Friday, December 07, 2007

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?

"What do we think of bisexuality?" I asked my queer coworker out of the blue the other day.
He paused for a moment, shrugged and said, "They're lucky? I wish I was?" and returned to the book of grammar he had been pursuing for lesson ideas.

Returning to my own thoughts, I shook my head again with surprise at the recent turn of events. Since the summer when my partner started working part-time at a Korean hair salon on Yonge Street, a family of misfits has slowly started to form. First it was his Korean coworker, who loves gay men, but was surprised to discover that Koreans could be gay as well! She introduced us to her hairstyling friend who brought her on again- off again boyfriend to our informal gatherings for dinners (both in and out). We met another Korean/Anglo gay couple and they seemed to integrate with our group right away. And finally my partner met another Korean gay guy online and as he owned a car, we all joined him for daytrips and shopping excursions, as well as airport pickups and dropoffs.

A family we called ourselves. We celebrated our birthdays and Thanksgivings (Korean and Canadian) together. For Christmas, the Korean family members have met to draw names for "secret Santas" so we will be saved from buying gifts for everyone. And it was at this meeting things got interesting! My partner's ex-coworker (he moved on to find fulltime work, coincidentally in the same building, on the same floor as his gay Korean friend) quietly announced she had something she needed to tell everyone. As the only two single people in the group, she and our aformentioned gay friend had decided to date and she hoped that we could accept that and be supportive.

" he bisexual now?" I wondered aloud after my partner returned home with the newsflash. Not really any of our business, we decided and life seems to have gone on as usual except now they are a couple.

This isn't the first time I've had to wonder about this subject of course. I have friends who are bisexual but are with a different or same-sex partner. Visiting with them, they all seemed to have gone through a "phase" and are really happy with where they are now. Somehow I find their certainty comforting whereas I find ambiguity (as in my friend, Ani DiFranco or Anne Heche) disconcerning. I know sexuality isn't as cut and dry as the "once saved, always saved" plan of salvation that was engrained into my head from an early age. Even I wanted to be bisexual at one point as well. But unlike my coworker, I kind of wish it was an "either-or" situation. I guess my queasiness stems from the implication that bisexualty contains a choice, one I don't feel I have. That choice would be to be truly happy with anyone, no matter what "accessories" they happen to have.

There actually is a term for what I am admitting to here- it's called "biphobia." I have gay friends who have had their hearts broken because they dated a bisexual person and they decided it was "easier" to be in a straight relationship. Due to this hurt, some gay people refuse to date bisexual people and furthermore dismiss their orientation as something that doesn't even truly exist. On a less esoteric and more personal level, I'm afraid this doesn't bode well for either of our friends. Someone is bound to get hurt and then things will get messy, mark my words!

To close, I'd like to include a relevant conversation between my favourite girls of "Sex in the City"
Carrie: He's a bi-sexual.
Samantha: Well, I coulda told you that, sweetie, he took you ice skating for God's sakes.
Carrie: You know I'm not even sure bi-sexuality exists? I think it's just a layover on the way to gay town.
Miranda: Isn't that right next to Ricky Martinville?
Samantha: That generation is all about sexual experimentation. All the kids are going bi.
Carrie: So what? If all the bi kids are jumping off a bridge, are you gonna do that too?
Samantha: I'm a tri-sexual. I'll try anything once.
Carrie: You know I did the "date the bi-sexual guy thing" in college, but in the end they all ended up with men.
Samantha: So did the bi-sexual women.
Charlotte: Which explains why there are no available men left for us.
Samantha: You know I think it's great. He's open to all sexual experiences. He's evolved. He's hot.
Miranda: He's not hot. It's greedy. He's double dipping.
Samantha: You're not marrying the guy. You're making out with him. Enjoy it and don't worry about the label.
Charlotte: I'm very into labels; gay, straight, pick a side and stay there.
Carrie: When did this happen? When did the sexes get all confused?
Miranda: Somewhere between Gen X and Gen Y, they made XY.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Only Love Can Conquer Hate

Lately I've been listening to some really great music protesting the war. In the great tradition of Vietnam protest songs in the 60's (Bob Dylan's Blowin' in the Wind, Lennon's Imagine, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin On?) we have these amazing songs such as When the President Talks to God (Bright Eyes), American Idiot (Green Day) and even Not Ready to Make Nice (Dixie Chicks). The song that has resonated with me most however is Dear Mr. President (Pink). The lyrics like "how can you sleep while the rest of us cry?" and "when you look in the mirror are you proud?" have inspired me to write my own open letter to the Executive in Chief. Enjoy!

Dear Mr. President,

I'm an American citizen who has lived abroad now for six years. I am also a Christian, like yourself. As you know, we are charged with thanking God for all things, in the good and the bad times. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought a "thank-you" note would be appropriate.

First of all I thank God for you. Jesus told us that leaders are allowed by God to lead. God probably helped save you from your addictions to alcohol and cocaine use. You wouldn't be where you are today if it wasn't for God. It's a hard job, harder than you probably expected and I don't envy you at all.

Secondly, I thank God for showing Christians the folly of being over-involved in politics. We're beginning to realize that killing of innocents is not of God and torture is not Christlike. Thank you Mr. President for showing us how we have been used and manipulated for political gain.

Third, I thank God that, because of your misguided leadership on the environment, we now know that global warming and dependence on oil are problems we can't afford to ignore. God created this Earth and gave it to us as stewards, not to exploit it for our own selfish reasons.

Finally, I thank God for your extremist policies on same-sex union, stem-cell research and terrorism. By focusing so much of your attention on these issues, we were able to see how far removed you are from our core values of compassion, justice, mercy, forgiveness and above all, grace.

I will continue to pray for you, your wife and your children in addition to all the families (on both sides) that have lost and will continue to lose their children and spouses in this war (almost 4,000 US military and over 77,000 Iraqi civilians).



So- what would you say to the president?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We're All in the Mood for a Melody

I have to admit I do like my current job. This is probably the reason why I have been less agressive in looking for something else. I know I could have it a lot worse and many do. This job is relatively stress-free, I like my coworkers and I feel good about helping students learn something I have an actual passion for: the English language. It's also fascinating to share our cultures with each other.

One way I have been facilitating this is by having "Music Thursdays" in my Listening and Pronunciation class. It gives us something to look forward to. I pick an artist and choose two songs I feel would be interesting, important and appropriate. Then I copy the lyrics. After this I read them over and decide which words to leave out, usually looking for elements of rhyme and repetition. Then in class we listen to each song twice- once without interruption and the second time stopping periodically to give the answers and discuss the meaning and context.

At first I began with Canadian artists but when I ran out of them, I turned south to "classic" artists from my own country. Here is a list of the artists I have highlighted thus far and their songs. Are there any additions you would suggest?

Joni Mitchell- Case of You, River
Alanis Morrisette- Ironic, Hand in My Pocket
Sarah McLachlan- Possession, Hold On

Aretha Franklin- Respect
Carpenters- Top of the World, Close to You
Cher-I Got You Babe, Believe
Desree-You Gotta Be
Dionne Farris-Human
Janet Jackson- Control, Miss You Much
Mariah Carey- Vision of Love, Emotions
Vonda Shepard- (covers) I Only Wanna Be With You, It's In His Kiss
Whitney Houston (ballads)- The Greatest Love of All, I Believe in You and Me
Whitney Houston (pop)- I'm Every Woman, I Wanna Dance with Somebody

Beatles 1- Help!, The Long and Winding Road, Let It Be
Beatles 2- Revolution, Obladi-Oblada
Sting-If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Every Breath You Take
ABBA- Dancing Queen, Thank You for the Music

Monday, November 05, 2007

In a New York Minute

My brother recently had a "close call" with the Grim Reaper. He was driving home after just successfully winning his very first jury trial (rah!) and was on the phone telling my mom all about about it. Suddenly he saw the ladder on the truck ahead of him lift up high in the air and come CRASHING down on the road directly in front of him, (narrowly missing hitting him or the windshield). With traffic on either side, he had to drive over the ladder and thankfully there was no damage to himself or the car. The difference of a second or two probably saved his life.

Not long after this, a family that went to our hometown church had a terrible car accident. They were returning home from their daughter's wedding and, in a matter of seconds, crashed into a semi-truck, killing the mother and severely injuring their granddaughter. Active and with many friends, the whole town is really devastated.

In a recent post I wrote about "nudges" that I feel come from God. Today I'm wondering again about them. Are they present at all times and we choose to ignore them at our own peril? Or are they sometimes conspicuously absent and life events are allowed to surprise and shock us?

The book club selection I just finished reading tonight deals with this age-old conflict between predeterminism and free-will. One scene describes a fatal car accident. Because of the main character's ability to spontaneously time travel, he ends up surviving while his mother dies. The question of why he was "saved" haunts him. Tonight I find I have similar questions as well. Why did my brother survive but our friend die? Is everything predetermined or can we change our future with the choices we make in the present?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Who Are the People In Your Neighbourhood?

Wow! Lately my neighbourhood's been the happening place!

I got home today to find the front of my apartment building blocked off for a film production. I asked a woman standing next to the side door and she said they were filming the movie "The Time Traveler's Wife." Sheepishly I pulled the novel (this month's book club selection) out of my bag and we both shared a laugh. Set in Chicago, the story (produced by Brad Pitt) is being filmed in locations all over my city. The cast features Ontario's own Rachel McAdams (Mean Girls) as Claire and Aussie hottie Eric Bana (Troy, Hulk) as Henry. One key point of the book is that the Time Traveler takes nothing with him when he travels, so there are difficulties in finding clothes in the new place. I'm crossing my fingers for some gratutious nudity here but not holding my breath! :)

Coming home last night from work, my partner ran into yet another film production outside the exit of our closest subway station. Wisegal stars Alyssa Milano (Charmed) as the widowed mother of two who goes to work for her lover Frank Russo (Jason Gedrick -Ally McBeal, Murder One), a captain in a Brooklyn crime family.

And finally, just last week who should be walking (yes walking) down Yonge Street but Hilton heiress Paris Hilton. She is Toronto filming the movie Repo! The Genetic Opera! (a horror musical if you can possibly believe it!) Paris was dressed up in a skeleton costume (incognito you see) and happened to see her image in an advertisment for One Night In Paris, a porn movie her former boyfriend made from a home movie she made with him. Upset, she stormed in the store (just south of Wellesley Street), demanded they take down the advertisements and when they did not comply, began ripping them down, threatening to sue them and call the police. After she had left, her manager entered and warned the store that the leaking of the event (it was captured on security camera) would result in a law suit. The store owners are now in negotiations for sale of this footage. (Taped audio)

Who are the people in YOUR neighbourhood?? :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Know What I Mean?

I've previously posted about my interest in dance. For the past few months I've been attending a weekly beginner's swing dance class at Crews & Tango. The organization is called "Swingin' Out!" and while it is open to everyone, it was created for queer people to have a place to learn dances like the "Lindy Hop" or the "Charleston." I like the idea of these dances as part of my (North-American) cultural heritage, not unlike Scottish folk dance or salsa might be for others.

Last Thursday I almost didn't go. My partner had a meal with his hair school friend and I was behind (as always) in emails/blogs and feeling lazy. However I felt like I should be doing something active. I made myself go and of course had a great time.

I've been "following" which is a big change from leading in a dance. When I'm leading, I'm always thinking, "What's next? What's next?" When I'm following I really have to "listen" with my body and not anticipate what the leader's next move will be. A good leader will often give "nudges" with hands, hips or arms that guide a follower to where they are to go next.

After the lesson, there is usually a social time where the advance students dance with the beginners. Sort of a mixer if you will. Since none of my friends were in attendance, my natural impulse was to bolt but then I got this "nudge" to hang out for awhile. Sure enough, some guy asked me to dance. He tried some new things and, as a good follower, I just "went with the flow," even if it meant that these attempts didn't go exactly as planned or I ended up looking bad.

After the song ended, I thanked him and felt another "nudge"- this time to leave right at that very moment. So I put on my jacket and as soon as I walked out the door and down the steps, I was greeted with a pleasant suprise! My partner's former coworker and now good friend was walking home from work and was just passing by at that exact same moment! We laughed and started talking.

I noticed something was troubling her (usually she's very bubbly and effervescent). Turns out that her employer, who had promised to sponsor her visa application, backed out when she realized she would have to pay a) minimum wage and *gasp* b) taxes! My friend's spirit was absolutely crushed. She just had paid a great deal of money to an immigration attorney the day before based on the promises of this woman. Understandably she was distraught.

Well I did my best to comfort her. I have had experience being frustrated/disappointed with both immigration and flaky people. Fortuitously we live very near each other so I walked her most of the way home and by that time, she had calmed down considerably.

After parting, I said a little prayer of thanks to God for being able to "be there" at that moment for my friend. And this got me thinking about the presidental candidate Barak Obama- he talks a great deal about his faith and has said "I can be an instrument of God." This probably sounds crazy to people who come from a different faith background. I think that's a completely natural reaction. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 it states, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (NIV)

So no, I don't think Obama's idea here is crazy. But in light of recent experiences, I do disagree with his instrument metaphor. Oh, I do get it- instruments are designed with a specific purpose in mind and are really only useful when serving that purpose. However instruments don't get a vote, a voice. They just lie around waiting to be used. In other words, they have no free will.

At this moment, I kind of like thinking of God as my dancing partner. He's leading of course. And I'm going to try to follow, not anticipate or "backlead" but rather wait. Waiting for a spin here or a turn there. Waiting for that "nudge."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Thousand Pages, Give or Take a Few

From time to time I have heard people complain that Toronto is a boring city. My response to this is that if you are bored here, you really aren't trying to have fun. There is a plethora of places to go and things to do. My friend Ron has been really good about making me more aware of what's out there. It was he that got us tickets to see the Dali Lama next week and he was also responsible for this bag of books that I just schelped home. 'Low me to 'splain!

Unbeknownst to moi, Trinity College holds an annual booksale to benefit their library. When Ron called me about it, I instantly thought of booksales I have been to in the past, slightly amateur affairs filled with forgettables and the occasional find. I thought the temptation to add to my already book-laden shelves was minimal at best. Au contraire!

The first clue that I might be playing with fire was the sign outside that stated the first day sale charged a $5 admission fare. (The succeeding days were free, much more my style.) Upon entering and paying the fee, I was strongly encouraged to take advantage of the free bag/coat check. Then we were directed to THE LINE. This was no ordinary line. Oh no. This was a line that had begun forming at 4 AM in the MORNING. (I kid you not!) We arrived at 4:30 PM, a half hour after the sale had begun. As the hall was filled to capacity, we waited close to 45 minutes for enough people to give up and go home so we could just get inside. While we were waiting, we studied the map (yes, a map) that we were given so we could plan out our strategy for getting in and getting out quickly. As it so often turns out, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray!"

Finally we were sent upstairs and picked up empty boxes on the way. Upon entering, my worst fears were realized. I had met my Waterloo. My months of abstaining from the aquisition of books were all for naught. I was about to fall off the wagon and into my old bookaholic behaviour. The room was huge and there were books upon books. There were books in boxes under the tables to replentish the books that were on the tables and above the tables in shelves. Every genre imaginable was lovingly represented and all organized with meticulous loving care. It really was a sight to behold. To make matters worse, the books were in amazing, almost new condition and most prices ranged from $2-7! (I would usually note this is in Canadian dollars but since our currency has been on par with the US greenback for weeks, I'm not going to even bother anymore.)

All in all, I was pretty proud that the damage to my pocketbook and my blungering book collection was minimal. Here's a list of what I walked away with: (Keep in mind there were folks around me that were buying multiple boxes of books and spending hundreds of dollars.)

1. The Glass Palace- Amitav Ghosh- Ron found this for me and recommended it. At seven dollars and a hardback to boot, this was my most lavish purchase.
2. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy- I have heard good things about this one and am looking forward to reading it.
3. Diary of a Lost Boy- Harry Kondoleon- I must have seen this when I was bookcruising with my cousin. For some reason I've flirted with this selection before. This time, I took the bait.
4. The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse- edited by Stephen Coote- read a review of this in the paper. Fascinating look at poets from the beginning of time, articulating queer topics in poetic form.
5. The Well of Loneliness- Radclyffe Hall- This is at the top of every queer classic booklist I've ever read. Doesn't sound like much of an upper though, does it?
6. At Swim, Two Boys- Jamie O'Neill- This one Ron also recommended to me. Sounded good. Worth a shot .
7. The Seven Deadly Sins of Love (and other stories from the still unfabulous social life of Ethan Green)- Eric Orner- This queer comic I think is based in Toronto. I saw the movie first and didn't really like it. The book is, of course, much better. I love comics!
8. Men On Men- a collection of gay short stories. I love a good anthology from time to time and this one had some of my favourite authors.

There you have it my friends! All this for the low, low price of $28! Any suggestions on where to start eating...or rather reading?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Words Won't Bring Me Down

So many things in life are ironic and their numbers seem to grow with age. I have more hair on my body but less where I actually want it. After years of trying to appear older, I now despair over creases that no longer disappear when my expressions fade. Now that I am able to stay out until all hours of the night, I am too bored and/or tired to actually do so. And I still have acne even though I'm over 30 years old! What is up with that??

The newest (and most disturbing) irony is that, after all this time, I still am crushed by a bad review. I really thought I was past caring what people thought about me. I feel I have developed a strong enough sense of self to withstand peer pressure and let my individuality and unique personality shine through the gloom of routine conformity.

Case in point: As most of you know, I have recently changed my hair colour. Admittedly I've been dying my hair for many a year now, sporatically when gray hair started to show and regularly when my partner started to style hair. So I've toyed with various shades of brown but nothing radical until now. For some reason, when he offered to make me blonde after a haircut, my heart screamed "YEEEEES!" I want to be that popular tanned Ken-doll jock in high school that just smiled and people loved him. I want to be fun, less serious. I want to feel edgy and attractive. I want attention!

Forty-five minutes later I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror. Oh dear God what have I done? On the flip side it was strangely like I saw myself as God's creation for the first time. I had this totally different perspective of me and it was neither good nor bad, it was just me. And I was new!

I must admit my blonde ambition has been fun. I've received kudos galore and even more out-right stares of (what I hope were) admiration. The most important review of course was the one I gave myself everyday in the mirror. I spiked, flipped, combed both up and down and yes, even dabbled with a faux hawk.

With all this in mind I was more than a little surprised that the only bad reviews were from members of my immediate family. And they weren't merely bad, they were scathing to the point I felt personally attacked.

Being raised with the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" dictum, I really have tried to be kind in my criticisms, knowing that with my verbal skills, I could be vitriolic. I never want to send out that kind of toxic energy. So why do I allow a bad review or two to penetrate me so deeply? I should be beyond caring, right? I really thought that I was.

At any rate, being blonde has been a blast but at the end of the day, it really isn't me. The real me keeps growing at the roots, pushing the lighter me out. My partner has suggested I return to those roots in preparation for my return to my Kansas roots at Christmastime. He's right as usual of course. Because, after all, I am beautiful, no matter what they say!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell!

I just finished a book with a really great story. I should actually restate that- it had really great stories, plural! The element I loved so much about it was how they all were so sublimely tied together in the end. Chaos and non sequitur events (similar to the plot of the movie Go)are tranformed brilliantly into a very carefully constructed conclusion.

This actually happened to me in my personal life, albeit on a much smaller scale. As you know, I've been working at an ESL school downtown. Twice daily I pass by this beautiful old monumental building on 10 Toronto Street. I have been so drawn to it. There was a plaque on the outside of the building that stated it started as a post office long ago but was purchased by the Argus Corporation. The name of the company appears no where else on the building and, all in all, it's anyone's guess what this corporation actually does. The only visual is of an attendant sitting the little office right beside the door and many times I thought about just walking in and asking "Soooo...yeah, what's the deal here?"

However it was far more entertaining to let my (considerable) imagination run amok. It added joy to my otherwise druggery-filled day to concoct grandiose stories where a Mafia-esque law firm (like in The Firm) are silently surveying the citizens of Toronto for their own dastardly deeds. Or better yet, the building is a haven for a secret spy organization (like Mission Impossible or Charlie's Angels) that works behind the scenes, carrying out justice where normal law enforcement is powerless.

Inconsequentially, I've been reading a book for a book club I've recently just joined. The club is called the Twenty-Minute Book Club. They are a very laid-back group and on-topic discussion is usually only twenty minutes (give or take) and then people go off on tangents. The topic was Conrad Black and since we were allowed to pick any book to read, I chose to read A Life in Progress, which is his autobiography. The others chose to read biographies so they got a completely different perspective. It's debatable which perspective is more "truthful" but in reality,truth really is variable. I feel like I was able to know Conrad Black as a person, like I had coffee and a chat with him. No, I don't think we would be friends but I do respect him as a highly intelligent person.

Conrad Black, for those of you south of the Canadian border, is a very famous figure in Canadian news. Not only was he a wildly successful business entrepreneur but he also gave up his Canadian citizenship in order to be named to the British House of Lords. Most recently, he has been convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and is facing a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison and a million-dollar fine.

What's the link between these two parts of my life? I learned while reading my book that Black's company was the Argus Corporation, located on 10 Toronto Street, from my daily work walk! So the mystery has been solved in a most satisfying way!

This experience gives me the briefest of glimpses into what the "Author" of my story has planned for me. With the looming presence of my 34th birthday, I've been wondering a great deal about my life, past, present and future. Although it appears like my life is quite complicated and seemingly disconnected from my friends and family (and their equally if not moreso chaotic lives), I just have this sense that everything will all come together in the end! Whether that is in this life or in the next of course remains to be seen! Meanwhile I'll hang in there and keep "reading!" I can't wait to see what happens in the next chapter of my life!

A scripture passage that I read in my friend's blog that I feel was speaking to me: “For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future …” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

If You Just Smile

Over the past month, I've been dealing with a dental dilema. One day, after biting into the routine chicken wrap I always get at least once a week for lunch, I found a piece of my porcelain veneer had detached itself from my left front tooth! I was so upset but felt silly and vain for feeling that way. I wondered if people were looking at me a little too closely when I laughed or smiled so I tried to do both by covering my teeth with my upper lip or my hand. Completely irrational and ridiculous but when one is paranoid about appearance, things like this happen! It's like I had this piece of food stuck on my teeth that I could do nothing about!

Clearly, I had to find a dentist to solve the problem and quick! The first dentist lived in my housing complex neighbourhood. She didn't introduce herself and her first question once I sat in the dentist's chair was "What do you expect me to do about this?" She seemed offended that I was bringing a cosmetic problem to her but warmed slightly when I told her that my adult incisors had come in without the enamel covering. She pushed me to get a crown on my tooth which would require more money, more grinding of the tooth itself and a 30 minute trip to her lab in North York. I said I needed to think about it and left, never to return.

My second dentist was recommended to me by a friend and was LOVELY. She was really very nice. She actually looked in my mouth to make an assessment! As well intentioned as she was, she was unable to help me because her lab technician was on a two-week holiday and would be booked solid for a month upon her return.

They say that "third time's a charm" and my third dentist visit yesterday proved to be just what I needed! I found her just from an advertisement in fab magazine. I picked her because she was very close to my apartment and she offered flexible appointments. When I arrived, she understood that I wanted to put this behind me and glued a matching plastic resin to the pieces of the remaining veneer. This solution may last three weeks to as long as three years! Furthermore, she asked me all about my partner and our immigration experience. I left feeling like I had made a friend and definately will give her my business in the future!

This got me thinking about the parallels between my experience and the story of the Good Samaritan. In short, a Jewish man was hurt and in need of help. The first man passed him by as did the second, without helping. The third man took action to help him. The three women in my story are probably all equal in experience and talent but the action of the last dentist is really what made the most difference to me in the end. She took steps to not only see me as more than a patient but to meet my needs as well.

I suppose this is why I have so much more respect for people of action (the late Mother Theresa, Doctors Without Borders) than people of word (the late Jimmy Swaggart). When I think of the thousands of people out in the world, taking action to fight hunger, poverty and sickness, it gives me hope for humanity and, a reason to truly smile again!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

One of the questions frequently I get asked is "How many countries have you been to?" I never can remember them all and by the time I figure it out, nobody cares any more! So, as a way to save time and maintain interest in future conversations, I'll document the countries I've been to here:
The first time I left the country was to go to Vancouver, British Columbia (CANADA) for the 1987 World Expo. I remember having a really good time. I was given a little tiny "passport" in which I could go to the different pavillions and get a stamp from that country. I wanted to collect them all but my dad had swollen feet (from a sunburn the day before) and couldn't do a lot of walking, so I had to be selective!
In university, my brother convinced to go with him to Oaxaca (MEXICO) for a language study and also to see some of the country. We got to visit the town he was an exchange student in and see many ruins. Amazing! Except for getting violently ill. Damn that Montezuma and his revenge!
Of course five years ago my life changed by accepting a job in Seoul (SOUTH KOREA). A month later, 9/11 happened. Despite warnings, two coworkers and I went to Thailand a month later and had a fabulous time! My trips to Guam and Saipan were also relaxing but also "safe" places to go since they really are part of the US and not separate countries.
I took an amazing trip to London (UNITED KINGDOM) where I saw many theatre productions as well as tourist sites and Winsor Castle. The highlight would be a private tour of Westminister to see House of Lords and House of Commons.
After that I went to Sabah (MALAYSIA) to climb a mountain and go snorkling. That was a really great trip! That summer, after a visit to Kansas, I convinced my cousin to follow me back to Korea and squeeze in a trip to Bejiing (CHINA). I will never forget climbing the Great Wall!
I spent my next birthday visiting my friend Doug in Tokyo (JAPAN) and later went with John
to check out HONG KONG and MACAU- a place I would love to return to!
My friend Mandy and I went to Sarawak (MALAYSIA) to tour the rainforest! That was a great trip! My three week road trip in AUSTRALIA could have been much more enjoyable but I saw many things and was especially happy when I was in Sydney at Gregory's house. That was probably the most miserable Christmas in memory.
I attended an ESL conference in Jakarta (INDONESIA) and then that summer did a fabulous 'round the world trip that took me to see Mohamed (our exchange student in Kansas) in Dubai (UAE), my coworker Ruth in Cairo (EGYPT) and my friend Matt in Istanbul/Ankara (TURKEY). Highlights of that trip were of course the pyramids, Hagia Sophia and Capadokia.
My best friend at SFS and I jumped at a chance to spend the weekend hiking up Mount Gumgang (NORTH KOREA). I felt really honored to be one of the few people to be allowed to visit this country, so close to South Korea and yet so far away!
My partner and I took a trip to Manila and Cebu (PHILLIPINES) which made for a very special Christmas memory (although tainted by the horrible loss of life due to the tsunami). We took another trip together back to Sydney (AUSTRALIA). Despite visa problems, I got to see a lot more of the city and we made enjoyable road trips to Canberra and the Blue Mountains.
Looking over the list of 17 countries I've been to, it somehow seems fitting that most recently I returned again to Vancouver, the first place I started my adventures. Highlights there included a mountain, a bridge, two beaches, two parks and lots of laughs with family and friends.
Is this Vancouver trip a bookend or merely a comma for my further adventures? Only time can tell!

Friday, September 07, 2007

A Lifetime's Not Too Long

Thanks to all the encouraging support, Danifesto is back after a month of being a quasi-uncle (due to the visit of my partner's 11 year old nephew) and a wonderful week of vacation/family reunion in Vancouver.

A recently read anthology has caused me to think about the many relationships I have with my friends. I really have been very blessed in my life and it occurred to me after reading the passage by Holleran below, that absence has no effect on friendship for me. Much in the same way that the friends of Jesus kept His memory alive after He left them, my friends are never forgotten because they are a vital part of who I was, who I am and who I have yet to become.

The strangest part of friendship may have nothing to do with the living, however. That is the realization that some friendships do not really die till both parties do. The oddest proof, if that's the word, of friendship is that daily thought of someone years after they've vanished; the conversations one still holds with them, the things one wishes one had said, the hope that they forgave, or understood, your weaknesses and failures during their struggle. You'll never know. Instead you find things in the newspaper you'd ordinarily clip and send them, or hear some gossip that makes you want to call them up, or learn something about a mutual friend's career you know only they'd fully appreciate. Which leads you to the oddest moment: wanting to dial someone at three in the afternoon to discuss something with a friends who isn't there. To a remarkable degree we are our friends, and as they diminish, so do we. (p. 37)

So to my friends past and present I'd like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU for all the great memories and being the fabulous creations that God has made you!

Friday, August 03, 2007

King of Night Vision, King of Insight

So I just finished reading Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel. I know what you are thinking- yet another non-fiction book? What the heck is going on with Danifesto?

Well, here's the deal McNeil. This book was on the book club list that I was apart of in SFS and I wanted to read it after I left that school so I picked it up second-hand. I learned a great deal from this book and was glad that I read it. It was really just a Galileo biography. He led such a fascinating life! The daughter angle did add a level of human interest and I liked how they were tied together at the end. The writing was accessible, even to someone like myself- not a math person.

Probably the part of the book that impacted me the most was at the end of Chapter 25. After Galileo is forced, under the threat of torture, to recant all of his "silly" discoveries (i.e. Contrary to what Aristotle believed, our planet orbits while the Sun remains still.) his book Dialogues is banned and is listed in the next published Index of Prohibited Books (1664 ed). Of course this resulted in the price skyrocketing on the black market. The original price was half a scudo (3 lire or .002 USD). Then it rose to four and then six scudi. (42 lire or 3 cents USD) The next year, a copy is smuggled through the Alps to Austria and translated from Italian to Latin for general distribution throughout Europe. In 1661, an English translation is published.

In 1744, publishers in Italy are granted permission to include Dialogues in a posthumous anthology of Galileo's works. They are required to print a disclaimer before it however, that the words inside were contrary to the Word of God (Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and I Chronicles 16:30 Psalm 104:5, Ecclesiastes 1:5) and the teachings of the Church. In 1757, general objections against the subject of the book (the Copernican doctrine) are withdrawn but Dialogues remains a still-forbidden title. It remains on the prohibited book list of the church for another sixty-five years. In 1822 the Congregation of the Holy Office decides to allow publications of books on modern astronomy that taught that the Earth moved. However a revised edition of Index wasn't published until 1835 when it became the first in almost two centuries to remove the Dialogues of Galileo Galilei from the list of banned books. (Index of Prohibited Books was abolished in 1966 following the Second Vatican Council.)

I want to point out an interesting sidenote here. Although many "religion vrs. science" arguments have been written over the years, Galileo didn't see a conflict between the two disciplines. "Holy Scripture and Nature," he declared, "are both emanations from the divine word." He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history. He understood that the real conflict was the jealousy of his fellow academics the Church had been duped into being on the side of his enemies. Ironically, Galileo remained loyal to the Church to the very end of his life — and was even carried to daily mass when he became too feeble to walk.

What I took away from this book was that, as we discover more and more about ourselves and the world around us, we continually have to realign our previously held beliefs. That can be really intimidating and scary for many of us, especially if this results in a perceived loss in power or status. Often there is a resulting fundamentalist backlash. However, after enough time has passed, the facts/truth do eventually shine through in such a way as it becomes impossible to bury ones' head in the sand any longer. We saw this in Galileo's time and we are seeing it now in our time as we use the tools and talents God has given us to uncover new discoveries in a plethora of fields such as genetics, physics, human sexuality, space exploration, psychology, biology, and the list goes on and on.

Like Galileo, I feel that there is plenty of room for both religion and science to coexist in our society. For that to happen though, it's imperative that we take notes from "the father of modern science," Galileo himself. It was he that created (albeit in his book) an open space where those with opposing viewpoints could sit together and have a dialogue. To quote Otis , "all you gotta do is try a little tenderness."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Imagine All the People

Breaking with tradition, I'm posting this music video. Please watch it when you have four minutes to spare. She makes me proud to live in Canada.
Lately I've been hearing a great deal about how, with the power of our positive thinking, we can make ourselves happier through better relationships, better jobs, or more money. Instead of focusing all this "secret" energy on ourselves, why don't we "imagine all the people sharing all the world, living for today?"
So after reading/watching, you may say that I'm a dreamer. But thanks to Sarah McLachlan, I'm not the only one.
(Thanks to Nat for once again providing the inspiration! You rock!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

To Make Ya Feel Proud

As you all know, June has come and gone and is now a distant memory. What some of you may not know, is that during the month of June, the city of Toronto celebrated Gay Pride. This year's theme was Unstoppable! and for our first Pride in Toronto, it really exceded our wildest expectations.

First some fun facts courtesy of the Toronto Star:
$0-the cost of attending Pride
$99.1 million- the economic benefit to Toronto.
5,000- the number of people marching the parade
144- the number of parade floats
1 million- estimated attendance of the weeklong Pride festival
27- the number of years Pride has been happening in the city
12- the number of city blocks involved in the festival

The week after the festival I kept hearing one opinion that was repeated so often that it might have well been a fun fact. That was that the Pride festival is known to be the most welcoming and friendly of all the celebrations in Toronto. It actually made me a little proud to hear that! I can believe it too because the crowds, while mostly gay, held a surprising number of clearly heterosexual men, women and children who were looking for a good time. People wore rainbows in support of their gay friends or just gay people in general, instead of showing their sexual orientation. The mayor, city council and MPs marched in the parade and were cheered more wildly than any of the go-go boys in skimpy speedos.

One of the songs played throughout the festival was "What Have You Done Today (To Make Ya Feel Proud)?" Instead of focusing on the many faults I have, the lyrics challenged me to think about daily actions I take that make me proud.

I find that I make a special effort everyday to represent myself well from the time I walk out of my apartment door until I return again at night. I hold the elevator door for people following behind me. I always give up my seat for an older person (or a tired-looking woman, especially if she is wearing heels!). I slow down enough that I don't accidentally push someone or cut in their way. I say sweetly "Excuse me" when I have to get by. When ordering my meal, I answer "yes, please" or "no, thank you" for clarifying questions. I (usually) refrain from using swear words in my daily interactions with people.

Most importantly I find that am proud for self-identifying. This is so important because I could easily blend in with the majority culture and benefit from the advantages that come with being part of a majority. However when I self-identify as being gay, I leave myself vulnerable to pre-conceptions people may or may not have of people like me. When I self-identify as American, that brings on a whole new bag of misconceptions. And finally when I self-identify as a Christian, sometimes whatever else I say will be held with some contempt or suspicion.

I receive this daily email devotional from Sometimes it speaks to me, sometimes it doesn't. But recently one phrase did stand out to me and I wanted to share it with you. 'Notice Jesus didn’t say, “Love me,” as proof of our discipleship. He said, “Love one another, and that will show the world you belong to me.” ' It reminds me of this old hippie song that went "And they'll know we are Christians by our love." Isn’t it alarming, then, to think that Christians often known for what we are against, rather than what we’re for – and we are for the Good News of a love so “wide and long and high and deep” that it encompasses more than any of us could ever imagine. (Ephesians 3:18 NIV)

I like the idea of the next verse of this song being "And they'll know we are gay by our love." Not by the diseases we might have, the flags we might wave or the way we may have sex but by the compassion and love that we show each other and the communities around us. I think that would be amazing!

Furthermore the third verse could be "And they'll know we are American by our love." Not by the countries we invade, the power we wield or the movies we make but by the compassion and love we have for those inside as well as outside of our borders. It tears me up a little when I think of the amazing potential the United States has to affect positive change in the world.

So in closing, allow me to turn the question over to you- What have you done today to make you feel PROUD?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ring My Bell

People ask me all the time how I like living in Toronto. I always say I love it but am never able to put into words exactly why. I've mentioned different aspects of the city before but recently something happened to me that really encaptulated why I am in love with T-dot.

It was a drop-dead gorgeous Friday. The sun was in the sky, a cool breeze was blowing and the weekend was ahead of me. Instead of coming home to an empty apartment to fritter away the afternoon on the computer or in a book, I decided to walk back through the parks and stop off to admire the stained glass in the three big churches that have given Church Street its name.

My first stop was St. James Cathedral. This Anglican church has amazing stained glass and is the oldest congregation in the city. It has turned over part of their land to the city of Toronto for a beautiful 19th century garden and park.

Just up the street I found the Metropolitan United Church. I was happy that they hadn't closed yet and I could see inside of it as well. While I was looking around I was approached by an older gentleman who shyly introduced himself to me as the carillonneur of the church. Not sure what that meant, I did what I usually do - smiled, nodded and said, "oh, yes?" (Usually this opening gives people further opportunity to talk about themselves and meanwhile I can get the gist of what it is that they exactly do.) Following the script, he went on to say that he was going up the tower and would I care for a tour and demonstration? I hesitated for perhaps two seconds, not wanting to seem overeager you see, and then agreed. Two other men joined me up the very narrow twisting staircase. I was thankful that I did not suffer from vertigo.

At the top of the first flight of stairs it began to get warm. We got to see the practice keyboard which wasn't hooked up to the bells upstairs. Continuing up the second flight of stairs (thankful that I am a slim person) the heat increased to monumental proportions. We reached another landing finally (about 100 steps) and then went up a small set of stairs into a wonderfully airconditioned room. This room held the actual keyboard for playing the 54 carillon bells. I can only describe it as a lot of sticks that one has to vigorously hit with a fist or stomp with a foot to play. The energy it took for the carillonneur to play a short piece was amazing. He graciously let each of us try it out- imagine the whole city hearing your mistakes!

He took us further up a small ladder to see the actual bells themselves. They were amazing. The largest weighed 8 tons and was inscribed "May the spirit fo the Lord reach the heart of every one where the sound of these bells is heard." This set is one of the largest in Canada.

He then took us down the stairs again and out through the sanctuary (the church had since been closed to visitors). The organist (who looked to be 13 years old) was playing this piece on a magnificent 7,840 pipe Casavant, the largest pipe organ in Canada (pics). I got to see all the woodwork and stained glass upclose. It was breathtaking.

I thanked our guide profusely and continued my walk back, stopping briefly to tour St. Michael's Cathedral (home to Canada's largest English Catholic diocese) and Allen Gardens (The park is home to three varieties of squirrel, the gray, the black, and, unique to this park, the red tailed black squirrel.) I returned home tired but thankful that I took the road less traveled!

And that is (part of) why I love Toronto!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Me and My Umbrella

July has really been a crazy month for Danifesto. The song of the summer seems to be Rihanna's "Umbrella." It's one of those that my friend Dustin would refer to as an "earworm." We like the faster version that's being played on the radio 4-5 times a day but the link above will give you an idea.

You can imagine my surprise when it entered my head again this afternoon during Mass. The readings were about persistent prayer. Abraham asks God repeatedly to save Sodom and Gomorah. An annoying man knocking in the middle of the night eventually is given food. Jesus advises, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

In the homily, the priest said that these scriptures didn't mean that God wants us to nag Him into submission. He just wants to see how deeply we want the things we ask for in prayer. If it's really necessary, He will give it to us, for "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

The priest brought up futher point with this story (the original story I found here- amused how it changed in the retelling) : There once was a town that was stricken with drought. As a last resort all the churches in the area decided to join forces in one giant prayer ceremony. They brought their crosses, rosaries, Bibles, statues and all the religious items that they normallly used for worship. They prayed and prayed and then the rain miraculously came! All the objects were raised up in the sky in joyful thanksgiving. As the rain continued to pour down, they all noticed one small boy hold up what all the others had all forgotten to bring- an umbrella! He was the only one who believed in the outcome of their efforts!

Upon hearing again of the umbrella, I had to ponder about all my searches this year (both personal and professional) in this new country. What (or who) would be my umbrella?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Welcome to Canada!

As has been demonstrated before, I love lists. I also love Toronto. In honour of Canada Day and merge these two loves, I present to you, without further ado...
Canucks I Canut Help Lovin!

Lovely Lady Lyricists
Joni Mitchell - I first was exposed to her when I heard Tori Amos cover "A Case of You" on a radio interview saying that this was the person that really influenced her. Later, my cousin bought me the album Blue. I was really happy when she was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Alanis Morrisette- Before you start scoffing , just check out this hilariously brilliant ballad-style cover of the Black Eye Peas "My Humps." I also have good memories of discovering her hit single "You Outta Know" while working in the university library one summer. Also kudos to this Ottawan for her cameo in Sex in the City. Fun Fact: She played God in Dogma.
Loreena McKennitt- I got turned on to this singer from Manitoba when I was dating a girl in university. The relationship faded but I still dig McKennitt for turning Lord Tennyson's poem "Lady of Shalott" into an equally haunting song.
Sarah McLachlan- I fell in love with Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and even years later, it calms my soul when it's troubled. Her songs have been frequently remixed and played at clubs I frequent. She founded Lilith Fair which made a space for women in music to be heard and showcased. She has worked to fight poverty in Africa and joined other Canadian musicians for a concert benefitting the BC Cancer Foundation.
Tegan and Sarah- the identical twins rocked my world when I visited Ottawa (and Ottawa Pride) for the first time a few summers back. Since then I think I've recommended and/or burned copies of their music for about a half dozen of my friends! Fun Fact: Tegan and Sara had a guest appearance on the hit Showtime series, The L Word. The episode was entitled "Last Dance" which aired on March, 19, 2006.
Anne Murray - I love Danny's Song and You Needed Me. Fun Fact: Murray was the first Canadian female solo singer to reach #1 on the US charts.
Jann Arden- In addition to Insensitive, she's just come out with a whole album of covers, one that has Janis_Ian's At Seventeen and Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man.
Feist-She's just fun! Check out this video made all in one take. I also really enjoyed this BeeGee cover. Fun Fact: Former tour mate Bright Eyes has covered her work.
Deborah Cox- a native Torontarian, this diva rocked my club nights with "Nobody's Supposed To Be Here", "Absolutely Not", Fun Fact: She got her start as a backup vocalist for Céline Dion.
Melodic Males
Michael Buble' - I picked up his album at a convenience store on a road trip my partner and I were on from Sydney to Canberra. Love his voice. Fun Fact: Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees sang back up vocals on Bublé's version of the group's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?".
Leonard Cohen- During university, I was housesitting for a boss of mine and I went through their vinyl collection. I was surprised when I came upon Jennifer Warnes' collection of Cohen songs in 1987, Famous Blue Raincoat. Previously, I had only heard the Tori Amos version. That got me interested in Leonard Cohen. Later, hearing a cover of his Halleujah, I was further intrigued. The original recording from 1984 is noted for containing explicit biblical references in the lyrics, alluding to David's harp-playing used to soothe King Saul (I Sam. 16:23), and his later affair with Bathsheba after watching her bathe from his roof. The line "she broke your throne and she cut your hair" is likely a reference to the source of Samson's strength from the Book of Judges.
Paul Anka - singer, songwriter and actor, I love him for writing "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," a song my mom seranaded me with in my childhood. Fun Facts: On the CW show Gilmore Girls, Lorelai named her new dog Paul Anka. Actor Jason Bateman is his son-in-law.
Rufus Wainright - not only is he a brilliant singer-songwriter, playing both the piano and guitar, but he is one of the few artists that have been openly gay from the very beginning. Fun Facts: He's also the same age as me and my coworker once made out with him at a party (having no idea who he was).
Brian Adams - There are so many songs but Summer of '69 will always be my favourite for private (yes I do have those) reasons. I also remember hearing "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" in the movie theatre for the first time. I thought it was really cool that it had rain sound affects. A minute later I realized there were no rain sound effects but there was a leaky roof! "When You're Gone" (with Melanie C) reminds me of an early crush that I had on an unattainable guy.
Gordon Lightfoot -This Ontarian folk singer, composer, lyricist and poet became one of the first Canadian singers to achieve real stardom in his own country without moving to the United States. I always liked If You Could Read My Mind when I was younger and remember the exact moment I heard the remix at the Metro in Wichita.

Easy on the Eyes
Jay Manuel- an openly gay native of Toronto, his cuteness and fabulous fashion sense caught my attention on America's Next Top Model and I'm thrilled he is hosting the Canadian version. Fun Fact: At 19, Manuel was diagnosed with sacroilitis, an inflamation of the sacroliliac joints, which connect the spine and pelvis. He was confined to a wheelchair and had to relearn how to walk.
Nathan Fillion- Edmonton, Alberta, I first noticed him in the show Two Guys and a Girl. Fun Fact: For fans of Lost, he appeared as Kevin, Kate's ex-husband.
Fabrizio Filippo- This Torontarian was Ethan, the sultry violinist who played his way into Justin's heart on Queer As Folk.
Chris Potter- Also from Toronto, he played David, Michael's hunky boyfriend on the first season of Queer as Folk.
Eric McCormack-another Toronto native, I will always remember him for being Will in Will and Grace. Fun Fact: Appeared in the Barenaked Ladies music video Pinch Me.
Adam Beach- a native Canadian from Manitoba, I loved/lusted him in Smoke Signals. He also was in Windtalkers and Flags of our Fathers. Pictures of him here.

The Cliks- Hailing from Toronto, this rock group with a transgendered lead made an awesome cover of Cry Me A River. You owe it to yourself to give them a listen. Fun Fact: I saw them open for the Indigo Girls for Toronto Pride.
Dan and Dean Caten- these Ontario identical twins are behind Dsquared2 designs. Fun Fact:In 2002, the brothers designed over 150 pieces for Madonna’s Drowned World Tour and "Don't Tell Me" music video.
William Shatner- From Montreal, he's been acting since 1950 and still going strong! Captain Kirk was a hero of mine from childhood. Fun Fact: He was cast as "Ranger Bill" on the Canadian version of the Howdy Doody Show.
Alan Thicke- actor, songwriter, game show host and talk-show emcee, this Ontarian will always be Kirk Cameron's dad to me (Jason Seaver, the patriarch on the ABC television series Growing Pains). Fun Fact: He has co-written over 40 TV theme songs, including The Facts of Life and Diff'rent Strokes.
Sarah Polley- Although I first noticed her in the fun flick Go, this native of Toronto has many credits to her name, most recently the film "Away From Her" that she adapted from a novel and directed. Fun Fact: Polley played the part of Ramona Quimby, in a series that Disney produced from the beloved Beverly Cleary series.
Yvonne DeCarlo- two words: Lily Munster Fun Fact: De Carlo's last-released big-screen appearance was as Aunt Rosa in the 1991 Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar.
Alex Trebek- He is an icon due to his long running hosting of Jeopardy! Fun Fact: He holds a degree in Philosophy from University of Ottawa.
Michael J. Fox -Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties. Forever and always. Fun Fact: His middle name is actually Andrew. He wanted to avoid the Canadian joke "Michael eh? Fox" so picked the letter J.
Catherine O'Hara- I have loved her in every movie I've seen her in, most notably the Christopher Guest mockumentaries. Fun Fact: She wrote and performed songs in the 2003 film A Mighty Wind.

Of course the Canadians I love best are my friends! Happy Canada Day to all! I love you!

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Black Fly in Our Chardonnay

Can you imagine the citizens of "land of the free and the home of the brave" actually having less rights and freedoms than the communist country of Cuba?

Well as crazy as it may sound, this flight of fantasy may become an ironic grim reality if Mariela Castro Espín has her way. Does her name ring a bell? She just happens to be the daughter of Raúl Castro Ruz , acting president of the country and the niece of Fidel Castro.

Cuba has come a long way in the area of queer equality. "Following the 1959 revolution, Cuba’s communist government embarked upon a pervasive effort to rid the nation of homosexuality, which was seen as a product of a capitalist society. Through the 1960s and 1970s this campaign included the frequent imprisonment of lesbians and gays (particularly effeminate males) without charge or trial, and confinement to forced labor camps. Parents were legally required to report their gay children." (I'd recommend watching or reading Reinaldo Arenas's autobiography, Before Night Falls to find out more about this repressive period.)

However, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1979 (this didn't happen in the US until 2003) and since the 1980s, Cuban society has become more welcoming to gays and lesbians. Toward the end of the decade, literature with gay subject matter began to re-emerge. When I was in Mexico on a language course, they had a special screening of Strawberry and Chocolate (produced by the government-run Cuban film industry). I was so glad I got to see it and would love to see it again.... in my native language!

So what does all this have to do with Ms. Castro? Today I heard on the radio (103.9 Proud FM) Ms. Castro has just introduced proposals that would "update the country’s Family Code to include the legal recognition of same-sex relationships and transgender people (source). The proposals include recognizing same-sex couples and extending to them all the same rights and privileges that opposite-sex couples enjoy, including inheritance and adoption rights. “One cannot continue perpetuating discrimination and exclusion as a value,” she said. "

"If the Cuban Communist Party and National Assembly support the reform package, Cuba will become the first country in Latin America to accept same-sex couples and extend to them the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. Legislation passed by Columbia’s Congress and endorsed by President Alvaro Uribe that would have given gay couples together for two years a full range of entitlements and benefits was defeated in the Colombian Senate June 20. Supporters have vowed to reintroduce the legislation for another vote. Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil are also considering recognizing same sex-unions. Currently, Mexico City; the Northern Mexican state of Coahuila; Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital; and the Brazilian state of Rio Grande Do Sul are the only places in Latin America that recognize same-sex couples."

During this season when many cities across the United States and Canada celebrate the queer diversity of their citizenry through various "Pride" events, I find this news to be very ironic. Don't cha think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pinch Me!

Since my move to Canada, I've been having a strange run of good luck. Now, if you are a regular Danifesto reader, it might surprise you that I even believe in the concept of luck. In general, I really don't (I believe in a mix of predestination and free-will.) but the recent string of events has compelled me to share.

We felt extremely lucky to be able to catch an amazing performance of Beyonce at the Yonge-Dundas Square downtown less than a month after our arrival. Holding the concert outdoors was a great idea because Beyonce would have brought the house down otherwise! My only wish is that I would have been a little bit taller! That or had the foresight to wear taller shoes!

Then I happened to win free tickets from Xtra to see Mika! If you aren't aware, Mika is a British pop star who plays the piano and sings fun songs. He's really good at falsetto. The concert was at the Mod Club and it was like attending the birthday party of a 10 year old! There were clowns, people on stilts, drag queens handing out lollipops, big balls and bubbles! For the encore, Mika and the band came on stage wearing animal mascot costumes. A fun distraction was watching his purple pants sliding down only to have him pull them up every two seconds. I had SUCH a great time!

If that wasn't enough, one of our friends was too sick to use his tickets to Diva Oz Vegas! Not a mere drag show, this musical included a sexy "Cher"crow, a glittering Tin Diva, and a buxom Lioness led by a Judy Garland wanna-be and a Rita Hayworth-esque Glinda! I was blown away by all the music (none from the Wizard of Oz), choreography and costumes! This year, DQ raised $110,000 for Casey House. (Casey House Hospice is an internationally-renowned facility and one of the world’s first hospices for people with HIV/AIDS. There is no cost for Casey House services which are delivered in a variety of settings; in the home, at clinics and with a mobile health bus.) Since DQ began in 1987, the 10 productions have contributed over $1,000,000 dollars!

Then, just yesterday, my fabulous friend of five years called me up and asked if I wanted to go with her to the True Colors concert that night at the Molson Amphitheatre! I thought for a mili-second and then quickly said YES before she could change her mind! The concert was a group of queer/queer-friendly musicians that were raising money for the Human Rights Campaign. Last night was their ONLY Canadian stop. Favourite moments from last night included: pissing myself over Margaret Cho's jokes, hearing the Cliks perform the cover to Cry Me A River, Beth Ditto of The Gossip belching, saying "Who cares?" and then stripping off her dress (!), watching Andy Bell of Erasure dance to Respect and Chains of Love, Cyndi Lauper doing a groovy version of She-Bop and then of course at the end performing Time After Time. After five hours of music, we didn't hang around for the final encore but according to this review, they probably ended with this crowd pleaser. All in all, a pretty great way to start off my first Pride in Toronto! (Deborah Harry of Blondie and the Dresden Dolls also performed.)

Now I'm curious! What does my luck hold next? Stay tuned!