Sunday, December 31, 2006

Live-blogging the Hinterland

My grandfather died on Christmas Eve, and so on the 28th I was duty-bound to attend his memorial service. Not that I would have missed it anyway, as duty is something I enjoy. I'm like the Queen that way. And in that way only, you bitches.

I left Vancouver for the wilds of the deepest, darkest Okanagan valley -- Kelowna, to be more precise -- for just that purpose. Well, that and to cement my reputation as a eulogist, which is well-deserved.

[Spoiler Alert: It ends up I couldn't deliver my eulogy; writer's block and emotion got the better of me. - MSM]

Thursday, 10:38 AM -- I left my house to take my keys to my friend Doug's place so he can make sure in my absence that Pandora doesn't waste away to... Well, let's face it, I'd have to be gone alot longer than three days for Pandora to even waste away to her ideal weight. Still, I thought she might like a bit of company now and then while I'm gone.

11:24 AM -- I arrive at the bus station. I buy my ticket, get in line behind four racy old ladies, and wait for the noon bus to leave.

12:18 PM -- Still no sign of the bus, despite 114 people waiting to crowd onto a bus that seats 55 including the driver. As clusterfucks go, this is below the Iraq War but worse than Nipplegate.

12:45 PM -- The bus arrives and I shoulder aside the half dozen people who attempted to shoulder me aside. I do allow a pair of siblings on ahead of me because the brother of the pair is cute. I figure on a ride as long as this one I at least deserve a nice view.

1 PM -- I finally eat something. I hadn't eaten sooner because I sort of expected the clusterfuck at the bus station and didn't want to be all nice about it, since there's no way I was taking an aisle seat. The bus ride goes more or less as planned from there. It's a nice sunny day, and after we pass Hope there's snow in the mountains (until about 4:30, when the sun goes down). I listen to music, read the year-end editon of Spin, and a few chapter's of Miri Rubin's fascinating book "The Hollow Crown" about England from Edward II to Richard III (c. 1300-1485). As fascinating as this book is it's better than Ambien, and I manage to catch up on an hour of sleep (only 3,245 and I'll be caught up).

6:30 PM -- I arrive in Kelowna. It's changed even since September (the last time I was here). There are Christmas lights galore and every third billboard bears a reminder that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. I remember why I left.

Friday 1 AM -- Sometime during Craig Ferguson's monologue I drift off into a restless sleep.

10 AM -- I begin anew in my deliberations to write a eulogy, the end result of which (after three long hours) is a decision to ad-lib from notes.

2 PM -- I take my mother's boyfriend's dog for a walk in the hopes that the fresh air will clear my mind. It does, and I take some spectacular pictures of winter in the hideous built environment of Kelowna. Alas, no new inspiration hits, and I half-decide to improvise my eulogy, since I seem to be coping with the whole thing rather well.

[Redundant Spoiler alert: I still can't believe I wimped out. - MSM]

4 PM -- My mother and I go to the funeral home to set up. We put pictures on boards using magnetic frames. Mine is an organised cluster like the ones I have all around my apartment. My mother puts hers up will-nilly; I have to admit that, under the circumstances, hers looks better. It's fun and whimsical, whereas mine is tighter than Martha Stewart. Then again, I have always coped with chaos by imposing rigid order.

5 PM -- My mother goes to her nail appointment. I sit there and read the new Blender, which miraculously has appeared when I needed it most. Since there's no new New Yorker this week, and I've bought all the other new magazines, I nearly had to pass time in a temple of vanity by staring at a wall. One of the women has her hot boyfriend with her. I could have used my considerable powers of bullshit to spend time staring at him (under the guise of my keen interest in the hockey season -- yeah...) but I remember that, other than construction, Kelowna hasn't changed at all, and the Homosexual Panic Defense still applies here, so change my mind.

6:30 PM -- Back at home my mother prepares to cook the life out of a roast (also known as Grandma-style), which in itself is a tribute to my grandfather, who bellieved that the best way to cook meat was well-done. After all, it says what it is right in the name: well-done. She and I and her boyfriend hang around and talk, mess around with the dogs and cats, reminisce about the great man we've lost (my grandfather) while marking the passing of his opposite number (So long Saddam!) and enjoy a cocktail or two each. It's nice to be, despite our sad loss, happy.

9 PM -- Supper's over and a perfunctory clean-up performed. We all drift off to our respective sleeping areas in a meagre effort to defeat fatigue.

Saturday 8 AM -- I am awakened by a series of wet noses and furry bodies, alas all either feline or canine. Well, only half-alas, in the same way the glass is half-full, because it has to be.

9:30 AM -- With a minimum of grief we manage to get ourselves ready, and head off for the funeral home.

9:41 AM -- We arrive at the funeral home.

9:41:10 AM -- I start crying like a bitch.

10 AM -- The memorial service begins. I have so much wet Kleenex in my pocket it feels like an octopus in there. I keep telling myself other, similarly sophomoric, things to give myself the occasional break from crying like a bitch. What I actually manage to see of the service looks beautiful.

11 AM -- The service is over, I stick my face in the ice machine to try and bring down the swelling, and the reception begins.

12:10 PM -- The reception ends, rather too abruptly for my liking, and we clean up.

12:15 PM -- Checking the schedule at the bus station, it looks like we have ninety minutes to kill. My mother's boyfriend takes us to Kelowna Flightcraft, where he works. I learn what a "winglet" looks like. It's not even remotely related to the winglets I used to cook at Red Robin. I take some more cool pictures.

2 PM -- Back at the bus station, where I and a couple of hundred strangers are cattle-prodded onto a bus that seats 48.

2:30 PM -- The bus leaves, more or less on time. It occurs to me that if we go off the road on the way home some alien archaeologists centuries from now are going to have one big head-scratcher.

3 PM -- I vow that the next time I take the bus I will put my spine in my carry on luggage, where there's more room.

4 PM -- My iPod's been playing so long it's warm to the touch. This can't be good.

5 PM -- Though I can't see it, I know from memory that the scenery outside is spectacular, a veritable Hinterland winer wonderland. I start humming along to John Mayer's song, which I have renamed "Your Body is A Hinterland", mainly to amuse myself.

6:30 PM - That spot on the top of my right foot my Dayton's like to torture finally loses nerve function permanently. My leg has now not so much fallen asleep as swallowed a bottle of Seconal. My seatmate, despite being the twink fantasy of my dreams, makes his last homophobic text message to his buddy, whose nickname seems to be "fag".

7 PM -- Having stopped now half a dozen times, each time to bring more people on the bus than have left it, I volunteer myself for the overhead bin, where at least I'll be able to stretch my legs. We've stopped at hope, where for eighteen glorious seconds I have a seat to myself. I begin texting my friends in the hopes that if I can keep my fingers along I won't die and be disposed of at the Chilliwack bus station. The Chilliwack bus station was originally designed to be Dante's tenth ring of Hell, but was later scrapped on the grounds no one would believe anything so outlandish.

7:45 PM -- We have finally reached Langley, so I get on the phone and start calling people.

8:51 PM -- The lights of the city appear. I take a breath mint and apply lip balm in preparation for loving up the tarmac.

9 PM -- Back at last!

What happened next is between me, my conscience, and the RCMP (if they even care).
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Egregious Paranoia Department - The End of Gay

Recently Joe. My. God. posted this cheery news, topped (?) by a quote from Martina Navratilova:

" 'For the sake of the animals who will die unnecessarily in these experiments and for the many gays and lesbians who stand to be deeply offended by the social implications of these tests, I ask that you please end these studies at once.' - [written] in a letter to Oregon State University just published on the PETA-affiliated site Stop Animal Testing, in response to research being done on sheep that is meant to help scientists learn how to alter the sexual preference of gay animals.

"Ostensibly meant to help sheep farmers who are burdened by the 10% of rams that prefer to mount other rams, the research has vast implications for gay society. If scientists can discover the "gay switch" or how to prenatally influence the sexual orientation of animals, the switch to human implementation will be immediate, widespread and unstoppable. The "homo vaccine" may be as simple as hormone patch worn during pregnancy. A real-world Twilight Of The Golds could mean the end of homosexuality in this century."

Well I never!

Of course, this issue has been sticking in my craw ever since allegedly gay scientist Simon LeVay started his research into this field, which first came to my attention in 1992.

I responded with the following comment:

"They've been trying to do this for decades. The same Christians who can't condone abortion for any reason will suddenly have a change of heart.

"The best hope is that the human genome is complicated enough that it could be multiple linked factors which "cause" homosexuality.

"The minute they genetically "cure" gay it'll be our responsibility to take our best dyke friend down to the IVF clinic and spunk in a cup for her. Abort the straight ones and there we go.

As for curing gay sheep, I say just keep them away from the farmers and they should be alright. ; ) "

One of my more coherent comments, if I do say so myself, probably because I've had the time to develop some eloquence about the issue. In fact, I believe the straights have been tolerating us as well as they have for the past few years because they're close to making this breakthrough.

Now, I'm not ex-Gay, I'm post-Gay. I've always been a proponent of assimilation on our terms, and isolating the gay gene won't make me run back to the ghetto. I'd consider it my responsibility to continue my missionary work among liberals and single mothers who'd like a son who calls occasionally but does not create a teenage babymama drama. Maybe a gay baby will become a trend among celebrities, like Unicef adoptions and toy dogs are now.

In a world threatened by overpopulation, with more parentless children than ever growing up in foster care, a little gay doesn't seem like a bad idea. Not to mention what it'll do to beauty, fashion, and the stage. The stage will be hit the hardest, I think; metrosexuals might look like us, but they aren't half as bendy.

The most interesting aspect of the whole struggle will be the (initially) laboured justifications offered by religious fundamentalists. You know, the ones who oppose stem cell research and all that now. It'll be an about-face worthy of "Wrong-way" Corrigan.
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Egregious Paranoia Department - HRH Prince Harry

If you've read this blog at all it might have occurred to you that I tend to worry as a form of innoculation. I figure as long as I'm worrying about something it'll never come to pass, and a couple of sleepless nights is the least I can do to prevent some dread inevitability or other from coming about. So why not turn this worry into something entertaining and thought-provoking for my readers? Well, my reader, anyway.

Some of you may recall that the Fleet Street media in the UK has often cast aspersions on the paternity of Prince Harry; not to sell papers, mind you, but because they just care so much. Notwithstanding that the Spencer line is loaded with redheads, and that both of her boys overwhelmingly favour their Spencer progenitors (which is why they hired her in the first place - duh!), there are those who have dared to insinuate that, while the Princess of Wales is undoubtedly his mother somehow the Prince of Wales is not Harry's father. That somehow James Hewitt -- the Princess' ne'er-do-well ex-boyfriend -- is Harry's real father.

FACT: The Princess never met James Hewitt until Harry was two or three years old. Since much of their affair is on the public record and easily checked (Diana was on the shortest possible leash from Buckingham Palace and Fleet Street until just before the affair started, etc.) this ought to be enough to put the rumours to rest. Alas, the public's memory is even shorter than its attention span.

FACT: Harry, like The Princess Royal, favours the Duke of Edinburgh's side of the family rather than The Queen's. Harry's resemblance to the Duke of Edinburgh at the same age is remarkable.

FACT: The Royal Family takes these matters very seriously, since marching bunches of hotties around in front of old palaces in archaic costumes and supporting charitable causes is about all they do when they're not micromanaging the bloodline. Just to be on the safe side they allegedly had his DNA tested (and while Diana was still alive too -- nice!).

Now it seems that, despite repeated assertions by Sandhurst Academy, the Ministry of Defence, and the Palace to the contrary, Prince Harry is to serve with the British army in Iraq in keeping with his new status as a Second Lieutenant.

If Prince Harry dies in Iraq there will be blood on the hands of everyone from 10 Downing Street to the Palace responsible for putting him into harm's way in the first place. Of course, this is just how conspiracy theories are born, a fact which all involved must know well enough, given how the chattering classes have mercilessly picked apart Diana's death for nearly a decade when the cause of Diana's death was that -- wait for it -- she wasn't wearing a seatbelt.

If I'm right (and the gods know I don't want to be) then I'll be hailed as a seer, and make a tidy living selling whatever else I can spew to Star magazine a la the late Jeane Dixon for the rest of my (hopefully) long life. If I'm wrong, and Prince Harry dies in his bed, peacefully, as a very old man, being known as an occasional crackpot and sensationalist (or what we in the business like to call "a Novelist") is the least I can do to ensure the safety of Diana's legacy.
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Footnote to History - Oliver Sipple

I'm still a little peeved that the obituary of President Ford I spent two hours working on last night seems to have vanished into cyberspace, like Susan Powter, never to be seen again.

However, in doing further reading I realise now that my obituary had a couple of mistakes in it (which I would have remedied the moment I found them). Which just goes to show that often when crappy things happen they happen for good reasons. It's just too bad they always seem to happen to me and don't happen more to Matt Drudge.

Again, I should just stick to what I do and let people who are good at such things do them.

Thanks to Towleroad, I can do just that. This is the first of what I'd like to make a regular feature here at the Pop Culture Institute. It concerns the day a gay man saved the President's life, so gather round children and let me relate the story...

"[President] Ford might have died on September 22, 1975, when an attempt was made on his life by Sara Jane Moore outside the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, less than three weeks after a similar assassination attempt was made by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme in Sacramento.

"This time Ford's life was saved by Oliver Sipple, a former Marine who lunged at Moore, deflecting the intended bullet. Sipple was instantly commended but the incident inspired curiosity about the former soldier and it was revealed by Harvey Milk that he was a gay man, a fact that was not known by either his employer or his family. The resulting attention (Harvey Milk, who wanted to show that gay men were not all child molesters and perverts, anointed him a gay hero, inspiring a widely-syndicated write-up from noted columnist Herb Caen) freaked his mother enough to cause her to disown him. At the time Sipple pleaded with reporters: "I want you to know that my mother told me today she can't walk out of her front door because of the press stories...My sexual orientation has nothing to do with saving the President's life."

"Sipple battled the "outing" in court for the next nine years, a battle that was never won. It may have cost the man his sanity. Sipple was found in his San Francisco apartment in February 1989 next to a bottle of booze. Alcoholic and obese, he had been dead for two weeks.

"Gerald Ford did not attend the funeral and instead sent family and friends a letter of condolence. He was criticized by some who said that were Sipple heterosexual he would have been treated differently. Ford told journalist Deb Price in a 2001 interview: "As far as I was concerned, I had done the right thing and the matter was ended. I didn't learn until sometime later — I can't remember when — he was gay. I don't know where anyone got the crazy idea I was prejudiced and wanted to exclude gays."

Kinda makes you think. Or, you know, not. Hey, at least it has nothing to do with Paris Hilton.

These events are dealt with in greater depth in Randy Shilts' great book "The Mayor of Castro Street". I suggest you hurry on down to your local gay bookstore and buy or order this amazing book.
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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Cold Reminder of Global Warming

It's starting to happen people.

"Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

"As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities.

"Eight years ago, as exclusively reported in The Independent on Sunday, the first uninhabited islands - in the Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati - vanished beneath the waves. The people of low-lying islands in Vanuatu, also in the Pacific, have been evacuated as a precaution, but the land still juts above the sea. The disappearance of Lohachara, once home to 10,000 people, is unprecedented."

But when all the islands are gone where will the plutocrats go to abuse people working for $2 a day?

[Source: The Independent (UK) via]
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Why Are There No Boxing Day Songs?

I mean, there are songs for Christmas Eve and songs for Christmas. There are songs for Hanukkah and even one for Kwanzaa (Shirley Q. Liquor's "The 12 Days of Kwanzaa"). There are songs for just about everything but none for Boxing Day.

We (well, I) here at the Pop Culture Institute are going to add the writing of a Boxing Day song to our (well, my) To-Do List.

Just don't get your hopes up; my To-Do list is about eight years long.

Oh, and happy Kwanzaa; it starts today.
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Monday, December 25, 2006

A Brand New Day

I can fight it no more.

Try as I might to be deep and intellectual I'm really neither. The fact is I have a shallow streak a mile wide (even though it never gets deeper than an inch). While I have often defended this trait of mine as an "overly-developed sense of the aesthetic" or some crap like that, truth be told there's nothing I like looking at more than a beautiful man. Unless it's two to five beautiful men in a...

Uh, but then that's a different matter altogether.

So now -- just like every second or third blog on the Net -- I'm in the celebrity gossip business, albeit with the existing pronounced self-help bent intact. (Sample advice: don't act like celebrities and you should be fine.) After all, just because I'm a sheep doesn't mean I can't be a black one.

It also liberates me from feeling the need to publish an essay whenever I post; I can just publish a paragraph or two several times a day and be done with it. I can also add more photos to the mix and maybe goose up my arts coverage (since my apartment is already brimming over with magazines and the like, and I'm rarely without the newest music and DVDs, by hook or by crook).

Also, in the case of the recent fracas between Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell I hope I can add my long years of star-gazing to clarify matters of ego. (He cheated, he declared bankruptcy, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let anyone with Orlon hair get away with calling anyone -- even a slob like Rosie O'Donnell -- a slob.) Given that celebrity culture has given us a collective memory span most easily measured in nanoseconds, I thought that my singular contribution could be to stretch that out at least to a few minutes. As a life's calling I think it has equal parts nobility and futility.

In addition to pursuing celebrity culture from a Canadian and gay male vantage point I can also pursue it from a Vancouver perspective. I've often seen stars when I've been out and about, but for some reason I've never seen fit to write about these encounters. I guess I was too busy trying to be deep and intellectual, when I'd have been better off sticking to what I know: being caustic yet cautionary.

And of course: playlists! What would infotainment be without lists?
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mid-December Playlist (excerpted): How to Have a Mary Christmas

Christmas is a very healing time for me. I love the lights, the decorations, how the darkest part of the year is suddenly alive with warmth and colour.

The music, on the other hand, sucks.

The same twelve songs, over and over, screeched or bawled or mumbled or just plain fucked up by every singer who ever lived. The best thing about Christmas music is it only lasts a couple of weeks. It's also the worst thing.

Apparently, some of our more progressive music acts feel the same way about Christmas music as I do, because in the past few years there has been a real renaissance in this genre, which I hope the playlist shows. Also, over the years I've come to like the occasional versions of those dread 12 songs.

The following are the Christmas songs I'll be listening to:

Hanukkah Song - Adam Sandler
All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth - Alvin & The Chipmunks
Christmas Don't Be Late - Alvin & The Chipmunks
Green Christmas - Barenaked Ladies
Lonely Christmas Eve - Ben Folds Five
White Christmas - Bing Crosby
Bootleggers' Christmas - Calvin Hillier
I Saw Three Ships - Celtic Connection
Hard Candy Christmas - Dolly Parton
Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Christmas Day - Green Day
Christmas Night In Harlem - Louis Armstrong
Santa Baby - Madonna
I Hate Christmas - Oscar the Grouch
Homo Christmas - Pansy Division
Christmas in the Harbour - The Punters
I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus - RuPaul
I'm Gettin' Nuttin' For Christmas - Shirley Temple
I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas - Shirley Temple
(It's Hard To Be A) Jew on Christmas - Kyle Broflovski (South Park)
Merry Fucking Christmas - Mr. Garrison (South Park)
Christmas Card From A Hooker in Minneapolis - Tom Waits
Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
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Monday, December 11, 2006

My Date With Density

All day long, all the omens were there: I left my house and practically walked on to a bus, I got into the doctor's office ahead of a rush, there was a hot guy in the chair opposite me at Blenz when I did my review. I entered the exam room in a very Zen place and walked out an official First Aid Attendant (OFA II).

Stress is not your friend, but it can be turned to your advantage. The important thing to remember is, when it stops working, turn it off. Once stress is no longer motivational it becomes detrimental, and that's where they get ya.

Also, once you stop ambushing yourself, it'll amaze you how successful you actually are.
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Friday, December 08, 2006

Does Victoria's Secret Make A Push-Up Life?

There are bad weeks and there are bad weeks. I have had both kinds. In fact, I have had all kinds of bad weeks. Some are weather bad, or work bad, or social bad. In fact, they're all at least two out of three. But the past two weeks have taken bad to levels even Dante couldn't imagine. I'm talking Ann Coulter bad.

You see, in order for me to work at Emily Carr I need to take a First Aid course. No problem there, you might think. You'd be wrong. I also have to pass the First Aid course, and Lindsay Lohan could pass a spelling test before I can pass a First Aid course. Jessica Simpson could remember the lines to a song we've all heard a bajillion times before I could pass a First Aid course. Paris Hilton could remember to wear panties...

You get the point. I may be a tiny bit stressed about passing my course.

And as if the stress of passing the course weren't enough, there's the stress of where will I live at the end of the month if I don't pass, since I'll be minus one week's wages, which believe me is all it would take to make me homeless. There's the stress of losing my job at Emily Carr, and the stress of what kind of hateful site my company will put me at as punishment for failing the test. Not that that will matter since, as I have already said, I will be homeless. Still, it'll matter for the last couple of weeks of my homefulness, which'll be stressful enough as it is without also having to face a nightly barrage of tweaker-zombies.

So of course I have to put all that aside and try to study all weekend, including the 10 hours I have to work tomorrow for free because -- surprise! -- someone at Garda fucked up. I have to be happy and positive despite the fact that this feels like my end of days.

Okay, so I have to be positive. No problem.

A year ago the idea that I had to be positive in the face of overwhelming adversity would have never occurred to me. I wouldn't have been able to put those words all in a row like that.

Now ask me: did I have a good week this past two weeks?

I sure as Hell did! Look at all these blog entries; this represents the most prolonged period of writing in my entire adult life. I retained my first-class citizenship as a Gay Canadian. I got loved up hard by Pandora every single night, had my birthday, read some awesome shit, rocked out, read poetry, wept in front of strangers, took photos, saw beautiful men, and laughed my ass off.

So why am I so focused on the bad stuff? Because I'm a tool. And what do we do with tools? We fix things. What are we going to fix first? Me. And why is that? Because I deserve fixing.

Four more words I wouldn't have been able to string together this time last year.

Here's another example: I was looking in the mirror this morning, as I generally do when I shave, and after about 30 seconds I forgot I was looking at me, because I was looking at a hot guy. Even with a cold at 6am... Damn!

Is life relaxing? Far from it. Is life good? Damn straight.

And whaddaya know, my new push-up life fits me just right. This must be my lucky day.
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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dear Santa...

I know, I know... It's been 30 years since I wrote to you last, but I don't know who else to turn to.

I'm not going to ask you for things -- I have enough things as it is, and I bought even more today. Nor am I going to ask you for anything impossible, like world peace, or a boyfriend.

All I'd like is that the 12 Tories who voted against re-opening the same-sex marriage debate NOT get those lumps of coal I ordered. Send them instead to the Liberals who voted for it. Oh, and any Bloc Quebecois or NDP who might have as well.

I'd also like you to send panties to Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Between them and the President I've seen more Bush than Sasquatch these past few years.

The only thing I really want this year is continued success in my life and career. I want to be a better person and a better friend and a better writer. I know you can't help me with that, I'm just saying is all.

Please give my best to Mrs. Claus, promise you'll honour the elves' collective agreement, and try and ease up on the whip Christmas Eve - for Rudolph's sake. There's no reason his butt has to be as red as his nose.

Unless that's what he's into.

All the best,

michael sean morris
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Much Whack-Ado About Nothing

See, this is why I should prohibited by law from writing about politics.

This morning, at the ungawdly hour of 6am, my alarm went off, and something compelled me to turn on the TV. Now, normally I only turn my TV on to clean the screen, or else watch DVDs (or maybe Saturday Night Live), so I don't know what moved me to do so today. When I did the morning news was on Global (aka Canada's Fox).

The fifth or six snippet was about the upcoming vote to re-open the same-sex marriage debate, and even Global admitted the measure was likely to fail. The only MP mentioned specifically in the story was Hedy Fry, who is my MP, and who supports same-sex marriage up the wazoo. Alas, personality-free news reader Lyn Colliar did not use the word 'wazoo' in the story.

So I guess that means the next time there's a political story gnawing at my craw I should write about celebrities instead. That'll be the secret sign for those in the know: whenever there's a story about showbiz for ugly people (politics), he writes about politics for bimbos (showbiz).

I will be publishing the results of tonight's vote as soon as I can get the Parliamentary website to give them to me. All in the interest of broadening the scope of this blog beyond my self-absorption.

(Even I have to say: good luck with that.)
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thursday, Bloody Thursday

I have decided to break one of my cardinal rules and write about politics. Since in this case the political is personal (as is so often the case) and since if I don't my head may explode, I figure it's worth the risk of ranting.

In the last election the Tories campaigned successfully on the issue of depriving gays and lesbians of their equal rights, even though the Supreme Court has interpreted the ultra-clear wording of the Charter of Rights numerous times in favour of same-sex marriage, I believe, in every province and territory. Same-sex marriages have existed in this country for over a year and the sky has yet to fall, despite every attempt by the Religious Right to try and pull it down and blame it on us.

Nevertheless, the vote is pending.

Until today I might have said that the measure still had a chance to fail. The Liberals, though, have applied what is likely to be the fatal blow. Unwilling to risk toppling the government and send their new leader, Stephane Dion, to the polls after less than a week on the job, they're allowing a free vote on the issue, something the Tories say they're doing but are not, since Harper doesn't even let his members use the washroom without his permission.

This means that the 20% rural minority in this country will likely override the 80% urban majority. Again. Every MP north of Toronto has been bombarded by the Knights of Columbus and the Salvation Army and similar bastions of tolerance for months now. Consider that the next time you pass a Red Kettle, and instead of a handful of change drop in a lump of coal.

The vote is on Thursday night, so if you live in Alberta get ready for a party to rival any kegger Ralph Klein ever threw. If you're gay and live in Alberta, both of you better get to Vancouver right away. As for everyone else, I say, start preparing for the worst.

Canada may be the first ever country to allow same-sex marriage only to later rescind it. Oh well, that international reputation for tolerance and diversity we once had was becoming a nuisance anyway. At least Stephen Harper's overlords south of the border will be happy; this vote may be the first thing to go right for George W. Bush in months.

What remains to be seen is if existing same-sex marriages will be nullified, and what kind of slippery slope this represents. For the paranoid - like me - this could represent the first step towards the recriminalisation of homosexuality, and all its attendant horrors along the way. It almost certainly represents a push to remove sexual orientation protection from the Charter and Hate Crimes legislation, both of which met fierce opposition from the Tories in the first place.

Or it could merely lead to the hypocrisy of "civil unions"; since no heterosexual relationships will be referred to in this way, this means that, at best, gays and lesbians get to go back to being second class citizens. Just in time for the holidays. Thanks Parliament, and here I didn't get you anything.

Either way, it's a giant leap forward for the integration of church and state, since I have never heard one iota of homophobia that wasn't entirely religious in nature. I guess, though, since homophobia is the favoured ecumenical pastime, this vote does represent a giant leap forward for the only kind of diversity the Tories support.

And what a lovely silver lining it is too...
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

N-word Please!

I wonder how long it'll take the utterly benign phrase "N-word" to become a slur as incendiary as the one it was designed to replace. I suppose when someone (or more ideally, some celebrity) hurls it at someone else in anger. Because remember kids: in this culture, nothing matters until a celebrity does it.

The thing about slurs of any kind is that they are always about intent. I could call someone a humanitarian in an ugly voice and make it sound bad. Yet I completely empathize with blacks in this. I figure whitey's had hundreds of years of using this word, and now they're done. They've used up all their n-words until the end of time, and then some. If you have a problem with this, don't blame blacks; get a shovel and take it up with Strom Thurmond.

The fact that blacks use this word amongst themselves has nothing whatsoever to do with whites using it. Remember: it doesn't matter what other people do, it only matters what you do. Other people kill their spouses and rape children, too, so don't expect the right to do that either.

Now, being gay, I have a few words I don't like to hear from non-gay people (men especially). I don't need to list them here. You all know them and you've probably all used them, even if it was just once, years ago, before you knew better, and you didn't inhale, blah blah blah.

Whenever I hear a non-gay person say "That's so gay" I about lose my f-ing mind. Another one that gets me is "art-fag", which is a double whammy, since, in my opinion, there are far too few of these, but the slur implies there are too many. The problem I have with most bigotry is its inaccuracy.

Yet the other day I said (with a non-gay face) that the reason I loved watching "Greg the Bunny" so much is that I'm totally gay for puppets. A couple of the non-gay people there got a little peeved, I told them I was gay, they claimed not to know -- no harm no foul, and, thankfully, no group hug either.

Blender magazine has a monthly feature called "CD We're Totally Gay For" and I'm not about to organise protest rallies in front of their offices, because I know what I'm like when a new Madonna album drops. When Kylie's "Fever" was released Davie Street was like Twink-a-palooza. I have no problem having "gay" used as a synonym for enthusiasm; I do have a problem with it standing in for stupid.

Being a wordsmith I'm very sensitive to putting moratoria (let alone issuing fatwae - what is the plural of fatwa, anyway?) on words, ideas, or concepts. I have to admit that, while I will never utter the N-word (since I never have, why start now) I will likely type it again in my life. If the idea that I may do so really bothers you, please get it out of your system now.

Not that it's going to stop me. When I was writing a scene featuring a Kansas sheriff organising a lynch mob in my novel "Killjoy" I knew I couldn't have him saying: "Get that filthy African-American and string him up." It just didn't, as we say, scan.

The fact is, the word has been used, is being used, and will continue to be used. As an artist I am responsible for reflecting culture, so you see the bind I'm in. However, if I'm reading publicly from my work I will feel obligated to either let people know that the word is coming up or (less likely) say "N-word" instead. In whatever situation, I will always strive to do whatever gives the least offense.

I offer up the same solution to anyone who wishes to use it.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

37 Is The New 36

It's the strangest thing. Normally the self-loathing juggernaut that accompanies my birthday should be well underway by now. With only two more days to go until I turn 37, I should be eating cookies and crying into my pillow on a pretty regular rotation, but I find that my inclination to participate in such festivities has fallen off steeply in the last couple of years.

I first recognised this as a pattern in my life as far back as a decade ago, but it took me half a dozen years to arrest it, so inexorable was the pull of this particular downward spiral (aka I'm a Loser Going Nowhere). This is not to be confused for its siblings, the I'll Never Be An Artist and I'll Never Get a Boyfriend, which can still be somewhat troublesome if I'm not vigilant. It's only been the last couple of years that I've been able to make my birthday about my personal growth on my own terms as opposed to about some failure imposed on me by external forces such as chronology or other people's expectations.

For me, the way to make problems of this nature go away isn't to forget or not care ABOUT them (apathy is no one's reward) but to not care FOR them. As any neurotic will tell you, neuroses don't live long without extensive nurturing and frankly I'm just too busy trying to be a Winner Who's Going Places, and the best possible Artist and even Spinster (or, if the universe is man enough to dare to send me one, Boyfriend) to waste my time maintaining an archive of past hurts to remind myself why I shouldn't be enjoying life now.

Last year was the first year I'd actually been looking forward to my birthday since I was seven or eight. And it was a great party as well. 13 people came, which was not only a personal record but a serious strain on my seating capacity.

I'm still coasting on the vibes from that event a year or so later, so the fact that I'm not going to be able to celebrate my birthday this year, at least not in any big way, is fine. Normally I'd be moping around, griping about how unfair it is, but this year I am busy with some professional development and won't be able to do anything except maybe dinner out with a couple of people if I can scrape together the wherewithal to do it.

Besides which, I figure every birthday you miss is automatically a do-over. That, plus the fact that 37 is the new 29 or whatever, I figure I have years and years of rocking parties still to come, parties at which I can be a Successful Artist with a Boyfriend, and not just a Grouch with a Grudge, and so ensure that they will all be standing-room only events.

I did, however, indulge myself in a birthday present: the handsomely executed graphic novel "Wimbledon Green" by the Canadian cartoonist Seth. I bought this because after I finished reading the incomparable Alison Bechdel's graphic novel slash memoir "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" (another birthday present to myself) I was compelled to reread all such materials in my library, and there just aren't that many others. Those I do have are:

Maus I and II - Art Spiegelman
In The Shadow of No Towers - Art Spiegelman
Stuck Rubber Baby - Howard Cruse
Road To Perdition - Max Allan Collins

All of this, of course, is in anticipation of my own contribution to and expansion of the genre, a photo-graphic novel which is gradually forming in my brain, along the lines of slaying my demons and all the personal development work I've been doing to make those slain demons possible. Only funny.

The way I spend money, though, the presents I give myself are almost beside the point. Every payday is like Christmas, and I have the lack of shelving to prove it. It's the personal tradition of mine that matters more: to try and give myself something for my birthday that'll not only last at least a year, if not longer, but also take that long as well. Five years and a hundred pounds ago it was to lose weight and keep it off: so far so good. A couple of years ago it was a renewed commitment to my friends, which has yet to come to full fruition. In the future I might (for example) take a course, or go on a trip to somewhere meaningful, or give up dairy.

This year's gift is to find a way to take my myriad ideas and start to make them happen, rather than just endlessly talking about doing them.

I can already tell, it's going to be quite a year.
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Friday, November 24, 2006

Just Like That

Funny how weeks can pass, in which I can be utterly destroyed by my own self-loathing, and then one day, akin to the the title, it's gone.

Yesterday was awful; today I feel fine. Not only was yesterday awful, it was the coronation day for the King and Queen of Awful at the end of the Awful Festival (sometimes called Mardi Blah), which is indeed a whole lot of awful. Today I laughed spontaneously even before I got out of bed, a feat that normally involves a couple hours of YouTube and two tall coffees.

Now if only I could be more efficient, so that I don't keep losing weeks to this mess. You know, one weekend a month I barricade myself in my apartment and just despise myself. Kind of get it out of my system before it backs up and oozes all over everything like raw sewage for the soul.

In a way, I guess, I already have. It used to be I'd have an occasional couple of good weeks, surrounded by months of crap. Now it's a couple of bad weeks every once in awhile, surrounded by months of pretty good, or at least tolerable. Not that tolerable is the preferred adjective for life, but it sure beats awful. Besides which, when you work as much as I do, it doesn't pay to waste a good mood on your job. I say, save it for your career.

I don't know what brought about the reversal this time, but I'm determined to find out. Fortunately neurotics tend to be hyper-analytical.

I think it had something to do with dissociation. This is a technique I've been using whereby I become my shadow self for a period of time (usually 2-4 hours) and then mercilessly mock and bully the snivelling little toad I've become. I figure the better I become at this, I should be able to bully that little turd out of existence.

Last evening's tirade consisted almost entirely of me shaking my head at myself for failing to take the bad things life is dying to give me in stride, and of letting myself become this sad, passive little nothing in the process. Just because life gives you lemons, you don't have to make lemonade, especially if your stomach is as easily upset as mine. I mean, you can refuse the lemons, or you can chuck them at life's car. (Kind of a distended metaphor, but bear with me.)

Or it could be that, in reviewing the notes I'd made for my sitcom, I also laughed out loud at what I'd written but forgotten about. Now if only I can do a Grinch thing and make my ego grow three sizes too big I'll be ready for my career in television.

I've used the shadow self in seemingly negative ways to good advantage before. I start out bullying myself then talk myself out of the bullying, thus making friends with myself. On the very worst days I send the shadow self to work; by the time he gets home the meek me is nowhere to be found, since he takes an awful lot of maintenance to survive, kind of like a parrot. Now I need to use my shadow self as a kind of agent-publicist. Will it work?

As they used to say on radio: "Only the Shadow knows..."
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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Funny Thing About Progress

Here's the funny thing about progress: it keeps moving.

Six months ago, progress meant buying a camera to revive that facet of my creativity. Six months later and progress has evolved into making prints of the pictures I've taken. Six months from now and progress will be defined as the display and sale of same.

I can almost understand why people dislike progress. It's more work, for one thing, and despite the so-called Protestant work ethic which is a plague in North America almost no one is willing to admit that despite how little vacation people take the North American worker is pretty damn lazy. Going to the same place every day and taking a paycheque out of it every two weeks isn't work, just conformity to habit.

Or it could just be that, as I embark on yet another six-day work week, everyone else with their five-day weeks are starting to look like slackers.

There are times when it seems like progress of every sort has been put on hold. I scarcely have the time for housekeeping, let alone establishing myself in some mythical career as an artist-humanitarian. Still, I persist. Where once I would have quit, satisfied merely to be a consumer of culture, I am now pushing myself to become a supplier of culture, in every spare minute I can find.

The picture below represents the long, slow process involved in becoming me. Ruthlessly, I've been using my friends to get ahead. Disguised as a gift of art, this image is really my first commission. True, the friend for whom it is taken isn't paying for this work, but I'm treating it like it's a commission nonetheless. From it I am learning (in fact, re-learning) entrepreneurship; the fusing of my abilities with the wants and desires of another.

It's not an ideal shot, but it is better than previous shots, so I call that progress. I hope someday to look back on the angst it has caused me with the same amusement I now get from reading my old high school journals. Even in its eventual form I suppose it will always produce a kind of sentimental amusement in me, how for one agonising season I struggled to create for a friend something he might come to cherish.

For the first time in a long time I am staring success in the teeth and success still frightens me but this fear isn't going to stop me. I'm not afraid of the work, I'm afraid of not having work. I'm afraid I won't be able to afford my own comfort. I'm afraid of not finding the perfect picture. But I'm no longer afraid of progress.

And that, as they say, is progress.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

R.I.P. Harold Horwood

As is often the case when it comes to Canadian icons, today is the day I learned that Newfoundland writer, personality (if that's not redundant), and all-around muck-raker died on April 16th, 2006, in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

He will be missed, but not as much as if he hadn't written so prolifically.

And so another writer passes into immortality...
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

National Coming Out Day

Oh dear oh dear, two posts in one day. Normally I wouldn't be compelled to do this, but since it is National Coming Out Day I thought why not.

To any closet cases out there: you're only hurting yourself. That may well be what you're into, but if you come out you can find someone else to do it for you. And that, I am told, is really the bee's knees. Or the wasp's elbows, or whatever.

I came out in 1987, so long ago in fact that I just assume everyone knows. It's always a slight kick when someone new finds out -- the longer I''ve known them the bigger the kick I get. Plus, I really love the idea that I can pass for straight; it means people tell me what they really feel, which is often not what I'd be hearing if they knew. As bad as the homophobia is, the secret homophobia is worse, believe me.

Therefore, coming out is somewhat redundant in my case. As gay, that is.

I am, however, using this opportunity to come out as... A spinster.

No, not a DJ. And not a bachelor either, with its connotations of swinginess. An honest to goodness spinster. Since for me being single is identical to being sexless (come to think of it, so is being married), and since I've been single now for 4 (count 'em FOUR) years, I feel it is an empowering thing to say that I will likely never have sex again. The possibility that I will ever have another boyfriend is an even more far-fetched one. I'm lucky to meet a dozen gay men a year, and of those, maybe 11 will snarl at me. The 12th one is usually married.

That said, there's no reason for me to be bitter about it. At least not any more. To think that an important part of my life was over at the ripe old age of 32 has not been an easy one to accept. It took me less time to learn to like Renee Zellweger. Nevertheless, I have done just that.

It's a difficult enough thing to be a writer, what with all the insecurities, without having to also navigate some other guy's damage as well. Since I am given to grandiose expressions of either/or I figure I can either be a good writer or a good boyfriend, just not both. Until, that is, the introduction of a) the 30-hour day, or b) the un-damaged gay man. In neither case will I be holding my breath in wait.

Recently I've been consoling a friend on his break-up. Having to cheer up a great guy who's in ruins has been a real eye-opener for me. In the interest of helping the world be a better place and creating for myself a bastion of progressivism I will gladly forego all of this torment for myself. No sacrifice is too great for a cause I believe in. But fear not. As long as there is porno I shall not go to bed unsated. Perhaps sex is best left to the professionals after all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a bunch more cats and crochet me some doillies.
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Visiting "Another Country"

Given the type of work I do (which I am loath to name, at least here) I have ample time to read. Lest you should worry about me slacking off, the job entails alot of sitting and staring at walls; since sitting and staring at walls tends to make me brood on how much I hate my job, life, and so on, I decided -- for my own sanity -- to enliven the drudgery with a bit of reading.

I've read a great many books in this manner, and generally enjoyed them all, whether they be classic (Don Quixote, by Miguel Cervantes) or obscure (Clea's Moon, by Edward Wright), hilariously funny (Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen), wistful (Bethel Merriday, by Sinclair Lewis), or sheer poetry (Billy Bathgate, by E. L. Doctorow).

What I never expected was to read a book that would change my life, so I guess I owe my job at least that much. Yet somehow even having to give my job that tiny, grudging bit of respect makes me hate it all the more. It's like getting a really cool Secret Santa present from a first-class a-hole: it doesn't make up for all the crap he's given you, just reminds you that he could be nice and isn't.

But I digress...

The book is called -- as you may have already guessed -- "Another Country", and it was written by James Baldwin. It's dated 1961, and if you, like most people, are harbouring the idea (promulgated by most conservatives) that the majority of the world's ills are modern in nature, think again. Baldwin's portrait is of a 1961 that seems more relevant today than most books being written tomorrow. In fact, I found myself forgetting its era entirely, until some slang would rear its groovy head and remind me.

The optimist in me feels that the misogyny and racism of 45 years ago is softer nowadays, and so the book preserves, as in amber, how harsh people must have once been. Of course, the pessimist in me usually bitch slaps the optimist before this kind of delusion gets too out of hand. Misogyny and racism are alive and well, they're just being more vehemently denied now is all. Oddly, there is almost no homophobia, except the imaginary kind, which today would be detectable only by the politically correct. I wish my life had as little homophobia as "Another Country" does.

At times it had me wondering about the internal battles Baldwin must have fought. As a black man (and a gay man) he would have had ample cause to hate whites (and to distrust straights). Yet his treatment of white guilt is as sensitive as his black characters are insensitive towards it. Ironically, the white characters are all sincerely grappling with their own racism, while the black characters seem to revel in the self-righteousness of theirs. In terms of the civil rights movement, the whites are all about Dr. King and the blacks are pure Malcolm X. Whether his depiction of this makes the author a wizard of empathy or a sell-out is a matter for debate.

While Baldwin is a master of dialogue, his characters are not; how they say what they say is peerless, but what they don't say speaks louder than what they do. Whenever it seems that understanding is about to erupt, someone gets mad, and the moment is lost. It's hard to believe that a writer this good would do a thing like that accidentally. That central human folly -- the mistaken belief that everyone feels just the same as you do about everything -- is present on every page, in every character.

Rufus, a young black man, opens the book. The whole of the narrative is hung on him, and he bears it, though it is a burden. It's difficult to discuss the plot without divulging, so I won't. Suffice it to say, it's not very often a thing comes along that is so perfect I won't deign to offer even one spoiler. It deserves to be enjoyed whole, sipped and gulped, whispered and shouted, read aloud and savoured in whatever rich voice your mind can conjure for its narrator, who never judges but merely presides.

Sometimes a book falls into your lap that mirrors what is happening in your life, and that's probably why "Another Country" is still haunting me. Though surely anyone could catch the wisdom that leaps from every page I didn't need to; its themes, its very message of it, leapt onto me and held on like brambles.

Of course, in an age of minimalist prose there is no treat like sitting down to a couple of hundred pages of poetry. Baldwin's descriptions of a vicious, dirty city are beautiful; he evokes beautiful people at their ugliest. White or black, rich or poor, gay or straight or anywhere in between, he transcends the usual soap operatic treatment of anyone. This is no mean feat, as any writer will tell you.

Clearly it was time for me to read a book about relationships -- all kinds, not just romantic -- and "Another Country" has much to say about relationships and inter-relationships. It's always a good time to read about race, especially if it brings one to a new level of understanding. The fact that it didn't say what I wanted it to say is, on balance, a good thing. As a writer I'm selfish, and look forward to one day putting those feelings of mine to paper.

Until then, I find myself awaiting the next paperback surprise...
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Wonderful World of Progress

Now if only I could figure out all of this technology, THAT would be progress.

It all looks so easy and shiny on the home page. Then, after an hour trying to find the most basic settings, I am reminded that things which are easy and shiny are frequently seductive to me. To the point where the fact that I haven't the faintest idea what to do with them once I find them becomes irrelevant. But it is relevant, especially when my mouth is writing cheques all over town and my ass is, well, an ass and not an accountant.

Big changes are coming to the Pandora Institute. As soon as I can find someone who has even the faintest idea how to do them, and also has the patience to explain them to me: a tall order. If I survive the crushing head blows which often accompany me being taught anything, it's gonna be great.

The fact that so many people manage this stuff with style and aplomb ought to encourage me. It ought to, yet oddly doesn't. Instead, it puts me into a tizzy, which in my case is an actual medical condition. Left untreated, I could easily spin out of control. The paramedics will find me at three am, trapped in a corner somewhere, babbling incessantly about Lindsey Lohan. It will not be pretty.

What are the nature of these changes, you ask, he says, abruptly changing the subject. Photos! Links to YouTube! Cash and fabulous prizes*!

(*cash and fabulous prizes not available to citizens of Earth. Offer void where prohibited.)
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