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I am delighted by Barack Obama's election. For quite a few reason. One of the ones getting a lot of press - and understandably so - is that his election is a definitive sign that anyone can become president.

But there are still problems.

Half a million people in Arkansas voted to restrict gay adoption.

Over 1 million people in Arizona voted to prevent gay marriage.

Over 4 million in Florida voted to prevent gay marriage.

And finally, over 5 million in California have voted to end gay marriage - to take away already existing rights.

This is a stain on a night which in other ways is a triumph for overcoming bigotry.

Over 10 million Americans have chosen to restrict the rights and liberties of a group of people even though the exercise of those rights would not affect them in anyway. (I have never heard a satisfactory explanation as to how gay marriages are supposed to threaten straight marriages. Unless some closeted "traditionalists" are suddenly tempted by new possibilities.)

The one upside is that I think the tide of history will be against these measures. Things will change. Things need to change.

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I thought I'd be able to announce that my article from the 1999 Robin Hood Conference had been published in this Bandit Territories book. Unfortunately, someone named Allan appears to have plagiarized my article.

It is nice to know that I'm mentioned in the introduction, contributor's bio and index though. But it's damn annoying that my one big published piece of scholarship has misspelled my name in the table of contents and in the article title. (And this, after I reviewed gallery proofs where my name was spelled correctly.)

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I've decided to create a new blog on WordPress. (The wonderful "hobohemia" part of the title comes from Lorenz "The Poet of Broadway" Hart and his lyrics for The Lady is a Tramp, although I gather he got it from somewhere else first.)


Uncle Vanya

Jun. 8th, 2008 02:54 pm
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  J. (not actually the first mention of her in this blog, faithful readers) and I saw Chekhov's Uncle Vanya yesterday. Some very good acting in this production, and I'd recommend it to my fellow Torontonians.


  Mind you, I was far happier than one might expect from seeing Russian drama, but then maybe that has something to do with the company.



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Well, it's been an interesting week. Not something I really want to go into here, but....

The other night I located Sunday in the Park with George on YouTube.

It's in 23 parts (all from TinyTimTon). Here's the first. The rest should be easy to find. It's still pretty good quality on fullscreen mode.


If you want to understand something about me, every time I hear this musical, I tear up like a big baby. I have ever since I watched a version of it live in London two years ago. I know some find it "so drab, so cold and so controlled" to quote the art critic's song "No Life". But I think Sondheim lets more of himself through here than in a lot of his other work. His point-of-view may not be shared by the audience, but I think it's more genuinely his outlook on life and art. (He still holds certain things back, but there's a hint of it in "Gossip".) I find it very emotional, and feel part way between George (particularly the George of the 2nd Act) and Dot.

The version I saw in London had new computer graphics that worked seamlessly with the show. But I was surprised just how well the original set conception works too. The fuller orchestra in the original is much appreciated though. As for performances, I feel Mandy Patinkin is a little off from the original cast recording. I'm torn about who is the better George -- Patinkin or Daniel Evans (Dr. Who fans will know him as the rocket scientist in The Christmas Invasion). I think Evans is better at distinguishing the Georges of the two acts. As for Dot, much as I have a fondness for the version I saw first (Jenna Russell in the West End run), I have to admit Bernadette Peters IS Dot/Marie.

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Well, I doubt it's a shock to anyone who cares in the first place, but after the 2009 specials (in lieu of a full season next year), Doctor Who's executive producer/head writer Russell T Davies is stepping down to pursue other projects. Five years is a pretty long run for a Doctor Who producer. I think only 1980s producer John Nathan-Turner lasted longer, and that's because the BBC told him no other producing jobs would be available if he stepped down.

RTD brought Doctor Who back and made it a hit. I know fans -- and hey as a former fanzine editor I'm one too -- like to complain about Davies. And sure, I could nitpick some plot points too. But a lot of the criticism seems silly to me. Complaints about Davies's "gay agenda" smacks of homophobia. That there are gay characters in Dr Who is just an acknowledgement of life. It's not some great plot to turn Britain's children gay. The 21st century Doctor Who might make kids a little less bigoted than some posters on Outpost Gallifrey.

Aside from the 1996 TV movie, Doctor Who had long been owned by an increasingly small number of fans. Many novels and audio adventures felt either like an anemic copy of the show or something very different. Some would say "adult". But I think many Dr Who novels felt like a teenager obnoxiously trying to prove they deserve to a place at the grownups' table by acting very humourless and self-important. Some fans refused to acknowledge they loved a show that was meant to have a large children's audience. Sure, there was good spin-off products. Rob Sherman's Jubilee and Paul Cornell's Human Nature were both excellent, and adapted to the new show. But for more than a decade, Dr Who was the province of the fanboy.

Davies grew the fan base. He made Doctor Who appeal to a vaster audience than it ever had before. And this wasn't just through stunt casting. It was understanding the emotional weight the series needed. The attention paid to the companions is a big example of this.

His contribution will be missed.

Fortunately, the new head writer is Steven Moffat -- award-winning writer of the show's best episodes. Moffat has the greatest gift for clever twists, witty dialogue and diamond-hard, play-fair plotting of any Doctor Who writer. So, I think Doctor Who will be in the best of hands.

Fans on message boards are analyzing Moffat's episodes to see what we can expect from his reign as producer. But I think we need to look back at an earlier piece of writing. One where a character based on Moffat himself explains art theory and how to run a film studio.


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I really enjoy watching MSNBC host Keith Olbermann explode with wit and anger. Watch the video clip on this page to see all the justified anger produced by the last two presidential terms fired straight at Bush.



I will now attempt to embed the clip.


P.S.: Watch the clip rather than reading it -- Olbermann's OTT delivery is perfect.

P.P.S.: Everytime I hear a new tale of the Bush presidency it seems like something out of a hack sci-fi dystopia. I hope future President Obama can save that country from ruination. 
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  As most of you know, I believe in unions. Not only do I believe they exist, I also believe that they are necessary. Even things like this strike don't shake my view. After all, I also believe corporations and companies need to exist, and God knows how many times businesses have given us all motivation to pull the whole system down. But that said....

  At least 50 percent of TTC workers, members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, are greedy, dishonest jerks.

  Not only did they reject a sweetheart deal -- the best transit deal in Canada -- but they have gone on strike with less than three hours notice. (For those riding the TTC on Friday, they received a half hour's notice.) Residents of Toronto may remember that before this tentative deal was brokered, the TTC promised to give 48 hours notice before striking -- and that was when the people of Toronto were expecting a strike to happen. But a half hour? On Friday night? With people out late and getting drunk? As far as I'm concerned union leader Bob Kinnear should be charged with criminal negligence for anyone who was assaulted or hurt walking home last night. Kinnear claims he was concerned about the safety of the TTC workers? What about the safety of the passengers?

  Rejecting the deal itself (one recommended by the union officials) seems silly. But to go on strike with no notice? That shows the union workers aren't being fair. (Although even some of the union members who voted to strike are annoyed at the immediacy of the strike.)

  I don't know what they hope to achieve by this. They certainly won't get any good will from the public. I doubt they will get a better deal. And while our transit system is still laughably underfunded compared to American public transit, I don't think a sudden strike is going to change that either.

  When they get forced back to work (I expect by Wednesday at the latest), I doubt they will get a better deal. Possibly even a worse one. 

  It is certainly their right to reject an offer of settlement. But they have done it in such a sudden and underhanded way, that they have lost any sympathy or good will they could hope to have.

  Of course, I still believe in unions. But god knows they aren't perfect. And that's pretty clear today.

  I wonder if they can be punished for their actions. Both unions and corporations often seem unaccountable.


  P.S.: And I'm trapped in Hamilton. Great. Still at least I get to walk from downtown to my apartment in daylight, sober. Others last night weren't as lucky.

  P.P.S.: Am I the only one who thinks TTC chair Adam Giambrone looks way too young and inexperienced for his job?

  P.P.P.S.: It just occurred to me that because the union bosses actually recommended acceptance of the contract, perhaps they're doing this unfair, quick strike to get the province to force them back now, because they realize their members are nuts and there's no chance of a better deal. (If they were being more reasonable, it would be harder to force them back.) But I'm probably giving them too much credit. The TTC workers owe us a strike-free day from their illegal wildcat strike two years ago.

  P.P.P.P.S.: The context is probably clear enough, but for those UK readers, the TTC - Toronto Transit Commission - control all of Toronto's buses, subways and streetcars.
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  Ah, Ontario tax dollars at work.

  I wonder if Imbolc is an acceptable answer to that question about Candlemass. And if they do ask an easy question about Jesus being the light and the way --- well, there was a Jesus night light in my half-siblings' home. That might produce a bizarrely literal response.

  Mind you, I don't just find this a sad example of a state-financed institution forcing theological conformity for one religion only. I find it  theologically dodgy. 

  I'm sure a true test of one's faith isn't through writing some silly exam. Surely, the truth test of faith is withstanding temptation. 

  So, clearly they need of representatives of evil to visit their schools and try to lead kids astray. Those who don't fall into temptation pass a silly test. Those who are led into temptation ... well, I suspect they might be the winners in the end.

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  I'm all for a right to choose, but this kind of suicidal sexism is creepy (not too mention, as I said, ultimately suicidal.)


  P.S.: Re: the subject line. Apparently the Cooties have not infected the British Isles, so for my UK visitors (who probably have encountered the term in pop culture, but not the schoolyard like I did):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooties
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Fifty Greatest TV Shows meme.

No, it's not my top 50.

1. Bold the shows you've watched every episode of
2. Italic the shows you've seen at least one episode of
3. Post your answers 

  Whoever compiled this list much be British or a real Anglophile. (Ah, Empire Magazine. I think I was right.) Sure, there are a lot of American shows at the top, but more Britcoms than would be on a lot of American lists. So, some odd omissions include Mary Tyler Moore Show, MASH, All in the Family, The Prisoner, "I, Claudius", "Yes, Minister/Prime Minister" (damn titles with commas), The Powers of Matthew Starr, Misfits of Science... (Okay, I'm kidding about the last two, which I fear I could probably bold, but not the others.) But given how recent the shows are, I'm thinking someone younger than I am, or with a much shorter attention span.

  Still, I clearly watch too much TV.


  P.S.: So, despite what Empire says, why is the original Star Trek better than its successors? Because they actually told stories instead of had people talk about stories, because they didn't get mired in "readjusting the subspace field harmonics" technobabble, because they weren't afraid to have big emotions and big themes ... and because the original Star Trek was a plucky little TV show always on the verge of cancellation, not a servant of some corporate Moloch. That last point is why DS9 is my favourite of the sequels. Born in the shadow of Next Generation, cast aside for promoting the newer Voyager series. DS9 had only about six months as the primary Trek franchise. So, people didn't pay as much attention to what DS9 did. That's why their characters didn't act like emotionally-stunted robots. That's why they could explore the darker elements of the human condition. And that's why DS9 has come the closest of any Trek franchise to having gay characters. The 1960s Trek was ahead of its time -- the later shows by and large are not. (But with DS9's focus on terrorism, at the angels giving up freedom and morals for sake of security, I'd say it was a good few years ahead of its time too. Mind you, I can't imagine a hero like Major Kira proudly declaring herself a terrorist today.)
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Two words: Debbie Shank


I first learned about this on Keith Olbermann's Worst Person in the World segment. (Scroll down the list to see the original video where Wal-Mart hit the number one spot. Olbermann will keep giving them the bronze in Worst Person category until they smarten up and do right by their former employee.)

Worst Person in the World!



P.S.: I see that Wal-Mart has seen the light and done the right thing. If "the right thing" can be said to describe merely showing basic human decency only after receiving considerably bad publicity in hundreds of newspaper editorials, TV and radio commentaries and blogs. (Oh, and all those petitions and letters. I emailed Wal-Mart to express my anger on the situation.)
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I certainly know what depression is like, and hey, if you can get through the day without treating others like crap, then whatever floats your boat is fine.

But still, it sounds like he's traded the worship of one fictional, omnipotent death-cheating superhero for the worship of another fictional, omnipotent, death-cheating superhero. Then again, looking at my own far less extensive Dr Who collection, Christianity is probably cheaper and takes up less apartment space.

I just hope it's not one of those homophobic strains of Christianity he's joining. The Doctor wouldn't like that.

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The other day, I was home sick and able to watch Barack Obama's speech live. I felt like history was being made before my eyes. I'm too young to have watched any of the Kennedys-who-actually-mattered or Martin Luther King's speeches live. And politicians of the last couple of decades. Well, come on, agree with them or not: Trudeau, Stanfield and Douglas were giants! Dion, Harper and Layton -- not so much.

Obama's speech was thoughtful, literate and honest. It actually talked about race in America. Not just black resentment, but white resentment. It talked about problems that do exist. Problems I've actually seen here in Canada as well. It condemned the harsh words of Obama's former pastor, but also explained that he could not completely disown someone who was part of the family. To me, that's a hell of a lot more honest and brave than just outright spurning the man.

And judging from the newspaper editorials next day, most papers seemed to agree that Obama's speech was monumental and historic.

Too bad that most Americans don't appear to read.

Instead, they can watch the talking heads (the people who have changed the word expert from meaning someone who knows something in great detail to just loudmouth blowhards) on Fix News/Fox Noise spin this story in their so-called No Spin Zones.

Instead of seeing an honest appraisal of bad feelings that exist on both sides, it seems that Joe Q. Public wants to see this as good vs. evil. They want Bush-level simplistic deception. And to them, Obama's words of understanding came out sounding like some black militant rallying cry.

In the latest, post-speech polls, Obama is way down.

Before the advent of cable news commentators, one would describe Joe Q. Public's reaction as one of cognitive dissonance. But that's now the normal state of affairs in Bush's America and Harper's Canada (really, if Harper had any true power he'd be just as bad).

I am sickened and disgusted and pissed off beyond belief at how people have twisted words of hope and healing into a message of fear and loathing and hatred.

And I worry a great deal for the world if the American public award the Republicans even a single second longer than this presidential term.

Obama spoke to the highest ideals of America, the ones that have brought a lot of good to democracies like Canada and the UK. And in return, he's been told to go f**k himself because people want bread and circuses instead of ideals.


P.S.: And isn't charming that the people up in arms about preacher Jeremiah Wright have no problem at all with the kind of crap that McCain's clerical supporters spout. Apparently, McCain can get a free pass on embracing Rev. John Hagee who said that Hurricane Katrina was divine punishment for all the evil gay people living in New Orleans. I guess it's okay to cosy up to hateful and gonzo preachers if they are white.

P.S.: Fox Noise (yes, I watch Keith Olbermann) went from Obama's speech to a piece about apes in a zoo. And later cut part of the speech to show an Oreo commercial. And this a few weeks after one of their goons (O'Reilly, I think) compared Obama to Curious George. Sure, there's no racism in America. Pull the other one.

UPDATE: It appears that Obama was right to speak to the public as if they were adults. It seems like he's recovered from the losses this scandal has caused.


And for those who want to hear the speech,

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For most of Canada's history, our country has been run by the Liberal Party. For decades, the Liberals prided themselves on the nickname "Canada's Natural Governing Party". I could never figure out if that moniker was a sign of arrogance or just political reality.

But now I know.

They are must be a natural governing party, because they sure as hell are a lousy opposition party.

See, I always thought that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition -- the so-called official opposition -- should, you know, oppose things.

We've got a majority government and yet the Tories are running around acting like the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) is a kingly court. Because they can. Anytime the Liberals object, Harper's goons just threaten an election. Bang -- the Liberals cave. If Stephen Harper shouts "Boo!", Stephane Dion jumps.

I want an election. If the Liberals are so afraid of one that they are willing to give in on every little issue, we might as well have a Conservative majority government. At least then the Liberals wouldn't be tainted by everyone wrong-headed action our present government does.

Please, Liberals, get a new leader. Or fix up your current leader. But keep running scared, and you'll find yourself out of office for a very long time. No one wants to vote for the guy who keeps letting bullies take his lunch money.

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The British Home Office's attitude of "if they stayed in the closet, they wouldn't be killed" sickens me. It's a bit like saying to Jewish refugees in the 1940s, well if you pretended to not be Jewish, you'd be all right.

Iran is killing people for following basic human biology. And the British government appears to be helping them. Of course, with Harper in power, I despair of the Canadian government being any better.

It really isn't that far from Canada's "none is too many" attitude from the 1940s.

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Who knew? That silly cat was just sucking all the comedy out of the strips. Suddenly, Jim Davis's work is very funny.

Well, except I suspect to Jim Davis and whatever cartoon syndicate he's affiliated with. Expect to see this vanish soon.

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February 29 comes only once every four years, and maybe that's why this special leapling birthday boy looks so young after 70 years of active adult crime fighting.

So, happy birthday to the Man of Steel. You don't look a day over 29.


(And sure, the Supermanica article is restricted to the pre-1986 version of Superman, but it's filled with lovely Curt Swan art. And aside from Christopher Reeve, Swan's Superman IS my Superman. He's also Seinfeld's Superman as the comedian demanded a Curt Swan-inspired animated Superman be used in the American Express commercials.)

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You know, I'm not interested in fame for the sake of money and power. I'm not into it because it seems easier than doing a proper day's work. (Okay, that is a good motivation).

But I have now found the motivation to get off my ass and do something.

And what is that motivation? What could shake off decades of creative lethargy?

I want to achieve some level of success so that when you type my name into wikipedia, this is not what comes up:


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Ben Wicks: Have we forgotten his lesson already?


P.S.: A hint for the folks in my neighbourhood ... "Be nice ..."
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