January 30, 2012

Story For The New Depression...

"You know, dear, that you are my favorite person with a penis in the entire world. You are funny, sporadically caring, and smart. Perhaps too smart. That you are wrong, even occasionally, isn't the end of the world..."
- a semi-scolding given to Gabe Travers in Songs For The New Depression

Sometimes a book really works because it takes you to a whole different world. Other times a book really works because it feels like you are in your own familiar world, with a new perspective that makes you think and feel. For me, Songs For The New Depression by Kergan Edwards-Stout was that kind of involving, emotional read.

Songs is an AIDS novel and much more than that; with its reverse timeline and Bette Midler references (the title comes from one of her early albums), this is a really creative book. It's the story of Gabe Travers, a hyper-articulate, self-centred gay man in his 40s facing death and looking back... to a difficult childhood, lost loves, wounded friendships, racist pancakes and assorted sexual misadventures.

I've heard that just before you die, your life flashes before your eyes. There is an element of that here, as Gabe is looking back at his life with wistfulness and wit. This is an emotional and at times outright funny book. And it's an intimate one, and I don't mean that in a woo-hoo boys having sex kind of way, though it certainly has that. It is intimate in terms of being real and personal for someone of my age and generation, coming of age in the 80s (hello, Human League!), thinking about our loves and insecurities and loneliness and friendship and complicated families.

Gabe is a flawed person, and the writer's skill shows in making us care so much about someone who is not warm and fuzzy. Gabe is catty and cruel, makes mistakes, and is insecure and human and real.

While there are sections of Songs that are breezy fun, the book is tough to read at times, because I cared about the characters and they go through difficult stuff. But I couldn't put it down.

Songs For The New Depression touched me and stayed with me. It's a competitive publishing world out there, and this is a first novel put out by a small press. I hope it finds a big audience.

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. This review is my own. No compensation was received... Oreos would have been nice).

January 28, 2012

Brad Pitt's Gay Marriage Pledge....

I gotta love Brad Pitt... in addition to being an Oscar-nominated actor (Moneyball, Benjamin Button) and big time film producer (The Departed, Eat Pray Love), he is an activist and humanitarian, and has adopted 974 children with his spousal equivalent Angelina Jolie. And he's not too hard on the eyes either.

Pitt has been outspoken in his support of the GLBTQ community, most especially in giving his money and support for marriage equality:

"Can you believe that we’re still fighting for equality in America? To be against marriage for everyone is utter discrimination. I feel strongly about that because if equality of marriage doesn’t happen now, the next generation will have to deal with it.

It is an amazing thing that New York has finally gotten same-sex marriage. But the real problem is that the federal government hides behind states on this issue. It is blatant, ugly bigotry, and the federal government shouldn’t be doing that. You’re denying some Americans the right that all Americans have, to live their lives as they choose."

In 2006, Pitt pledged that he and partner Angeline Jolie would not marry until everyone could marry.

This week, the media reported that Pitt is reconsidering that pledge. His love for the mother of his children might be stronger than his patience as he hints to The Hollywood Reporter that we might hear wedding bells ring for Pitt and Jolie before we hear them ring for same-sex couples:

"We’d actually like to, and it seems to mean more and more to our kids. We made this declaration some time ago that we weren’t going to do it till everyone can. But I don’t think we’ll be able to hold out. It means so much to my kids, and they ask a lot. And it means something to me, too, to make that kind of commitment.”

I don’t think he should hold out if marriage is what Pitt and his family want. He’s able to, and they’re making an issue of their support for equality, which is enough. It’s not like we’re asking same-sex couples living in areas where they can get married to hold off until everyone else can. Hell, it's not like I held out.

The whole intent is everyone should be entitled to get married. Brad Pitt has done enough by recognising the inequality and supporting the fight against it, there’s no need to add another family unnecessarily into the fray.

So Brad and Angelina, go ahead and get hitched... just make the wedding FABULOUS, and then sell the wedding pics to People for five million bucks and give the proceeds to an equality campaign.

I'll be looking for my invitation in the mail...

January 26, 2012

The TV Doctor Will See You Now...

A real doctor would't dress like me, act like me, look like me...?

On the teen friendly CW network, there's a little show called Hart of Dixie, which I have never seen. It starts Rachel Bilson from The O.C., which I have never seen. Holy crap, I gotta watch more TV....

So Hart of Dixie, which I have posted video from before due to their insanely attractive cast, is about a glam New York Doctor who moves south to a small town and goes into culture shock. I think like a female Doc Hollywood kind of deal.

Showing humour and charm to spare (I so gotta try this show), Dixie star Rachel Bilson got in on the Funny or Die video fun, shooting a rap video “Call Me Doctor” with her Dixie co-stars Scott Porter and Wilson Bethel, who wrote and produced the track. And are easy on the eyes. (For the unfamiliar, funnyordie.com is where celebs cut loose with silly short films, with sometimes hysterical results).

Bilson goes full attitude in the clip with rhymes like “critics talking shit about my acting/ nice chick shtick ain’t happenin’” and an intro that directly confronts some of the criticism against the show: “A real doctor wouldn’t dress like me? Act like me? Look like me?…Aw, hell no!”

My favorite part may be when she takes on the “haters” who have mentioned that Bilson as a believable doctor may be a bit of a stretch. She has two words for you: “Doogie Howser.”

Clever stuff... Bring on the Hart of Dixie musical episode!

January 24, 2012

Don't talk to anyone. Don't touch anyone...

Don't reach out, don't touch anyone... I watched Contagion this weekend and lived to tell the tale.

Contagion follows the lightning fast progress of a lethal airborne virus that travels the globe and kills one by one and then million by million. As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people played by Oscar-winning celebrities struggle to survive in a society ripping itself apart.

The movie is realistic and scary. According to Contagion, the average person touches their face two to three thousand times a day... and in between that we are touching door knobs, public toilets, car doors, and each other. So yep the next person to get lesions and die within hours could be anyone of us.

Kate Winslet is an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer, whatever the hell that is, and does a graph of how many people each person will infect -- with small pox it was 3 each, with the flu is 1 person we pass on to; this is the "R-Knot", the contagion factor, and this new mysterious disease is spreading at a rate of 4. She is chasing down infected people to find the routing of the disease, while other celebs are out there following the infection clusters, testing for a vaccine, breaking the story, initiating a cover-up and controlling the spin.

Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) fills the flick with stars, and at times the whole Love Boat Of Death factor is distracting; as there is a suspenseful plot but not much in terms of deep characters, I never forgot I was watching Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Lawrence Fishburne. Damon is great as the everyman hero, though there is not much for him to do aside from mourn and worry; the rest of the characters are not so not so easily to relate to, and part of that is the distraction of wondering who is going to foam at the mouth and keel over next.

Contagion works because it shows the terror in everyday life, from pushing an elevator button to touching a shopping cart. It is terrifying and alarming.

Get me a surgical mask, latex gloves, full body Purell. Maybe a very large bubble. Don't touch me.

I'm not a hypochondriac, but this film will make you disinfect everything in site. And avoid public places. And human contact.

While it feels almost impersonal in some ways, Contagion is fantastic at depicting the fear and panic as it spreads. That is as scary as the disease.

While Contagion is not a fun movie, it is suspenseful and thought-provoking, and I am glad I watched it. I am especially happy I saw it at home rather than in a theatre, sitting on those chairs that other people sat on, walking on those sticky floors, touching those armrests... oy, I gotta bring a large amount antibacterial something next time I got a movie theatre...

January 22, 2012

Alfie for President 2012!

Even here in Canada, the upcoming US election is everywhere; if it weren't for Keystone controversy and Mark Wahlberg idiocy, we would have the election on an endless frigging loop of coverage.

As a Canadian I don't get to vote in this election, as I have to choose among our own political morons not yours. I would clearly be a democrat. Maybe less enthusiastically than four years ago, but still steadfast.

Sure, in some ways Obama has been a disappointment, though in his defence he has had every hurdle possible tossed at him, and done lots of good stuff. Here's a good idea I have seen out there.. how about Hillary as Veep?

The ever-shortening list GOP candidates now consists of elitist dog abuser Mitt Romney, weirdly amphibian-named adulterer New Gingrich, out-of-touch Ron Paul, and medieval homophobe Santorum (you gotta google him).

So here's a better alternative... Alfred for President!

He is cute (okay not a prerequisite for Prez, look at Nixon)... he likes everyone... he has a tax-free financial plan (his Dad supports him)... and everyone likes him. Alfred the candidate is in favour of universal healthcare, true education reform, marriage equality, better relations with Cuba (land of his ancestors) and stronger pooper scooper laws. And he's smarter than Rick Perry.

Okay, there are technical problems that disqualify him, like at age four he isn't old enough and he was born in Canada, however he'd still be a better independent choice than Donald Trump...

January 19, 2012

Brrr... Canada's Long John Index...

We live in Edmonton, in northern Canada. It's effing cold here... "Winter Wonderland" my ass.

As I write this, it is 11 at night, I am watching TV, knowing I have to take the dogs out for a quick pee, and dreading it. It is MINUS 48 fucking degrees out there. Celsius. We are beyond extreme cold warnings, people. When it is this cold a digit could just fall off. An important one!

I wore ski socks and boots with my suit today. Standing outside to fill up my car was brutal. The autoclub is quoting nine hours for a flat tire service call. Everyone's nipples are painful and pointed like a Madonna bra. School buses are cancelled. Not the time to go commando.

Beyond dressing warm, at some point it should be long john weather. Although I am known to wear multiple pairs of fluffy ski socks and non-sexy layered sweats, I haven't worn these in years, though it may be time again. Here they are looking somewhat sexy, which trust me is not the real world...

Long johns, or long underwear, are warm thermal long-sleeved undergarments. When I was a kid I word these skiing. And nylon suspender over-pants. Attractive, huh? Who cares. warm is warm.

This week on twitter, the world's source of all real news, I discovered The Long John Index, a 'not-scientific-whatsoever' method of measuring when, and if, one should be wearing a pair of thermal long underwear, known more commonly in the Dominion of Canada as 'Long Johns”. The Long John Index originated in the Arctic Capital of Edmonton Alberta, in the second decade of the 21rst Century. It is used mainly for edutainment and gambling purposes.

The Index runs on a scale from 1 to 5; the higher the number, the more you need long john's. And I gotta tell you, these guys seem wimpy to me. With us nearing minus 50 it is hypothermia cars-don't-start weather, so yes we need long john's. Or to just stay home by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and wearing every damn piece of clothing we own. But warmer than minus 30? Naaah...

Index rating 1: Low/Wimpy, temperatures between 0 and –10 celsius, no windchill. Long Johns not needed.

Index rating 2: Moderate, temperature between 0 and –10, with measurable windchill. Long Johns probably a good idea if you are spending more than an hour or so outdoors.

Index rating 3:
High, temperature between -10 and –20. Long Johns should be worn for being outdoors for anything more than half-an-hour.

Index rating 4: Crazy High, Temperature between –20 and –30. Long Johns should be worn if you are outdoors for more than 10 minutes. It’s bleeping cold.

Index rating 5: Effin Nuts, Temperatures of –30 and worse. Windchill no longer matters. Long Johns should be worn INDOORS. Don’t even bother going outdoors. You may die out there.

Today was a SIX. Off the damn scale. Effin nuts.. Crap oh crap. I need full-body long johns. Including a mask, so I look like I am robbing a bank. Then I will rob a bank, take the cash and move somewhere that is way warmer than this arctic wasteland... okay, breathe, better now, it's just a cold spell during a Canadian winter.... we get those.

And now to warm everyone, another gratuitous pic... here is proof there are fashion crimes even in the world of long johns... really, a jaguar print? Who thought of this? And, uh, where do they sell them and how warm are they? Hmm....

Find the index at http://longjohnindex.ca

January 17, 2012

It's an honour just to be nominated...

My friend Lisa, who I met when we both worked in a bookstore and has since pursued a secondary life as an artist, says that we all need "a secret life" or a passion outside of our career.

I believe that when you do a creative endeavor, like sculpting, painting, or writing, you really have to do it for yourself first. And as much as I love when people read this blog, and am a total comment whore, I really do it for myself first.

Still, self-winding as I am, we all love a little love, and this week I got a whack of that, when alfred lives here was one of five blogs shortlisted as best LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual trans queer) weblog in Canada.

I grinned for hours after seeing this. I saw it on twitter, cuz that's where all the fresh news is. So huge thanks to the CWAs for this vote of confidence. And thanks too for the ginormous spinach feta pizza... wait, that wasn't you?

What is this award? From the awards website: The Canadian Weblog Awards promote good weblogs of all genres from across Canada... The Canadian Weblog Awards are about quality not popularity, so there is no public vote. Each weblog is judged by a volunteer jury against a set of criteria.

Am I gonna win? I am guessing not. I am not that lucky. It would be so totally cool though. Cuz they send you a shiny new car when you win! Uh, wait, that's not right...?

January 15, 2012

A Capella Moves Like Jagger...

Ignoring all hits by anyone named Katy or Britney, "the" pop song of last summer was likely Moves Like Jagger, by Maroon 5 with a cameo by Christina Aguilera.

I like this song a lot, and downloaded it to my running iPod. Liking it surprised me because it's from Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera.

What do I think of Maroon 5? I cannot name of a single one of their songs, though gotta admit lead singer Adam Levine is hot and his outspoken support for gay rights is admirable.

As for Christina Aguilera, she has an amazing voice but hasn't put out decent music since her jazzy Back to Basics album in 2006, and she has the worst fashion sense this side of Kelly Clarkson.

Yet I do love the song... at least I did until I came across this amazingly better version. It's an a capella cover by Jordan Campbell, a student at Toronto's Ryerson University. Mr Show-Off sings, hums, 'drums' and whistles through the song. Yep, the rest of us are talent-less losers.

According to Campbell's YouTube description, the song contained 50 different audio tracks and 76 video sequences. And I love the Brady Bunch esque visuals...

January 13, 2012

Saved by the... Underwear?

I am a little older than the Saved By The Bell generation, but I remember being vaguely aware of the show when it was on, and since the 90s it has been on endlessly in syndication. Endlessly. And let's not mention their College Years series disaster. Fave factoid ---- I do sorta love that what's-her-name from Showgirls started there.

I remember becoming aware of Mario Lopez when he played Greg Louganis in the 90s, a pretty bold choice for him at the time. Okay, and from an 80s guest spot as a kid on The Golden Girls. That I have seen like thirty times.

Then Lopez disappeared off the face of the earth for about 15 years. Or at least off my radar. According to Google he has been acting on TV, writing fitness books, dancing on TV and Broadway, and doing some TV hosting all this time... who knew?

So it was very cool to see Lopez this week on gay mag The Advocate's website, coincidentally stripped down in his skivvies, talking about growing up, appreciating his gay fans, and yes selling his new line of underwear...

At what point in your career did you realize it wasn’t just girls who were swooning over you?
I probably realized it in my 20s. Maybe my late teens.

And in your experience, how are gay fans different from straight fans?
Gay fans are very loyal. And very cool. I’m honored to be embraced by the gay community. They’re the smartest and the hippest. They determine what’s hot out there.

Well said... and Lopez is nearing 40, and holy crap look at those abs!

The tagline for the underwear line is For Men And Their Very Special Guests. That's kind of clever actually...

January 8, 2012

Then again, I heart Diane Keaton...

I have been listening to Diane Keaton read her autobiography Then Again on CD as I drive, and I gotta say, that even with my pretty high expectations, she blew me away.

Much as I love the typical Loni Anderson-esque superficial Hollywood bio, this isn't one of them.

For the curious like me, yes, Ms. Keaton dishes on her relationships, with Al Pacino ("Sometimes I swear Al must have been raised by wolves"), Warren Beatty ("when Warren chose to shine his light on you, there was no going back."), and especially Woody Allen (“He would cringe if he knew how much I care about him”).

Then Again is so much more than a Hollywood tale. Structurally, Keaton shares her biography with the journals of her late mother, a 1950s housewife with unfulfilled artistic ambitions and bouts of depression. Like all biographies, she talks about growing up and learning about life, the difference here is that she has actually learned stuff, and tells the story with charm and humour. And having her read the audio, clearly enjoy it, and get emotional at the sad parts, is breathtaking.

Famous since her Oscar-winning role as Annie Hall, Keaton has since moved into artsy projects such as books about architecture and photography, and directing a documentary on heaven. She is living the “age thing” (she’s 65) that female stars face, with minimum humiliation. She writes honestly about fame, bulimia, family, love, loneliness, fear of intimacy, sexism, and self-esteem. And she’s self-sufficient, saying in Then Again, “I never found a home in the arms of a man.”

The message of Annie Hall is: Love fades. Keaton gushes over Allen for making Annie Hall a funny movie with a sad ending. That same funny/sad tone is in this memoir, which is smart and quirky and rambling and awkward, along with charming and sweet and sad and soulful. And on audio it seemed almost too personal at times. Take the time to read it. Or listen to Keaton herself read it to you, as I did...

January 5, 2012

My Blackberry is not working...

I am an iPhone/iPad/iPod type of guy, and my husband loves his beloved Crackberry. Opposites attract...

So laughing at Blackberry products (hello... Playbook, anyone?) is very enjoyable for me. And when a coworker showed me this video I could not stop laughing. Yes, out loud, at the office. I am classy with a "k"...

January 2, 2012

New Year's... Evolutions?

I love lists. I love making them, and especially love checking things off and feeling that sense of accomplishment. I used to obsess over New Year's resolutions, with themes, timelines, sub-topics, etc. Then I realised was how geeky this was, and that I was spending too much time creating the damn lists and not enough time actually getting shit done.

With the best of intentions, this process was a way to focus on my failures of the past year, beat myself up for awhile, and then start the process all over again. So yep, action-packed but not really healthy.

I have read where people talk about New Year's resolutions as being a set-up to fail, so they come up with anti-resolutions ("eat more chocolate"), or theme words ("my year of integrity!"), or just condemn the whole process. Or they get cutesy and use New Year's Revolutions instead (too militaristic), or New Year's Evolutions (hey, I like that one, talks about steady growth).

Evolving and growing are important. Goal setting and having a plan is important. The truth is, we don't have to wait for New Year's to reinvent ourselves, we can do that anytime. I know it's true because (a) it's hugely obvious, and (2) Kim Kardashian tweeted about it this weekend. Yes, really.

According to Psychology Today, 50% of North Americans make New Year's Resolutions. 22% fail after one week, 50% fail in 6 months, 81% fail eventually. Crap oh crap.

The most popular resolutions are to quit smoking and to decrease alcohol consumption. I don't smoke or drink, so woo hoo, mission accomplished, I am done! Or maybe not...

I like goals, and I think I need them. So I did what every calm thinking rational person would do... I surrendered to the power of the Google, found a random resolution generator (www.moninavelarde.com/newyears/), and left it up to the fates. So here are my randomly chosen yet totally sincere 2012 New Year's Resolutions...
1- avoid drama
2- meditate
3- knit a scarf
4- plant a tree or two or three
5- learn to cope
6- make a paper collage
7- be a rock star
8- look up at the sky
9- learn to tie a tie (hey, I do that five days a week...)
10- get a piercing

In the spirit of New Year's honesty, I admit that the generator also threw in "Believe" (yep, do that) and "go camping" (not gonna, and you can't make me).

Ah, screw that brilliant randomness. Let's go with evolutions and work on the continual journey to be a better me. And yes I know how Oprah-esque that sounds. Crap oh crap.

So, drumroll please, here are the closest I am getting to New Year's Evolutions...
1- be a better husband and friend
2- avoid all Twilight movies
3- not use “password” as my password
4- do that yoga thing (hey, once was great, maybe the second will be also)
5- watch every episode of The Big Bang Theory on every channel in every time slot just in case I have missed an episode
6- avoid Larry the Cable Guy on TV... and in real life.
7- give back: figure out my next charity or community involvement
8- use that shiny new treadmill we bought at least four days a week and take off that extra 15 pounds the Oreo aliens snuck in at night and attached to my body....

Wish me luck... and what are your New Year's Resolutions (or Evolutions)?