August 31, 2011

Does this ad glamourize abuse?

Here in quiet calm Canadian Edmonton, the media and blogosphere have been abuzz for the last few days, and with good reason. There's TV coverage, newspaper articles, blog posts, water cooler talk. Our pop culture focus has briefly moved away from the Kardashians and video music awards, and on to a discussion about media and violence against women... how the hell did that happen?

A local woman's hair salon did something stupid and offensive, and then when they were publicly called on it, they reacted in a way that was even more stupid and offensive.

Fluid salon used the ad above, and most of us never saw or noticed it, until an east coast blogger saw it and went ballistic. Look at the picture: a well-coiffed woman with a nasty black eye posing provocatively on a couch; Behind her stands a creepy menacing man proffering a diamond necklace. The ad reads Look Good In All You Do.

Is this ad promoting forgiveness of abuse? For diamonds?

Critics say the ad diminishes the seriousness of abuse and would like to see the ad pulled: "This advertisement is at risk of glamourizing an issue that is of serious and life-threatening, ongoing concern to all the women and children who use our shelters," said Janine Fraser, director of the Edmonton Women's Shelter to The Huffington Post Canada.

Salon owner Sarah Cameron defends the ad on her website, calling it artistic and open to interpretation. "Is it cutting edge advertising? Yes. Is it intended to be a satirical look at real-life situations that ignites conversation and debate? Of course. Is it to everyone's taste? Probably not."

Uh, sorry lady, this is not art, which can be controversial and provocative... it's advertising, designed to sell stuff. And please go Google the meaning of "satire."

Cameron, who is apparently tone deaf and clueless, blames the media for creating the controversy. "Edmonton is presently the murder capital of Canada," her release states. "Media's energy and time may be better spent boycotting dangerous areas, gangs, guns, other street weapons, or a sick justice system, which unfortunately is still sadly lacking when it comes to punishing abusers."

Now that the shit has hit the fan, Cameron promises to donate to the Edmonton Women's Shelter when a paying customer mentions the ad. Why only when mentioned? Why only when customers are paying you money? Why did it take this controversy for you to tie in to a shelter? How much of a donation? Why not pull the ad? Why not issue a full retraction rather than attack those who criticize the ad? Did you realize that ads are public and open to people's comments? Are you saying that we common folk are too stupid to understand your clever artsy advertising?

The salon owner continues, defending the ad up and down, according to the Edmonton Sun: "We keep tailoring everything because everyone is getting so sensitive... Maybe people should stop hiding behind their computers and actually go do something."

How tone deaf are they? Facing the tore of criticism, digging in their heels, insisting they haven't done anything wrong, and turning on the bloggers who criticize them? Well I am glad to add myself to that list, you morons.

From their release: "If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize, that was never our intent as there are people that worked on this campaign who are survivors of abuse. To the rest of you who this has so deeply affected, we truly hope you do something to help stop domestic violence. Truly honor the survivors that you are standing up for. Unfortunately boycotting a hair salon will not accomplish this."

As TV anchor Ryan Jespersen says in his really good blog: Had the Fluid Salon team responded to this international attention differently, we'd have a whole different story on our hands. Something as simple as, "Our intentions were pure but our campaign was misguided and/or unclear. We apologize to anyone we may have offended and have withdrawn the ads in question" would have sufficed.

There is an old saying that any publicity is good publicity. I am thinking not so true right about now...

August 28, 2011

Chick Flick Humour...

I love chick flicks, from the good (The Devil Wears Prada) to the mediocre (Something Borrowed) to the truly awful (The Pirate Movie). They are sweet upbeat escapist fun.

After seeing the trailer for I Don't Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, I thought that it looked like fun, even though it was yet another flick about a harried super-mom juggling a busy life. True, this is nothing new, I mean real women do it every day, and Diane Keaton did it in Baby Boom 25 years ago, but the flick looked like fun.

And I do like SJP, except for that wretched thing she did with Matthew McConaughey a few years ago.

Then I saw the movie poster and thought, hey, that is kind of a boring serious take on what should be a fun zingy movie.

Then I saw what The Huffington Post thought of the movie poster, and thought, wowza, well done!

Okay, the jury is out on the movie, but they sure do need better marketing...

August 27, 2011

Rest In Peace, Jack Layton...

As I write this, we are staring at the TV with most of Canada, watching the state funeral for Jack Layton, the Canadian Parliament's Leader of the Opposition. There are lots of tears, and spontaneous applause. I can't remember the last time we had a state funeral in Canada. Hell, I can't remember the a time when the TV networks agreed to play nice and share coverage.

Mr Layton was a fighter for the common man, to to use a cliche, who tried to make the country a better and more humane place. He passionately fought for the homeless, for health care, for equality, for the environment, and for the many disadvantaged communities in this multi-cultural nation.

The groundswell of discussion and emotion and love and admiration across Canada since his death has been both touching and unprecedented. Only when Princess Diana died can I remember an outpouring like this one.

All this love, and this man was not even our elected leader. Well, we actually don't like our elected leader very much. But that's a whole other subject.

I remember when I was living in Toronto and Mr Layton was our city councillor. He was a bold and caring man of the people. A socialist in the good way. And a perfect choice to be the conscience of our federal government, which desperately needs one. But that's a whole other subject.

Mr Layton, or Jack as the whole country called him, had been battling cancer for the second time, and was on leave, so he knew that death was coming. His heartbreaking and inspiring goodbye letter has been much quoted this week. It is a manifesto for social change. Here's the amazing final passage (you can read the whole letter at

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Jack was an ally and supporter of the gay community for decades, and I think he was the first politician I saw march in a pride parade. He took on LGBT issues like marriage equality long before it was popular to do so. His last public appearance was at Toronto’s gay pride parade. I can't think of anything to add to the tributes and tears, so here's the video he recorded for last year's It Gets Better campaign to support bullied youth:

Rest in peace, Jack....

August 25, 2011

See this movie: Rabbit Hole

Sometimes films come and go so quickly, if you miss opening weekend, you have totally missed your chance to see them. Except of course those damn Transformers movies which seem to linger forever.

One of those blink-and-you'll miss it films is last year's Rabbit Hole, which aside from an Oscar nomination for leading lady Nicole Kidman, seemed to vanish without a trace.

I just saw Rabbit Hole on VOD, and it smart, sad, and yes funnier than expected. The plot is simple: 8 months after the death of a 4-yr old boy, his parents continue to mourn and try to move on. Well, one parent can only mourn, and the other wants to move on.

Nicole Kidman gives in her best performance ever; she is touching and real and emotional ---- her face moves and everything! This feels like a human being, not a glam superstar going plain. Her character Becca cannot move past losing her child, everything is about her loss, from shopping for groceries to walking the dog.

Also great are Aaron Eckhart as the husband who mourns differently than wife (he's open to whatever works, but nothing does), Sandra Oh as a support group member who seems to have become a professional griever, and an especially sharp Dianne Weist as Kidman's mother, who lost her 30-yr-old son to a heroin overdose so she never loses patience with her daughter because she of all people understands.

Weist's character on losing a child: it changes you... you carry it around. It doesn’t go away... It just....” as her voice trails off wistfully in a tender moment between a combative mother and her wounded daughter. In Rabbit Hole everyone mourns differently: do you stay in that moment of loss, do you erase the memory, do you have another baby, do you talk about it at all?

The film is bleak with moments of funny; it achieves moments of catharsis, but it can be heavy going. The more the couple plays "normal," the more the effort fails. Becca tries to eradicate all signs of her son, while Howie reaches out to family and friends. The group sessions barely help, as they show the gap between the two, and reveal how they are moving further apart with their own post-loss lives.

This is an intense, intimate story of a couple reeling from the loss of their young son. It is a quiet tragedy, and I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that was not a box office hit; now on DVD and VOD it has another chance, and I hope people see it.

Rabbit Hole made me feel and think. And maybe tear up a bit. No matter how safe and comfy your surroundings, the film insists, everything in an instant can disappear down a rabbit hole.

August 21, 2011

9 Celebs You Should Follow On Twitter...

I have a love hate relationship with twitterdom --- I love it because its fun and fast and has lots of cleverness and new ideas and I get to "meet" lots of people I wouldn't otherwise know. I hate it because it is a huge distraction and black-hole-esque time suck.

One of the interesting things on twitter is un-"handled" exposure to celebrities. And while I tend to think that most celebrities are vapid and shallow, and yes some of them have other people tweet for them (what the fuck is the point of that?), there are some who it's fascinating to see live in person on twitter:

1- Jann Arden: Canadian songstress and radio host is sweet, charming, and tweets endless adorable pics of her cute dog Midi. Light and endearing tweets, and it's always good to have Canadian content. @jannarden

2- Roger Ebert: the famed movie reviewer tweets on movies and much more, including political commentary and online articles of interest. It's fascinating to see where his links take you. And now I really want to read his autobiography, which comes out later this year. @ebertchicago

3- Christina Applegate: Sweet, humble, down to earth celeb and twitter addict. Anyone who tweets wondering about the word "tushy" is ok in my book. @1capplegate

4- Alec Baldwin: smart, funny, liberal; random wisdom, movie trivia and opinions from the artsy sassy far left. @AlecBaldwin

5- Anderson Cooper: The CNN anchor live blogs during his show, offering smart snarky opinions on current hard and soft news. Sure, he pimps his new talk show too often, but hey he's so good looking he can get away with it. @andersoncooper

6- Pauley Perrette: Super cool NCIS star and insomniac, tweets a lot, from fun behind the scenes stuff to call-out's to celeb buddies to animal rights and marriage equality stuff. Love her!

7- Rosanne Cash: One of my favourite artists tweets about music, life on the road, social issues, and teases her husband endlessly. Fun and smart. @rosannecash

8- John Fugelsang: self-described sexy liberal comedian. He is so bang on, I would retweet him every damn time if I thought wouldn't annoy my seven followers. And if I didn't have a job so could sit at home reading his tweets and eating popcorn. No, the popcorn isn't relevant, I just like it... @JohnFugelsang

9- Alyssa Milano: someone not on my radar since Who's the Boss, stumbled across this twitter addict and was hooked; from the pregnancy stuff to cool articles to campaign for social justice and kids causes around the world, I don't think of her as a celeb but as a real person, and that my friends is a huge compliment. A smart impressive lady. I learn from her links. @Alyssa_Milano

So these are my faves; which twits do you follow? Tell me in the comments section...

August 17, 2011

Blogaversary fundraiser: Doctors Without Borders

Update: Thanks to all of your for your comments here, and for reading this here blog! With 29 comments and 4 new followers, Alfie is going to shake his piggy bank hard, round up and donate $40 to the amazing Doctors Without Borders.

Two years ago today (or yesterday, or tomorrow, depending when you read this damn thing), I started this amazing stupendous life-changing literary blog, alfred lives here.

We had just seen the movie Julie and Julia, which I luuuuuuved, and while the film inspired other people to cook and entertain and embrace their inner Julia, it had no such impact on me. I would rather eat popcorn and write. So here we are.

I have always been a semi-secret writer, kept journals, did have a couple of things published when I was younger and didn't need to support myself. Most of the time I just try to have fun with whatever writing opportunities comes my way. I give good email.

When I started this blog, it was natural to name it for my adopted baby, the world's cutest canine, who was sprawled across my lap at the time... as he usually is.

Blogging has been a great creative outlet for me; as my friend Lisa says, and she is a computer systems analyst who doubles as a fine artist, we all need a "secret life." And this is mine, especially now that I have given up table dancing professionally.

To thank you for reading alfred lives here, Alfie is going to recycle last year's first anniversary celebration:

To thank all of you for reading, and participating with your comments, for every comment attached to this post today and tomorrow (Aug 17 and 18), I will donate $1 to Doctors Without Borders' Emergency Relief Fund.

For every new follower I will donate $2 to Doctors Without Borders.

Geez, I'm asking for money. And paying for it now. Does that make me a whore? Or a john? My grandfather would be so proud...

C'mon, show the love and leave a comment... it's time to raid Alfie's piggy bank!

August 14, 2011

So, what's in your CD collection?

I love music music music... almost all kinds almost all of the time. And I collect music like crazy.

As we finish unpacking and settling in, we have finally reached the boxes bags and totes of books and CDs, and after not touching this stuff for months it is like rediscovering old friends all over again.

My music collection is huge, hundreds and hundreds of CDs, and wide-ranging, with pop to country to soundtracks to jazz to blues to disco. Lots of disco!

Lots of my music is what you'd expect from any pop culture vulture or gay guy ----- every single Madonna album, The Bodyguard soundtrack, Grammy collections, Aretha Franklin, lots of Streisand, Bette Midler overload, every possible combination of Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac, 14 Cher CDs including 4 different greatest hits albums (hey, I BELIEVE).

In rediscovering my collection, I found lots of country --- Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Garth Brooks, Patsy Cline, a Barbara Mandrell tribute album, 14 Reba McEntire albums.

I found some old favourites I haven't listened to in awhile --- ELO, Patti LaBelle, Elvis, Nina Simone's Baltimore, every single Pat Benatar album spanning 30 years.

And I found some wonky stuff that even surprised me -- when the hell did I buy Paula Abdul's greatest hits, a full album of covers of Carole King's Tapestry, the soundtrack to the movie Circuit (uh... there was a movie called Circuit?)

The best redisoveries were these favourites which I am loading into my car, and bopping along to them now and forever...

1- Bonnie Tyler's bombastic 80s rock opera, Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire.

2- The Best of Quarterflash --- 80s pop perfection: Harden My Heart, Find Another Fool, Talk To Me...

3- Rosanne Cash, The Wheel --- maybe my all-time favourite album.

4- George Michael, Older --- mature music past his teen idol peak, this is still pop perfection.

5-Linda Ronstadt, Winter Light --- her early 90s new-agey pop album was a commercial bomb, but stands as her best with not a single dud; rock, pop, great production, great vocals. Listen to Heartbeats Accelerating and be in awe...

So... what's in your CD collection?

August 10, 2011

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!

Did you think you were on top of all the big holidays? Did you know that today is National Duran Duran Appreciation Day? This is a big one folks, and until this week I knew nothing about it. Why the hell isn't this printed on my calendar like Christmas and Sir Wilfred Laurier Day*?

(*Laurier is a former Canadian Prime Minister, no idea what the holiday is...)

Are you Hungry Like a Wolf? Do you swoon for skinny boys in make-up with perfectly coiffed hair? If you adored this Fab Five band in the '80s, then National Duran Duran Appreciation Day is the day for you. From England's underground club cult movement, Duran Duran was founded by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor in 1978. After searching for a name, Duran Duran was chosen from a character in Jane Fonda's futuristic film Barbarella.

And while I was never a huge Duranie (are they called that?), I will admit to loving "New Moon on Monday" and "The Reflex", and having their greatest hits CD in my extensive 80s collection. It's near the Bonnie Tyler, Paula Abdul, Toto, and En Vogue CDs. Over there, near the Xanadu soundtrack. Yes really.

And yes gifts are perfectly ok on this momentous occasion. However, despite the importance of this holiday, apparently we do not get the day off work. If the Duran boys are dragging their feathered hair and middle-aged sequined behinds to work, then apparently so are we...

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! Who's up for wearing shoulder pads and mascara...?

August 8, 2011

Worst Reading Group Ever?

I have been half-heartedly looking for a book club to join, as I belonged to one years ago in Vancouver and really liked the camaraderie of it, and discovering new books and authors I had never heard of. Except for the really crappy ones.

Granted, I am not looking that hard, because... (1) I am busy, (2) I am lazy, (3) I don't want to read crappy boring books just because other people choose them, and (4) I am prone to anti-social hermit-esque behavior on weekends.

My half-assed search did not involve me leaving the house, but I did hit google and twitter, and aside from a really unstructured drop-in group at the local library, did not find much of merit at all.

But I did find this poster...

Now I ask you... what the hell kind of reading group bursts into flames and sends a clown running from the building?

... cuz that is a book club I may want to join!

August 4, 2011

My TV isn't gay enough...

Television networks received report cards from GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) this week when the organization announced findings from its fifth annual Network Responsibility Index.

The good news? Original prime time programming included positive representation of the LGBT community that also reflected the ethnic and racial diversity of the community. I immediately think of Kurt and Blaine on Glee, the many homos of the now-cancelled Brothers and Sisters, Callie and Arizona on Gray's Anatomy, and uh, um, what the hell else was there? I remember a tolerance-themed Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell episode of NCIS, and oh yeah The Good Wife got a mopey slutty gay brother for a couple of episodes...

GLAAD found the five major broadcast networks have all remained relatively steady in the percentage of LGBT-inclusive hours. The CW, Fox, and ABC all experienced slight declines, while NBC and CBS both experienced slight increases. ABC saw the greatest decline at -3%, while CBS saw greatest increase at +3%.

Two youth-focused networks, ABC Family and The CW, ranked at the top of the class this year, with ABC Family receiving the second-ever "Excellent" rating in the NRI's history, and with The CW besting the other broadcast networks. Ok, I don't watch either of those, cuz I am too damn old, but apparently they are homo-tastic with shows like Pretty Little Liars, Greek, and 90210.

The highest rated network, CBS, is always the lowest ranking network on the GLAAD report, and improved from "failing" to "adequate" this year; the network still only has one LGBT character - Kalinda, the mysterious bisexual investigator on The Good Wife.

Fox, with Glee, and ABC, with Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family, ranked "good," and NBC stayed put at "adequate."

A&E and TBS scored "failing."

These are all easy improvements, people. Okay maybe not for A&E and TBS, cuz I really don't know what the hell shows you people have on other than Criminal Minds marathons. For lowest ranked CBS, here are three easy ways to be more gay friendly.

1- The Good Wife: bring back gay brother Owen full-time, and give him a life.

2- NCIS: Wondering why all the failed marriages? Gibbs is gay.

3- Big Bang Theory: Sheldon is gay. Accept it and move on...

CBS execs --- you're welcome...

August 1, 2011

Strange Habits...

When I was attending McGill university in Montreal, I majored in Canadian history but took all sorts of classes outside my major, mostly cuz the history stuff got dry pretty quick.

One of my faves was a sociology course on deviance, where the hypothesis was that nothing is truly deviant: whatever is most common is considered "normal", and the majority of people who do the "normal" thing consider everything else "deviant". When we were asked to write a paper with a true story about something we did that was deviant to us but would not be to other people, I wrote about going to a straight bar. And talking to girls. I know, weird...

So staying with that idea of nothing is really deviant, except maybe paying real money to see Charlie Sheen's one-man show, then what is a strange habit? And what are my strange habits?

I don't know about strange habits, but here are some, shall we call them, quirks of mine...

1- I talk to my dog like he is a little person, in full sentences with more love and attention than I give most people. And I believe he listens and understands.

2- I can watch the same comedy over and over, and laugh just as much every time; this isn't just true for good ones like The Big Bang Theory; it's true for truly medicors shows like Rhoda, Mike & Molly, and the crapfest Rules Of Engagement.

3- I am terrified of ceiling fans.

4- My favourite foods are Licorice Allsorts and popcorn. And yes they work really well together.

5- I make lists about everything. I have made a list of lists I need to make.

6- I have seen every episode of The Golden Girls so often I can say the lines before them.

7- I am always cold. I would be happiest going thru life feeling warm like a piece of toast, and prefer to sleep in sweats and ski socks (I know, so hawt...)

8- I need to clear my email inbox or it gets me totally stressed out; yet I can ignore voicemail for days.

9- I am always reading three books at a time (I read somewhere that's a Gemini thing).

10- CNN's Sanjay Gupta annoys the crap out of me, more than those morons on Fox News...

So what are your strange habits?

This post was inspired by a writing prompt from those crazy kids @