, too. We got criticized for spending $1 million on travel expenses, but getting 130 people around the country and around the world is expensive. But aside from that, the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization. [Emphasis added.]
How many people who bought these action kits know they're funding hipsters uploading videos to Vimeo? Unless IC radically overhauled it financial structure, only 37 percent of the money raised from these action kits will directly help people in eastern Africa. At best. Everything else will fund overhead, salaries and raising awareness. But with over 75 million views on YouTube, Kony 2012 is already the most viral video ever. How much more awareness does this organization need?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Stacy Mitchhart does a great blues cover of Led Zeppelin's Black Dog/Whole Lotta Love

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Married to the Blues, by Shemekia Copeland

Thursday, March 01, 2012

My brief encounter with Andrew Breitbart

I was stunned to learn today that Andrew Breitbart had died at the age of 43. He had a big influence on me as a blogger and the conservative movement has lost one of its most influential voices.

Like many people, I had a political epiphany after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I suddenly saw the world in a whole new light, and until that event the vacuous politics of the left flew largely under my radar when they didn't have a direct impact on my life. Three years later, during the 2004 US presidential election, I saw the establishment media in a full court press to elect John Kerry and the loathsome John Edwards and to discredit Bush and the Republican Party. For the first time I felt that the media were not only filtering events related to the election, but were out and out lying about it to get Kerry elected. I turned to blogs to try to find another perspective; that was when I discovered sites like the Drudge Report, Instapundit, Powerline and of course Breitbart.com. They inspired me to get involved and start my own blog to add to the conversation, which I did in 2006.

In one of my early posts (I think it was about gay marriage but I can't remember) I linked to an article of his. On a good day I get maybe 200 hits on a post - I'm really in the lower echelon of bloggers (which is fine with me). So, it came as a complete shock to get a brief email from none other than Andrew Breitbart himself! My God, one of the blogging titans had read something I had written and taken the time to send me a note! Here's what he said:
just scanned your work. great stuff.

gay canadian libertarian conservative? how many do you think there are?

best,
andrew
That's it - two short lines - but what an effect it had. It was like a master chef arriving at your backyard barbecue and saying "nice hamburger". He had that affect on conservative bloggers. We're going to miss him.