Monday, April 16, 2007

It's Good To Be King

Swaziland, the smallest country in Africa, is entirely landlocked, squeezed between South Africa and Mozambique. Wealthy by African standards it is nevertheless one of the poorest countries in the world, ravaged by drought and AIDS. Swaziland has the lowest life expectancy in the world, at just over 33 years.

To any student of royalty (such as myself) though, the example of Swaziland, not to mention the story of Mswati III, ranks as truly exceptional.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe Swazi royal family, of which the king is the head, rule by decree, making Mswati III the last absolute monarch in Africa. Despite this, the Queen Mother (the Indlovukazi, or Great She-Elephant) wields extraordinary power as a sort of spiritual figurehead. The rules of succession are fascinating; I must have read the Wikipedia entry ten times, and I'm still shaking my head.

He is one of 210 sons by his father Sobhuza II, who had 70 wives and over a thousand grandchildren at the time of his death, from pneumonia, in 1982. There followed a period of regency; Mswati ascended the throne in 1986.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKing Mswati has recently married his 13th wife, Phindile Nkambule, despite the controversy surrounding their courtship. A couple of years ago he passed a law to combat the spread of AIDS by forbidding persons under the age of 18 to have sex, then promptly became engaged to the then 17-year-old Phindile. That they met at the Reed Dance, a ceremony in which the young girls of the nation honour the Indlovukazi rankled some, especially she wasn't the first of his brides so chosen.

The King's lavish lifestyle has also drawn fire; he commands a fleet of limousines, and spends a fortune outfitting lavish mansions for his growing coterie of wives. Otherwise he seems to be drawing the country toward constitutionality, or at least as much as is possible under an absolute monarch of a nation still essentially tribal in nature. There is little press freedom, but neither are there clampdowns such as those seen in Zimbabwe, for example.

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RIP Pat Buckley

For a socialite and fashion plate, prominent in her sphere for over forty years, the Internet holds very few images of Pat Buckley.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Although I knew more about her than someone else in my situation might, I had no idea that she was Canadian, let alone that she was born in Vancouver (!), and on the former Dominion Day (now Canada Day) either. I always thought of her (when I did) as little more than the chain-smoking wife of crypto-fascist William F. Buckley and number one fag-hag of Truman Capote.

The last I read about her was in Vanity Fair a couple years back, and when I went to find the specific article in question my stacks threatened to collapse on me, so I let it be.

It's enough to know that she was chair of the Costume Institute for nearly twenty years and worked (or, if you prefer, "worked") on behalf of AIDS, cancer, and Vietnam veterans charities.
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Mario Dumont's First Act

When the Action Democratique du Quebec (ADQ) party did so well in the recent Quebec provincial election, there were those in the media who were stymied. Who was this young guy? What does his party stand for? And what effect would his party exert over the Liberals led by Jean Charest?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWell Dumont's first salvo is to suggest that Quebec sign the Constitution, which it did not do in 1982. And what better time for such a ceremony than during Quebec's 400th anniversary in 2008, at which the Queen would be the guest of honour?

This is almost too good to be true. There was a famous image from that time, of the Queen scowling at Prime Minister Trudeau; she was said to be miffed at him for signing such a document without Quebec. May she live long enough to see that wrong righted.

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Who's A What Now?

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There are many things at play here.

1) I don't have cable. This is for the best, since if I did I'd never get anything done.

2) I usually only buy the first season (or series) of any show. I guess I managed to talk myself into thinking that one day I may actually write one of these monsters, and so I wanted to study the unique dynamics that mark first seasons (or series). There are a few exceptions to this rule (Corner Gas, Sex and The City, Friends), but not many.

3) "Entourage" is a so totally, way, hella-hetero show. It's that hot - practically porn.

4) Which is probably why I was so shocked to learn that there's a gay character on it.

5) Not only is he Asian, he's actually gay. That's him above, in case you couldn't guess. His name is Rex Lee.

6) He plays Ari's assistant Lloyd, and he doesn't appear until the second season, you see.

I love these kind of shocks.

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