Monday, April 30, 2007

Britain Offering Terrorists Plum Hostage

I can believe that Prince Harry will be shipped out to Iraq - I don't like it, but anyone who joins the Army in a time of war can reasonably expect to be shipped anywhere, even a war zone such as Iraq or Afghanistan.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket What I cannot believe is that a professional army would deploy any soldier whose presence is likely to be distracting, as well as one who's been targeted for capture by Shi'ite militia as Prince Harry. I cannot help but wonder at what's really behind this.

You've taken the macho shit a little too far when you'd risk a constitutional crisis and the lives of untold troops to make a point. Stupid war...
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Join The Campaign For "Little Britain" In NYC

Jolly good! Check out the campaign for a "Little Britain" in the Big Apple. One thing is for sure: Greenwich Village is one village where you'll never be the only gay.
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Michael's Day Out: New Westminster & Bear Creek Park

All week the city had been doused in the most torrential of rains. Even for a place where it rains as much as it does in Vancouver it was bad - a steady, heavy pelting of rain, the kind of rain that soaks you to the soul. It was build a boat and find pairs of animals time, people. Seriously.

Despite this, I had every intention of going out to visit my new friend John in the suburbs on Sunday to take pictures, rain or shine. Imagine my surprise when I awoke Saturday to a gorgeous blast of sunshine; when the same sunshine prevailed on Sunday it wasn't merely double the pleasure, it was an exponential thing. I don't know the math, but you get my meaning.

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I took the above photo of Chee-chee-yoh-hee (The Lions) from the platform of the Broadway SkyTrain station, during a breather from the crushing bus ride there and the crushing SkyTrain ride to New Westminster. Honestly, 2PM on a Sunday and it was worse than a Friday rush hour. Translink sucks, and not in the good way; in defiance of the laws of physics, it also blows, in a manner which is equally unsatisfactory.

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I can't resist a statue, in this case one of Matthew Baillie Begbie, first Chief Justice of British Columbia. It's an appropriate choice, as well, as New Westminster is gradually emerging from a period of lawlessness and urban decay that is unworthy of the province's first city.

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Despite the number of clearly troubled people shambling about on the streets, and the preponderance of decayed brick buildings on Columbia Street (where the city's two SkyTrain stations are), New Westminster is truly undergoing a Gastown/Yaletown kind of gentrification. I'd say it's at the mid-point; there is much left to be done, but much has been done already.

The decay is in the downtown area only, though. The residential area, which I will be photographing later in the summer, is a sumptuous fantasy of Victorian/Edwardian homes and gardening unrivalled in the Lower Mainland. If I had to live anywhere in the region outside of Vancouver, I would live in New Westminster, if only to satisfy my fetish for architecture.

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I met John in New West, and after a fortifying coffee we made our way over the Fraser River into Surrey, to Bear Creek Park. I figured the previous week's rain would leave the place glowingly green and I was right. The park was also very busy, but large enough that the crowds there never seemed overwhelming. The park was relatively unscathed by this winter's storms.

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While there, John and I enjoyed the opportunity to photograph many plants, from towering trees to tiny flowers...

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I can never resist the opportunity to photograph a squirrel, especially not a gray. This one posed beautifully, and later came to within a metre of me where I'd crouched to take this picture. Since I didn't have any food, and wouldn't feed a wild animal anyway, it soon scampered off.

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Not only did I get my second chance to photograph a bald eagle in as many months, this particular beauty was calling a considerable amount, which is a thrilling sound, even if it's a freaky kind of thrill. Once heard, the sound never leaves you. It would perch here, near its nest, call out a half dozen times, make a dozen circles in the air, then repeat; an awesome sight.

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We made another bird friend that day too, a species I've never photographed because I've never seen one before. If I had to guess, I'd say it was a male western Rufous-sided Towhee. I took so many pictures of him, I'm sure he's still bragging about it to his buddies. Because he was likely guarding a nearby nest, John and I were able to get closer than we usually would.

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Finally, the light began to fail, and a near-full new moon rose. John and I retired to the nearest Tim Horton's so I could eat and we could review our afternoon's efforts. He's new to digital photography, and doesn't like the digital camera he has, but he was able nonetheless to get some amazing pictures despite the frustration. We have a similar eye when it comes to work, so we complemented each other well on what was our first expedition.

All in all, it was a productive and wonderful day. We had some discussion about next week's excursion, and seemed to settle on Gastown.

So we shall see...
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Troubled pop star Boy George has been arrested - again - this time on charges of false imprisonment, sexually harassing and assaulting a male escort he'd hired as a model.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNow, admittedly, I'm no expert in S&M. Okay, I've got the M part down, but the S... Not so much.

Anyway, even I know the secret is in consensuality and negotiation. Just because you hire a guy for sex doesn't mean he's up for this kind of thing. I suppose my unenlightened attitude means I'll be learning a thing or two about the S now...

Just in case, my safe word is 'Stephen Harper'.

[S O U R C E]
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Citygate Cache Uncovered

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Vancouver police uncovered an "extraordinary" cache of weapons and materials used in the making of explosives in a condo at Citygate (shown above) in Vancouver this weekend. Police, inexplicably, say the find is neither gang- nor terrorist-related.


[S O U R C E]
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The Son Also Rises

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Justin Trudeau, eldest son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, has been nominated to represent the Liberals in the Montreal riding of Papineau. It was a slim victory - 54% - and hard fought.

There are no words to describe how good this news is; not even I could hyperbolise it.

[S O U R C E]
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Now Showing - David Campbell's "Buck Man Knows"

It's been my pleasure these past few weeks to feature the music and videos of David Campbell. Here, then, is another one.
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Project Civil City: An Update

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Once again, I would encourage any of you Vancouverites out there who might be free on Tuesday night to head out to the Main Library downtown and attend this forum sponsored by Project Civil City.

I was recently contacted by one of the organisers, who disabused some of the implications I or my commenters might have made, namely that the City of Vancouver was in any way involved in the meeting or the organisation sponsoring it. Googling "Project Civil City" leads first to the City's website, which may have led to some of this confusion. That and the fact that the Mayor's name is in great big letters at the top of the front page.

The clarification, left as a comment on the post linked below, says:

Hi there,

Nice to see one of our posters on your blog!

Just wanted to clarify that the webpage and the debate session have been set up by the Vancouver Public Space Network... which is a volunteer group. We're not affiliated with the City of Vancouver. To the best of my knowledge, the City doesn't have a web-page on civil city.

[Blogmaster's Note: It's a News Release.]

Our intent in taking a more neutral position on this debate was to allow some of the other key players in the discussion have their say without biasing the debate process upfront.

Thanks for the comments on the graphic sensibilities too… like everything else we do, it was made possible through lots of volunteer time and effort. If you’d be interested in helping on public space related projects such as this feel free to drop us a line:


Andrew P. (VPSN)

Honestly, I wish I could attend, and will be doing my best to send someone in my place, preferably someone with a tape recorder, so I can hear for myself what's being said, unfiltered by some intermediary and their own opinions. Even the most trusted source in this case is still a second-hand one. Naturally, I will be conducting further research into this matter.

Though the poster states that Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Union will be a panelist, I am still uncertain to what extent the right will try to grab control of Project Civil City in its ongoing attempt to govern behaviour, rather than seeking to instil civility on a voluntary basis. Vancouver Public Space Network has a very thorough website, worth exploring, which looks initially promising.

A more civil city is an admirable aim, and I'm looking forward to doing my part. Why, just the other day I was almost run over, and I never even flipped the driver the bird or anything.


Project Civil City: Good Idea or Totally Fucking Dumb?
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Hating on Harper (And Loving It)

It's not in my Nature to agree with Toronto, but whenever they agree with me, I'll happily go along with it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI have no idea what encouraged the Toronto Star's Scott Reid to sharpen his knife in this case, but I must say that his effort to plunge it in are well-received here.

I have always said that Stephen Harper was a tyrant; I have been patronised and mocked for that position. Now, it seems, others are waking up to that fact.

[S O U R C E]
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Quake Rattles UK

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAn earthquake registering 4.7 on the Richter scale rumbled through southwestern England, toppling chimneys and shaking nerves, but causing no serious injury or death.

[S O U R C E]
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Friday, April 27, 2007

Jack Valenti's Dead

As evidenced by the title of this post, I refuse to let death turn me into a hypocrite. Especially not someone else's.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketJack Valenti brought censorship to the mainstream. While the ratings system he pioneered through the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) undoubtedly made it clearer what sort of content one could expect on the way in to the multiplex, it did so in a reductive way, by edict of a committee whose decisions were anything but transparent. As well, the process by which those ratings were assigned was fraught with corruption.

The MPAA's handling of sexual content versus violent content was responsible for two decades of continued homophobia in Hollywood. In that time, any depiction of two men kissing would earn an automatic R, whereas you could shoot the two men and still have a PG.
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What Is A Boy To Do?

This past month, wherever I've gone, I've been absolutely beset by people enquiring after the state of my writing.

I'm not exaggerating when I say it's been dozens. (Well, a dozen, but still...) I point out to them that I'm writing a blog, which takes considerable time and energy. At which point most of them act like they've never heard of blogs, the Internet, or personal computers.

What they really want to know is: am I still writing fiction? Ah, fiction... The last bastion of the masochist. First, last, best...

I then explain to them (v e r y s l o w l y) that I sometimes write as many as a thousand words a day on my blog, and it takes just hours to find the right photos and stuff to go with each post, especially since the hamster that runs my processor chip recently took up smoking. I then do whatever I have to to change the subject, lest I jinx it for myself and everybody.

Yes, I have been writing fiction. No, I don't hold out any hope it'll ever see the light of day. Yes, it is fucking brilliant, but then it would be coming from me. This is the point where the Ego Monster appears, and I have to catch it, kill it, skin it, then prepare and enjoy a lovely Ego Monster stew for lunch. For the record, it tastes nothing like chicken.

What most of my fans who clamour for my glamour fail to understand is that a) there are only 24 hours in a day, b) as I am basically indolent I insist on wasting at least six of them on sleep, c) nine or ten get wasted on work and a couple more on things like being neurotic about my appearance, so then d) why would I spend the rest typing away at something that'll never get published when I could be spending the time on something that is being published, namely THIS BLOG!

Sorry for yelling; it's not even angry yelling, it's funny yelling, like Kirstie Alley. (Funny, but from an angry place.)

I assure you, I am not being negative in this, but I do not have the credentials to be a novelist, period. To be a blogger you don't need credentials, just a computer and an attitude, and what I lack in computer (lovely as it is) I more than make up for in attitude. Following the path of least resistance, I find myself here, being irresistible. ; )

Nevertheless, I have a planet's worth of characters inside me, and if I don't write them out they take over, so I write.

Hopefully, by the time I can afford to go to university and get my degree so that a publisher or an agent will deign to talk to me, I will have many such novels waiting in the wings to support me in my dotage; my dotage being that time of my life when, having written several novels, I'm unfit for any other work, and mostly suited to drooling in the corner.

Ah... Those'll be the days.
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Just Because - "Mahna Mahna" by Jim Henson's Muppets

I almost don't need any text to accompany this classic bit of Muppets mania from the first episode of "The Muppet Show" in 1975.
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Seattle Pride Saved!

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Yay! Now if only my company can save me a couple of days off to attend it, I plan to be there to rock the thing.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Programming Suggestion: "Celebrity Grudge Match"

It's the Feud That Refuses To Die...

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So why not turn it into a game show?

Hosted by Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell, each episode features a famously squabbling pair of celebrities who will once and for all have it out on national TV.

See the depravity! Hear the shocking language! Enjoy the degradation!

Paris vs. Lindsay! Kim vs. Alec! Britney vs. Her Career!

Only on Fox!
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Project Civil City: Good Idea or Totally Fucking Dumb?

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While I am generally on the side of civility (shut up, you bitches, I am too) I'm always a little worried when it looks like the right-wing is trying for a power grab. Getting to the root of social issues like homelessness is something I will always support, but bashing the homeless in the usual callous manner of the right, of course, I cannot do.

Also, the matter of manners cannot be addressed with by-laws, especially if they're not enforced.

It's too bad I won't be able to attend Project Civil City's meeting. I'd be interested in seeing who shows up and what gets discussed. Given that a member of the Board of Trade will be there, and that the impetus behind the entire project is likely the Vancouver Olympic Committee, I am instantly skeptical.

Maybe I can talk one of my more perceptive friends into attending, and submitting a report.

[To find out more, visit the website]
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What's Next: Starbuck's At Lenin's Tomb?

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Well, vis-a-vis the whole "not feeling dirty" issue, I don't know that seraching for an obscure news story on The Drudge Report makes me feel any cleaner, but here it is anyway.

It seems that the Vladimir Putin government has demolished historic buildings at the Kremlin in order to make way for a luxury hotel there. It scarcely needs to be said that the Kremlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and that these demolitions were conducted without permits. Hm. Poisoning his opponents, demolishing world heritage for capitalist greed...

Maybe Putin's the one who phoned in that death threat against Knut at the Berlin Zoo, then iced Yeltsin.

[Der Spiegel via The Drudge Report]
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Rosie O'Donnell Leaving "The View"

Sorry about hopping on the blog-wagon with this story, but, but...

All the other bloggers were doing it. I just wanted to be popular! I feel so dirty... I'm gonna go right out after this and find something obscure for my next post, I promise.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Blah blah blah contract negotiations blah blah. Blah blah, blah amicable blah blah blah. Blah saw this coming a mile off blah, blah blah.

So... I wonder when Rosie's new show will be on. Hopefully it won't be on opposite "The View" or "Ellen". Unless it's on Logo, in which case it won't matter, 'cause no one'll see it.

If there's a Gawd, it'll be on opposite "The Apprentice" and finally put the boots to that blowhard's TV career.
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"The Queen", Part Two: An Interim Assessment

It's late and I've only just finished the first viewing, but my initial impressions are good. I'll need to watch both commentary tracks before I make my final verdict, though I doubt that'll shift it much. As pop culture, of course, it's spot on. As history... Well, no movie ever shows history well, nor can it be expected to. Film is glib; in that way, it's the ideal pop cultural medium.

History is deep, and as such, this movie works best as just one piece of many covering the death of Diana. Of course, Helen Mirren is amazing, as is Michael Sheen, who plays Tony Blair. The rest of the cast seem afraid to impersonate, and so don't come quite as close. The star of the film, though, is Diana, as elusive a figure here as she was omnipresent in life.

The screenwriter, Peter Morgan, has done much to draw the Queen and Blair together, namely by giving each of them a crass, borderline loathsome spouse. The Duke of Edinburgh, of course, is blunt to the point of callous and always has been; Cherie Blair could well sue Stephen Frears for libel, except that I suspect her portrayal is the most accurate of them all.

It's a handsome film: well-paced, beautifully photographed, and features expertly used documentary footage intercut with the narrative, making for a poignant, resonant remembrance. It celebrates not only the legacy of Diana and the resilience of the Queen, but interestingly the promise shown by Tony Blair before corruption and scandal got the better of his idealism.

Imagine... A Labour Prime Minister, of all people, saving the monarchy from itself. If I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes I'd have never believed it.
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All Hail "The Queen"! (Part One)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSpeaking of things that have left the solar system (how's that for a segueway?) I just bought my DVD of "The Queen", and am getting ready to settle in and enjoy.

Of course, given all the hype it's gotten, it'll probably suck. I'm so picky about such things, it'll be hard to please me, even given my fanatical interest in the subject matter.

Oh well, here goes something.

To be continued...
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Introducing Santiago Calatrava's "Chicago Spire"

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I don't know why, but looking at the picture makes me feel all funny in my tummy. On so many levels.

[via Towleroad]
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Tillykke Kronprinsesse Mary!

That means 'Congratulations Crown Princess Mary' in Danish.

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Cool huh? Now why, you might ask, would I be trying to speak Danish when I barely have a grasp on English? For which I have no answer; it's late, I got swept up in the moment... Shut up!

Nevertheless, the Australian-born Crown Princess of Denmark (born Mary Donaldson) gave birth to a daughter on 21 April. The royal couple already have a son, Christian, 18 months, who is the Heir Presumptive.

[S O U R C E]
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I'm Torn

When it's Barbra Streisand's birthday and Shirley Maclaine's birthday on the same day (as it has been every April 24th for the past 65 years) which gay icon gets the photo and accolades? Both, or neither?

This is just like whenever I relive the 1972 Oscars. Which Best Actress do I root for: Liza or Miss Ross?

Perhaps I need more sleep... Or some testosterone.
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Duke of Edinburgh May Be Named Prince Consort

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Generally speaking, I am loathe to reprint a story which appears in only one source, and when that source is Page Six of The New York Post I am especially so, but what can I say? I like the story - whether true or false - and can only wonder what took so long.

Early in the Queen's reign (as with all Queens Regnant) there is the sexist assumption that the Queen's husband will take over as a kind of de facto king, thus usurping the royal authority which rests in the person of the sovereign. Yet nothing of the sort happened in this case. The Queen, it seems, is overly cautious. No scoop there.

Talk of making Princess Anne the Princess Royal began in the 1970s, when in fact she had earned that honorific by the time it was finally bestowed in 1987. Perhaps it was decided to wait until the Duke of Edinburgh could go a year without putting his foot in his mouth, and this year was the first time it happened.

[S O U R C E]
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Who's Up For A Spot Of Poacher Hunting?

Hunters in eastern Russia have killed one of only seven female Amur leopards left alive in the wild. Already the world's most endangered big cat, the loss brings the species closer to extinction.

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[S O U R C E]
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The Day Blenz Saved My Life

(The following Unsolicited Testimonial/Unabashed Whoring is offered to my readers as a public service.)

To tell you the truth, it was beginning to worry me.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketDay in, day out, the endless numbing fatigue, the apathy, the absolute dread about doing anything or going anywhere...

Feeling like that would worry anyone, so imagine the effect it was having on a first class worry-wart like me. Then yesterday while waiting to meet a new friend (hey John!) I had a coffee. As I was sipping away I started thinking back to the last time I'd had coffee. I honestly couldn't remember.

For the record, if you can't remember the last time you had a coffee, it's been too long. I don't know if that's actual science, or merely empirical anecdote, but there you go...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThat coffee was so good, I had another. Then I had to have a cup of tea. Or rather, it took a cup of tea to coax me off the ceiling of the Blenz, where I was perched and hooting.

Eventually I did get to sleep last night, and when I woke up this morning (too early, thanks to a call from work), the sun was shining and the world seemed shiny and new (like a virgin, even).

I didn't even mind the last-minute schedule change. Partly because I was expecting it, but mostly because of the miraculous, life-saving qualities of Blenz coffee.

Blenz coffee - it's good for what ails you. Try a cup today. Better yet, try two.
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As Usual, I Blame The Tories

Canada's Governor-General Michaelle Jean has recently cancelled events citing "fatigue".

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWe here at the Pop Culture Institute can only hope Her Excellency isn't ill; Jean's predecessor is twenty years older and didn't cancel events, despite a fairly major illness while in office. Likewise, the Lady she represents still does over two hundred engagements a years despite being nearly forty years older.

I'm just saying...

[S O U R C E]
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Father of Pop To Be Bronzed

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketManhattan will add to its already burgeoning inventory of honorific public art by erecting a statue of Andy Warhol in Soho's Father Fagan Park. Presumably this means Chelsea will get the one of Joe Dallesandro for the Tomb of the Unknown Hustler.

Congrats from the Pop Culture Institute to the Father of Pop Himself.

[S O U R C E]
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Now Showing - Lily Savage on "Parkinson"

My friend Doug came over this evening, and, as will happen, I got to surfing around YouTube. In one of those happy accidents one gets while 'Tubing, we ran across this.

I don't think I've laughed as hard at anything since the last Tory Budget Speech.

Damn! I've always enjoyed watching a bit of drag - anyway, it sure beats the Hell out of doing it - but this nearly did me in. Since Doug and I were laughing so hard the first time, after he left I had to watch it again to see what I'd missed.
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Crusader Causes Conservative Conniptions

He said he'd do it, and now it appears that he just might do it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHaving just picked myself up off the floor from the mere possibility that a politician might actually (gasp!) keep a campaign promise, it looks as though New York governor Eliot Spitzer is prepared to introduce a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state.

Whoops! There I go again. Having just typed the words I reread them and once more hit the floor.

Even though I am highly skeptical of most politicians, that's only to be expected from a bitter, cynical person such as myself. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but it's a well-known fact that politicians lie, and even when they tell the truth they do so with an agenda. Nevertheless, Spitzer seems to have integrity, which thus far his actions have demonstrated.

Of course, this is by no means a fait accompli; even if it passes, a very large if, its opponents will never stop trying to overturn it, stooping to any depth to do so. Rather than dwell on that, though, I suppose I can allow a celebratory mood around here for awhile. If I must.

Do not mistake this for complacency, you haters out there. Oh no. It's just that I do need to lighten up occasionally so that my head doesn't explode.
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Sunday, April 22, 2007

French Election Cage Match: Sarkozy vs. Royal

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketIt's a landmark election today for the Fifth Republic (though this is only the runoff); for the first time France appears ready to elect a President born after World War 2, and whichever of the front-runners succeeds it promises to be a first.

Will it be Segolene Royal, a Socialist and a female, or will it be Nicolas Sarkozy, a centre-right child of Hungarian immigrants?

Either way, voter registration is reported as being high, and voter turnout may yet surpass the all-time high (just shy of 85%) from the 1965 contest, in which the incumbent Charles deGaulle defeated Francois Mitterand (who was eventually elected in 1981 and served the longest presidential term yet - 14 years - as a Socialist). Just FYI.
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Now Showing - David Campbell's "Earth Song"

In keeping with the theme, here is another video from my friend David Campbell.
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Happy Earth Day

Really, though, don't you think every day should be Earth Day? Huh? Well don't you?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketActually there are two, and this is where it gets confusing.

The first ever Earth Day was proclaimed by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21st, 1970.

Earth Day, by UN decree, was first observed on that day in 1971.

The second, by an act of Congress sponsored by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, was first celebrated April 22nd 1970. It's a start, I guess. Two down, only 363 to go. So for now it's duelling Earth Days, y'all!

As UN Secretary-General U Thant said in 1971: "May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Daffodil Named NYC's Flower

3 Million daffodil bulbs were planted in New York following 9/11, so it's only fitting that the daffodil be named the city's flower. They're also the floral emblem of Wales and my personal favourite as well.

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I've published this photo before, but it's one of my favourites, so I thought I'd publish it again.
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And Now For Something Completely Different

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Okay, so I'll be the first to admit I've been a little squirrelly the last couple of days. Call it a combination of spring fever and righteous indignation. Despite this, I managed to make a little friend yesterday. At the very north end of Fraser Street there's a sort-of park, with stair access to Great Northern Way below, and who should I meet there but this curious little fellow.

He was a very obliging model, being very still and holding this pose as I inched forward several times to take it. Then a very raucous seagull came by and ruined it all. North Fraser is cat country, so squirrel sightings are rare. That's what made this one so serendipitous.
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Tories Are Stupid: Report

A new report released today by the Pop Culture Institute proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Canada's Conservative government led by Stephen Harper are a bunch of idiots.

The report was prompted by a Tory report that said adopting the Kyoto protocol would destroy the economy. Despite the massive savings in energy costs and corresponding increase in profits which corporations would realise in doing so, those same corporations seem unwilling to spend a dollar, even when its investment could earn them a hundred in the short-term. Not to mention, you know, saving the planet.

The PCI report goes on to say that the best way to reduce the amount of methane and hot air in the environment would be for corporations to take the money they are currently using to buy themselves a Tory government and spend it on recycling, alternative energy sources, and public transportation.

Sending the Tories packing after the next election would also be a boon to composting, as what the Tories use for brains is considered especially good for this.

The PCI report was written in crayon, and contained several naughty doodles of current Environment Minister John Baird doing something to the former holder of that portfolio, Rona Ambrose. However, those responsible for drafting the report can't draw very well, so it's difficult to to tell exactly what.
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Genug with the Meshuggeneh

What a blood-soaked few days it's been here at the Pop Culture Institute, what with all the killing and shooting. I mean, it's all been on the news, but still...

Here's the problem in a nutshell (in a nut's hell?), and it's not anti-depressants, or guns, or bullying; it has nothing to do with immigration, either. It has to do with the fact that some people seem to have the opinion that it's okay to kill people. If you banned all guns, you'd still have people bashing each other's brains in with baseball bats. It seems that some people will go to extremes to justify what is wrong wrong wrong, namely killing.

I may be going out on a limb here, but the Pop Culture Institute is ready to take a stand. We do not advocate the killing of anyone for any reason other than in self-defense, and in that case it had better be cut-and-dried, er, open-and-shut. Yeah, that's okay. Not pre-emptively, as in war, either (which we also oppose).

Just to be perfectly clear, self-defense does not mean someone gave you a snotty look at the mall so you're allowed to push them down the escalator, nor does it mean your girlfriend cheated on you so that somehow gives you the permission to garrote her for it. Self-defense means kill or be killed, and they started it. I mean, they're standing there with a knife in their hand saying "I'm a kill ya!" And even then you'd better have witnesses, video from half a dozen cell phones, and a signed confession.

Otherwise, don't fucking kill people! How hard is that to understand?

Okay, I'm done now, and I feel much better.

Thank you.
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It's 4/20 Y'All!

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This is the first year in five I haven't celebrated accordingly, in keeping with my new standard of sobriety. Not to worry, I'm not all preachy about it, like some people who quit and act like they're all that because they did. I just decided that it was getting in the way of my writing, since it tends to de-motivate me. I've wanted to be a writer forever, so the solution was obvious.

Plus, there's no way my life right now is at a place where I want it in a holding pattern, so it's no smoke for me until it is. Not to mention what it does to my syntax, which is already somewhat tortured, or, if you prefer, complex. Just so you don't think I'm all virtuous, there isn't a moment when I don't think about smoking it, I just don't.

Willpower, after all, is a verb; it's something you do, not something you have.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fighting Hate Thought

Finally, finally, finally...

Professional hypocrites who are too eager to punish people like Don Imus for saying things like "nappy-headed hos" are starting to examine those who say far worse far more often, namely hip-hop artists. Al Sharpton is a prime example of someone who will leap down the throat of any white person who utters the N-word but remains mum when Beenie Man sings a song about how all fags should die. I'm not even gonna mention Tawana Brawley, though I'm fairly dying to.

The Pop Culture Institute is unequivocally opposed to censorship, even that imposed upon the very worst hate speech. Punishing someone for saying a terrible thing doesn't stop them from thinking it, only from saying it. Instead of releasing the hatred and aggression inherent in such speech - which may, it is true, encourage others to acts of violence - it festers inside them, which may indeed result in a much larger crime at a later date.

Hate speech is the result of disordered thinking. Inaccurate assumptions, left unchecked, easily become the truth. Peer groups - whether they call themselves a posse or a congregation - have a way of forming around this sort of affinity. Hate thinking, naturally, cannot help but express itself, which is where the vicious cycle is given release. Those on the receiving end of this hatred will inevitably react, rather than understand, and the cycle continues, without relief.

I've always liked hip-hop, despite the dismaying profusion of hatred in its lyrics, mainly because not everyone does it, and even those who do it don't do it all the time. For those who do, though, their hatred can be considered a road map to relieving itself. A rapper who has bad luck with women is likely to think badly of all women, when in fact he's just surrounded by the wrong kind of women, namely the kind who cast aside all morality when faced with a wealthy, popular recording artist who feels entitled to getting whatever he demands, including sleazy behaviour from scantily clad women.

Similarly, a muscular black rapper like 50 Cent seems to be displaying his ignorance when he demonstrates fear of a stereotypical gay man, a 150-pound mincing white guy. In every way, Fitty has the upper hand here. There are no gangs of hairdressers terrorizing Harlem, and there never have been, and there never will be. Oppressors have a funny way of believing that those whom they've oppressed, given the upper hand, will act in exactly the way they've been treated. It simply doesn't happen.

I think it was really Eminem who brought about the current scrutiny, for which he will one day be as lauded as he once was vilified. His were the first hip-hop lyrics really scrutinized by the mainstream media (with the possible exception of 2 Live Crew), a fact which he frequently bemoaned in his music. It's a tad disingenuous, but it's also entirely ingenious.

Eminem knows exactly what he's doing, and hides behind that trailer park persona of his because it's a well-known fact that young men, when they're smart, usually get called fags, and as everyone knows, a fag is the worst thing you can be called. He will win a GLAAD award yet, you mark my words.

If you meet someone who, for whatever reason, you don't like, you can simply ignore them. Or you can choose to use the opportunity to examine your own prejudices. Does that person express something in their person which you dislike about yourself? Lashing out, whether using words or fists, does nothing. It may alter their behaviour, which is common result of terrorism, but it doesn't make you feel any better, nor does it make the "problem" go away; there'll always be another and another who produces the same reaction, since the real problem isn't them it's you.

The real irony is, if you hate fags so much that you're willing to assault or kill one, rest assured you will be caught and sent to jail and that will be eye-opening, to say the least. If that's what you're really after, there are places to go for that which have the added benefit of not having to deal with the police. At least not the on-duty ones.

It's high time for this debate. Oprah Winfrey, who has recently been criticized for turning her back on the black community, has simply turned her back on the more negative aspects of her communtiy in favour of the more positive ones, and to take her role in the larger community of humans, especially those who refuse to define themselves in terms as narrow as skin colour. She's to be commended for enjoining the debate now. Similarly, Bill Cosby has drawn fire made for comments critical of black men - comments that might have been better directed at himself first, given the bumpy few years of scandal he's endured - but at least he's gotten people talking.

So thank you, Michael Richards and Don Imus, for providing the tipping point. I have a feeling that by the time everybody's put their two cents into this one our society will be a much richer one.
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Photo Essay: Rail Yards

In the past year I've taken a couple of thousand shots of tags both large and small around the city, focusing on those that are unique or poignant. In the past six weeks my work has taken me to the rail yards between Terminal Avenue and Great Northern Way in Vancouver, and while there I've had the chance to photograph these.

They don't resemble anything I've ever seen produced locally, even among the fine examples in the Grandview cut between Commercial and Clark Drives or in a similar rail cut beside Granville Island. I can only assume they are the work of writers in Toronto and Montreal. Plus, I like the unifying element of the box cars. Below are seven of my favourites.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

RIP Kitty Carlisle Hart

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe arts community has lost a tireless advocate in Kitty Carlisle Hart, who died yesterday of pneumonia.

She attained the height of her fame from appearances on "To Tell The Truth" between 1956 and 2002, but also appeared on stage and screen; as recently as earlier this year she performed a cabaret act at Feinstein's at the Regency.
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Ghost Town Haunts New South Wales

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketUntil recently, the biggest tourist attraction in Adaminaby was the Big Trout (pictured).

In 1957 the government of Australia moved the entire town of Adaminaby in New South Wales and drowned the old townsite in a hydroelectric project. End of story... Or is it?

Fast forward 50 years, and suddenly the old town begins to reappear. Spooky!

I don't know why this story caught my eye like it did; maybe it's the Australian angle, the historical poignancy, or the global warming parable. That or it's a slow news day.

[S O U R C E]
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Shining Star

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I actually took this picture a few weeks ago, and was saving if for a day like this, when anything else I might care to write seems frivolous and empty.

I've lived in Vancouver almost nine years now, so long that I don't even get allergies in the spring any more, and I've never seen a sea star within city limits. I'd never seen a purple one before, either. This day I was walking along False Creek and happened to see a dozen of these purple ones and a half a dozen of the more common orange ones in a sheltered piece of foreshore near a marina.

When I lived here before, in 1990, False Creek was so dirty you wouldn't have seen this. First, the animal wouldn't have been there, and secondly, if it had it wouldn't have been visible as deep as this one was, about a metre down. I didn't even need a polarizing filter to capture this one, the water was that clear.

It's easy to say that things are dirtier and more violent and in every way worse today than they've ever been, but now I don't know. To give myself a little perspective, I was reading about an even worse school attack than the one at Virginia Tech which took place in Bath, Michigan in 1927, in which a man dynamited a school and killed 45 people, most of them children.

Talk about your good old days.
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Books Wormed - Pete Hamill's "Downtown" and "Five Points" by Tyler Anbinder

Despite having so little time for anything else lately (like sleeping or eating) I've actually been doing quite a bit of reading. So much so that I finished two books in one day. Feeling quite virtuous, I then proceeded to get carried away, and read an entire issue of The New Yorker, a six-week-old copy of the Georgia Straight that I'd already read six weeks ago, and the instruction manual for a fire extinguisher.

Never let it be said that Daddy doesn't like him some readin'.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe first book I finished was actually brought to my attention by James Mullin, my book enabler, er, dealer. Seller! My book seller... When he handed me this one I snatched it away from him so fast there was a concern he might need a blood transfusion to help him recover from the paper cuts.

Ah, Manhattan... Or as I like to call it "The Holy Land". Mr. Hamill gets it just right, or at least I assume he does. I've never been to New York, but reading this one made me want to go even more, if such a thing is possible. By turns elegiac, puissant, and erudite, "Downtown" is everything a travel book should be, including written by someone who knows what they're talking about because they've lived there forever, without being as needlessly sesquipedalian as I can be.

I loved how he took well-known places, set them in a particular 20th century context, then finished them with some frisson of personal yet utterly relatable anecdote. More than a travel book, it's a time travel book. Not only did it make me want to go there, it made me want to go there 20 years before I was born.

Plus it reads like poetry crossed with chocolate. At 280 pages, I wanted it to go on and on...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketCovering roughly the same territory (geographically, at least), albeit 150 years previous, is the thick and juicy "Five Points" by Tyler Anbinder. I love nothing better than wrapping my hands around a great big history book, especially one which throbs with insight and pulses with life. Fortunately, I'm not one to sublimate, nor would I dream of exaggerating. Not in a million years.

Having previously read (and adored) "The Gangs of New York", Professor Anbinder's take is still thrilling, despite all the accuracy which, sadly, is lacking in Herbert Asbury's landmark 1928 publication. Twice as long as "Downtown" I was so enthralled by "Five Points" I read all the end notes and the index. Where Hamill's book is a rich, fulfilling dessert, Anbinder's is a steak.

To any student of conurbation, such as myself, New York City is the ultimate paradise on Earth. Although London is a close second - the cradle of the modern world, if you will - Manhattan is it's playpen, the nexus of everything, a gleaming pinnacle... I'd say more, but I'm afraid if my reverie rises above a certain Woody Allen-esque pitch Mr. Gagne dials up Bitch-Slap-o-Gram, and the next thing I know there's a knock at my door and a eight-foot tranny with a delivery for me.

So yeah, y'know, read 'em, don't read 'em... Whatever.
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Editorial Policy Clarified

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As a glib, snarky publication (GSP) the Pop Culture Institute has a definite role to perform in the larger media. Namely, to be glib and snarky, guh! There are thoughtful publications, there are sleazy publications, and there is everything in between; all are invaluable for filling the niche they do.

There are stories I'm following that it's otherwise impossible for me to cover without seeming insensitive, to whit: the Virginia Tech shooting. From the Ecole Polytechnic killings of 1989 through the Columbine killings of 1999 to the Dawson College killings last year and now this, I have always been appalled that places of learning should ever be terrorized in this way.

Obviously, it is my opinion that if you are going to go on a killing spree only to then commit suicide you should by all means go first. You are obviously a selfish person, so why choose this crucial time to share? This, of course, is merely a reaction to a tragedy; in the fullness of time, I know I'll find myself trying to understand and forgive this monster.

Once CNN and their ilk start trotting out the killer's friends and family, and they start crying all over the place, that's when my mushy little heart will start to bleed. Years from now, when it's proven that he did it because of too many trans fats or antidepressants or whatever excuse they can find in place of a reason, we'll already have moved on to the next thing.

And if it turns out the reason he did this was because he was bullied, forget it. You might as well wave a pork chop at a rabid weasel, because I will lose it. I've been bullied my whole life; I have not gone on any shooting spree, nor will I. Instead, I started a GSP.

Killing a bully makes a bully a martyr and a martyr is a hero; the only real revenge is to overcome the bullying and instead find it in yourself to mock the bullies incessantly. That said, I'd better stop now. Knowing myself as I do, I've already said something I'll come to regret. My thoughts go out to Virginia Tech today, as I go to work at a vast campus and hope...
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