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"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)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

French anti gay marriage protesters have issues

I'm a little surprised by the vehemence of the protests in France that have erupted after the government recently legalized gay marriage. Isn't this the country whose citizens often snootily point out the superiority of their Gallic culture, what with their 35 hour work week, their long summer vacations, the wine, the foie gras and baguettes? Isn't this the country that just elected a socialist government despite warnings that the country was teetering on the brink of economic collapse because they just couldn't accept those Anglo-Saxon limits to their famous joie de vivre? It seems to me that the French, of all people, would be totally cool with gay marriage - it's so cosmopolitan, after all.

So it turns out that some French people aren't cool with it, and they took to the streets to express their displeasure in the tens of thousands. OK, France is a democracy - people are entitled to peaceable assembly. But in France? Protests against gay marriage seem so ... American.

In typical French contrarian fashion, the young men of Lyon fight the power by removing their shirts and donning Phantom of the Opera masks. Really? You want to protest gay marriage by stripping half naked and marching through the streets like you're in a pride parade? That's so ... gay. Vive la difference.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Home, by Marc Broussard

L'affaire Ford

A few years ago, just before the last Toronto municipal election, I was at a cocktail party in downtown Toronto that was sponsored by an organization of gay professionals that I used to belong to. We were on the rooftop patio of a luxury condo building near the Gay Village, and I was surrounded by wealthy successful gay men, most of them thin, fit and impeccably dressed, swilling Cabernet and enjoying the view of the downtown skyline at night.

Inevitably during the conversation when they found out I was from rural Eastern Ontario, they would roll their eyes and dramatically apologize for the spectacle of the mayoral election that was then underway. Rob Ford was battling it out with George Smitherman, the gay former Ontario cabinet minister whom they tended to refer to as "our George". Ford was so embarrassing to these men; they felt the need to apologize to outsiders for his presence in the election lest people think their beautiful world-class green city was no better than Hamilton or Windsor or Cornwall or one of those other blue-collar sinkholes. Smitherman was everything they wanted in their chief executive: gay and married, hip and downtown. Ford was so ... Etobicoke, for god's sake.

I was reminded of that party this week as l'affaire Ford unfolded in Toronto. Two reporters from the Toronto Star in the back seat of a car took a look at a drug-dealer's cell-phone video purporting to show the Mayor smoking crack and suddenly there's blood in the water and everyone's demanding his resignation and a police investigation. Reporters are staking out his office and his home, following him into coffee shops and parking garages, sticking microphones in his face asking when he's going to step down.

Compare and contrast with the last federal election, when news was leaked to the Toronto Sun that NDP leader Jack Layton had been found naked in a whorehouse in 1996 during a police raid. Layton claimed he was there for a "shiatsu" massage, and his wife Olivia Chow stated matter-of-factly that her husband exercised regularly and needed a massage - end of story. And that was it. The press took his lame excuses at face value and in fact tut-tutted that the Sun had had the audacity to publish the information in the middle of an election. The OPP investigated, not Layton's presence in an illegal bawdy house, but the source of the leak. Layton's popularity in the polls actually went UP after the revelation. The CBC made a hagiographic fan movie about him after his death which never mentioned the incident.

The reason for the difference? The cultural and media cognoscenti in downtown Toronto, like my companions at the cocktail party, are embarrassed by the mere existence of Rob Ford. He is the living negation of everything they stand for. In a city whose government is constantly trying to regulate the unhealthy consumption of its citizens by banning junk food in schools and denying permits to big-box stores and street-food vendors, he is the morbidly obese consequence of unfettered free choice. His predecessor, obsessed with making Toronto the world's greenest city, replaced car lanes on arterial roads with bike lanes, banned vehicle idling and dotted the city with green roofs and Bixi rental bicycles; Ford favours industry over the environment and drives an SUV to work. The downtown Smitherman supporters sip skinny decaf fair-trade lattes at independent coffee shops; Ford goes to Tim Horton's. Smitherman lives downtown - Ford lives in a bungalow in a suburb that is as foreign to his critics as Africa was to 19th century missionaries. They mocked Ford mercilessly because he was fat, and then laughed when he went on a public diet, snickering when it failed.

The people howling for Ford's head on a platter are physically and emotionally repulsed by him. They have the same reaction to his presence at City Hall that most people have when they find some loathsome grub under a rock - "eew, kill it!" They cannot accept that this fat slob was democratically elected by the citizens of Toronto, so he must be destroyed. They cannot wait until the next election in 2014 to oust him - he has to go NOW before David Miller's Toronto becomes unhip, so an unprecedented campaign of harassment and vilification has been unleashed on him.

I'm not a big Rob Ford fan - I think he's tactless and impulsive in a job that requires a lot of patience and diplomacy. However, the people of Toronto elected him and the proper thing for his opponents to do is wait for 2014 and try to vote him out of office. The current clamour for his resignation is unseemly and undemocratic.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Jeff Healey covers How Blue Can You Get in a live performance from 2006

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection: Joe Bonamassa sings Black Night is Falling:

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Big surprise - Gay Stereotype TV can't make money

In Saturday's National Post Tristan Hopper interviewed Brad Danks, Chief Operating Officer of Out TV, a specialty cable channel aimed at the "gay community". Mr. Danks is lobbying the CRTC to loosen its Canadian content requirements for the channel because the current rule requiring 65% CanCon during the day and 50% during prime time is too onerous.

In reponse to the question "What are your main gay Canadian offerings?" Mr. Danks replied:
We’ve picked up CBC shows like Steven and Chris. We’ve got [the talk show] 1 Girl, 5 Gays, which is made for the Logo [network] by MTV Canada. We’ve also got a number of design shows and fashion-type shows that either have gay hosts or iconic gay figures. We have one show with [interior designer] Sarah Richardson, for example, and she really seems to hit the buttons with a lot of the community.
Then there's this exchange:
Do you find yourself needing to stretch the definition of both “gay” and “Canadian?”
Sure, I can think of a few examples. Some of our shows are less “on the nose” gay, but our audience tells us that not every show has to be about drag queens. We play the New Addams Family, for example. It gets good ratings, it’s got a lot of gay characters but it’s not obviously gay.
There’s gay characters in the New Addams Family?
Oh, yeah. There’s all kinds of underpinnings and innuendos. I guess the best way to put it is that it’s a very campy show so it can fill that void — and it’s Canadian content.
Ugh. Couldn't they find a show about lesbians in plaid shirts and short haircuts talking about their Subarus while playing softball? I have absolutely no interest in a channel whose programming contains not much more than the time-worn gay stereotypes of interior decorators, fashion designers and campy comedy characters, all of which are already well represented on existing "straight" channels.

 I have some unsolicited advice for Mr. Danks: there already is content on TV targeted at the gay community - it's called regular TV. Most gay people lead shockingly normal lives. We live in the suburbs and out in the country, not just in swank condos in urban gay villages. We are accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers, civil servants and pro athletes, not just interior decorators and campy drag queens. When we sit down at the end of a long day at work, we like to watch the same news, the same sitcoms, the same hockey games and the same lifestyle channels that straight people do.

In 2006 actor John Stamos starred in a dreadful made-for-TV movie called Wedding Wars. Stamos played (not too convincingly) a gay wedding planner who was arranging his straight brother's wedding. The brother was a speech writer for a Republican governor (played by James Brolin) who had written a speech for his boss opposing gay marriage. Outraged, Stamos led a gay strike in protest, and the rest of the show was about high society grinding to a complete halt as thousands of gay florists, interior decorators, Broadway chorus boys and hair dressers walked off the job in protest. Was there a single gay dentist, electrician, engineer, financial planner or construction worker depicted? No - nothing but flamboyant campy characters who reinforced the worst stereotypes that some straight people have about gays. The show missed a great opportunity to show the true face of today`s gay community.

I'm not surprised that OutTV has gone bankrupt twice before the current owners took charge. They have a business model that relies on tired cliches that are as relevant to the gay community as blackface minstrel shows are to the black community. There's not much need for a gay cable TV channel in today's media universe; most gays are just regular people who like to watch regular TV and not endless reruns of Will and Grace.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Blues for a Saturday Night

Tonight's selection - T Bone Walker's Stormy Monday in a great cover by the Allman Brothers: