Wednesday, December 15, 2004

What's Better Than A Man Riding A Panda?

My friend Jason Coleman has a beautiful photo gallery from his extensive travels. I was honored to find some of my stuff from Andong/Hahoe alongside his.

Go to Jason Coleman's gallery:


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Gay Penguins Join the Canadian Marriage Debate

Canadians are currently coming to grips with the same issue that was on the ballot in several American states in the November election: Gay marriage. If gay marriage is officially sanctioned in Canada, you can be sure that many more Americans will come here to legally consecrate their love. My prediction is that this exodus will not be limited to Homo Sapiens. In fact, here at Poutine Diaries headquarters, I've obtained a classified memo leaked to me by an unidentified official at the Central Park Zoo in New York that indicates that Roy and Silo, the park's resident homosexual penguins, are headed northward to advocate for civil rights and squeak their vows. While most Canadians frown on American interference in internal affairs, Roy and Silo claim Antarctic citizenship and profess no political allegiances. In addition, they claim they have been detained in a Guantanamo-style detainment facility without adequate herring rations, and are seeking asylum.

Dimitia Smith's Saturday column in the NY Times, The Love That Dare Not Squeak It's Name, explains how gay penguins have transformed the political landscape of the United States in the last few years. In the zoos of New York, Penguin homosexuals are coming out of the closet; openly displaying their affection for one another with nary a word of censure from other penguins. In fact, penguin flocks actually seem to condone their lifestyle and allow for adoption! Smith writes:

...Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in Manhattan, are completely devoted to each other. For nearly six years now, they have been inseparable. They exhibit what in penguin parlance is called "ecstatic behavior": that is, they entwine their necks, they vocalize to each other, they have sex. Silo and Roy are, to anthropomorphize a bit, gay penguins. When offered female companionship, they have adamantly refused it. And the females aren't interested in them, either...At one time, the two seemed so desperate to incubate an egg together that they put a rock in their nest and sat on it, keeping it warm in the folds of their abdomens, said their chief keeper, Rob Gramzay. Finally, he gave them a fertile egg that needed care. It worked perfectly...

It seems that since the publication of Bruce Bagemihls 1999 book, "Biological Exhuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity", gay penguins have risen to national prominence in America's legal system.

According to Smith, "...last summer the book was cited by the American Psychiatric Association and other groups in a "friend of the court" brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, a case challenging a Texas anti-sodomy law. The court struck down the law..."Sexual Exuberance" was also cited in 2000 by gay rights groups opposed to Ballot Measure 9, a proposed Oregon statute prohibiting teaching about homosexuality or bisexuality in public schools. The measure lost".

I salute you, Roy and Silo! Keep pecking away at the wall of ignorance with your cute little gay beaks!
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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

My Brush With Canadian Fame: Ben Johnson

I've had several brushes with fame in my lifetime. The first took place when I was sixteen. It was the era of Purple Rain, and Prince was a god in Minneapolis--his hometown, and mine. Our paths crossed at the St. Louis Park Walgreen's. I was standing in line buying saline solution for my contact lenses when Prince and his entourage came through the glass doors by the checkout. There were four of them; Prince, dressed in what appeared to be a black satin Zorro outfit, two behemoths I assumed were security guards, and that keyboard player that always wore surgical scrubs. Prince bought a twelve pack of condoms, and his bouncers towered over his miniscule five foot frame as he stood behind me in line. As I glanced over my shoulder, he flashed a pleasant, yet nervous smile while the man-mountain behind him glowered. I was surprised that this man who symbolized the hedonistic funk lifestyle could be nervous while buying condoms; it made him seem endearingly human. I wanted to look back again to see what brand his royal highness preferred so that I could buy the same brand some day far in the future when my sex life would become something more than a fantasy, but I was intimidated by his entourage, and didn't want to embarass him. They drove off in a limousine, and I followed them in my truck for a couple blocks until they gave me the slip at a red light on Highway 7.

My second brush with fame took place onn a transpacific flight from Toronto to Seoul, South Korea in 2003. Ben Johnson, the world's fastest man, occupied the seat next to me throughout our thirteen hour journey. Ben was heading to Seoul to appear on a South Korean television program about the 1988 Olympics. He was an agreeable travel companion, and told stories of his experiences coaching the national soccer team in Libya. After a few hours, he fell asleep while watching the inflight movie and his head fell onto my shoulder.

I was too polite to push his massive melon over to the right, and too polite to ask him about the steroid scandal during the flight, but I didn't get the impression that he was a bitter man. Upon our arrival in Seoul, he graciously helped an elderly Korean woman with her baggage at the end of the flight, shook my hand, and wished me well. He seemed like a really nice guy.

Since then, I've followed the Ben Johnson saga on the internet, and I think that he got a bum rap. I'm not saying Ben is my hero, but if he were an American, it's unlikely that he would've been caught, much less stripped of his gold medal and world recordholder status. In Gateway Magazine, Jason Black writes:

In the years following the Seoul Olympics studies and compilations of the participants from the infamous 100-meter final that Johnson won, revealed that of the eight competitors five had performance-enhancing drugs in their systems. Included in this five were second place sprinter American Carl Lewis who was awarded Johnson’s gold medal.

Equally disturbing was last year’s report in Sports Illustrated that provided evidence suggesting that the US Olympic Committee covered up pre-Olympic positive tests for scores of future American medal winning athletes during the late ‘70s, the ‘80s and into the ‘90s.

I would be willing to wager that the victor in any Olymic sport, with the possible exception of Curling, has taken performance-enhancing drugs.

The only way to test my theory is to have a "Drug Test Free Olympics". Let's get Donald Trump and Richard Branson to finance it. We'll give five million dollars to the first man to break the eight-second 100 meter dash. Without a doubt, this type of competition would get even better television ratings. People will pay good money to see genetically modified freaks doing the impossible.

I'm sure the good minds at Fox have already contemplated this type of event. Why doesn't it become a reality? Because such an event would be redundant. Drug testing-free athletes would be no faster or stronger than current Olympic victors.

The drug cheats are always a step ahead of the drug-testing officials. The question isn't "are professional athletes using performance-enhancing drugs", but rather "Which Olympic team has developed the most effective undetectable drug".

Maybe it's time to call into question why performance-enhancing drugs are banned. You could argue that drug testing smacks of paternalism, and that it favours wealthy nations able to harness the power of pharmaceuticals to their advantage. After all, most of the athletes are adults capable of weighing the long-term health risks associated with such treatments. If they want to shrink their testicles to the size of pomegranite seeds, maybe that's their decision. Who are we to judge? Why should performance-enhancing drugs be acceptable in the bedroom but not on the track?

Come on people! Set me straight! I'm facing a moral dilemma here! It's only a matter of time before someone starts marketing a performance enhancing drug to writers!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Red Hat Ladies and Seed Cap Gentlemen

The Meneset Red Hat Ladies of the Lake-- a philanthropic sorority of senior women here in Goderich-- recently caused quite a commotion by publishing a successful fundraising calendar on behalf of breast cancer awareness. The reason for the commotion was that the women posed nude, their nakedness covered only by strategically-placed props. In a letter to the editor of the Goderich Signal star, Carolyn Parks explained the latter-day calendar girl manifesto:

Our message was that women are more than their breasts and that women ‘of a certain age’ are sensuous and lush creatures.
Someone wise once told me that as we age, we regret what we didn’t do. The brave women of Meneset and Sistership are working at regretting nothing!

Why do these Ladies of the Lake wear red hats and purple dresses? The inspiration is drawn from a tremendously popular poem entitled "Warning: When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple" by Jenny Joseph. This poem expresses a similar message to that of the calendar. Here is the first stanza:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals and say we've no money for butter.

I'm insipired by these women, and the way they've redefined themsevles and started a movement. Because of this, I've taken the liberty of re-writing the poem from a man's perspective:

When I am an old man, I shall wear Leafs blue on game days
With a Pioneer seed cap that doesn’t match and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension money on Molson’s, TSN,
And fishing lures, and say we have no money for milk.
I shall sit on a five gallon bucket while fishing from the pier
And wake early on Saturdays for yard sales and timbits.
I’ll gobble up samples at Zehr’s, whistle in the checkout line,
And make up for the propriety of my youth.
I will learn to tie flies without pitching a fit
And wash my clothes only when they start to stink.

I’ll wear terrible trousers and sprout hair from my ears,
eat six pounds of sausages in a row,
and rediscover the vices of my youth
having proved my virtue enough years ago.

As for now, we all have to keep up appearances.
We have to pay our rent and watch the words we speak
And set a good example for the children.

But maybe I should practise a little now…
So people who know me are not too startled and appalled
When suddenly, I am old, and start to wear a seed cap.


The Death of a True Appreciator

As reported by Judy Stoffman in the Toronto Star:

Morris Altman spent his working life crunching numbers as an accountant, but he was a man who loved beautiful objects first and foremost.

The lifelong bachelor died in Toronto in early 2004, at almost 100, leaving behind at least two homes, an office and storage lockers so stuffed with paintings, sculpture, antiques and art objects that appraisers for Waddington's auctioneers were astonished by the bounty...

"I've been here 30 years and he was a client of Waddington's even before I arrived," said Bill Kime, the auction house's expert on the decorative arts.

"He was always an interesting chap to speak to, very knowledgeable on a myriad of subjects. He collected books first, a reflection of his studious nature; he had a real thirst for knowledge. He was a very private person.

"He had several properties around the city. He would serially stash antiques and art in them until there was no room for him, and he'd move on."

"He was an eclectic collector, but not interested in using things,'' Kime said. He packed them away for posterity. The chairs were not sat on. ... He had a better understanding of these objects than most other people in the sale room. He felt himself the true appreciator."

...I wonder how many people will save the program from his funeral.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Totally Hot Hardcore Censorship Action

What does it take to be censored on the new MSN Spaces blogging service? One of my favourite sites, boing-boing, gives us the lowdown in what has to be the most entertaining censorship research ever undertaken:

...Uh-oh. My attempt to create an MSN Spaces blog called "Pornography and The Law" is met with rude red text advising me to can the profanity. So, if I were a law student who wanted to start a blog about the history of obscenity law in the United States, I'd be sh*t out of luck.

***Very bad news for fans of Russian literature. The blog title "Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov" is deemed inappropriate, as are any titles I try to create with the 1955 book's name.

***"Smoking Crack: A How-To Guide For Teens." This wholesome little morsel, suggested by my NPR "Day to Day" producer Steve Proffitt, also made the grade.

The conclusion? A mixed bag of results that manages to do what most attempts to automate censorship do -- make fools of the censors.

Read Boing-Boing

All I Want For Christmas Is A $10,000 Martini

CNN reports:

The landmark hotel, where famed wit Dorothy Parker and fellow literary lights at the Round Table imbibed, offers a $10,000 martini, complete with a loose diamond at the bottom.

Read it:


Friday, December 03, 2004

The Celebrity Father Grudge Match

In this corner, representing the United States, Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods:

In this corner, representing Canada, Walter Gretzky father of Wayne:

The bell rings...Earl Woods, the former marine, launches an uppercut to the chin:

Introduction The game of golf can be a metaphor for life. My life, for certain. I have experienced my share of birdies and a few eagles, yet it seems I have encountered more sand traps and bogeys than I care to recall. With every obstacle or challenge I've faced, however, I've managed to work through it and come out stronger and wiser. And as I walk down the 18th fairway of my lifetime, I hold my head high and make no apologies for the decisions and statements I have made.

Gretzky responds with an opening barrage of jabs to the solar plexus:

Now, for the first time, Walter tells at length the story of his life, about growing up on a small family farm, about meeting and marrying Phyllis, about raising four boys and a girl in a modest home in Brantford on the salary of a telephone repairman, about hanging onto his modesty and values when the comet of talent and celebrity hit.

The pummeling contines:

Walter also talks about the process of recovering from a stroke that came close to killing him ten years ago. Through his own grit and determination, and with the help of dedicated therapists and doctors, his family and friends, Walter battled back from an aneurysm that left him with many cognitive difficulties and destroyed a decade of memories—including his recollection of the death of his mother and almost all of Wayne’s NHL triumphs of the eighties.

Ooh. That's gotta hurt. Earl is taking a beating. How can you prevail over a 'triumph over adversity story'?

Woods isn't the only Tiger in the family. Earl retaliates with his signature move, the kid's book headlock:

Earl Woods, author of Training a Tiger, and his son Tiger have put together a wise and friendly manual for being a better friend, student, teacher, and community member, and it's so plainly written that middle schoolers can make as much use of it as their grandparents.

Walter is against the ropes...Wait a second! He's climbing the turnbuckle! It looks like a slam off the toprope! He's pulling out a newspaper clipping!

A 47-year-old woman in Trenton, Ont., with no history of stroke in her family, read an article in the Kingston Whig Standard about him that included details about stroke symptoms. Ten days later, while driving to work, her vision became blurred, she experienced numbness in a hand, and she became dizzy -- the same symptoms outlined in the newspaper article.

Earl is reeling. I don't know how he'll make it to the next round. Walter moves in for the pin. The ref's hand hits once, twice...and Earl kicks out of it with a reference to his Green Berets days in Vietnam...That plays well with the American crowd, Dan.

Raised by his sister after losing both of his parents by the time he was 13, he chose the military over a promising baseball career. He reveals the racial barriers that tortured him throughout his Army days, how he found his calling in the Green Berets and shocking details about his two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he met and befriended the original "Tiger," for whom his famous son is named.

The tables have turned. Walter is on the mat. It doesn't look good for the Canadian champ. But wait! He still has another trick up his sleeve! A Canadian fan has brought up a chair!

Wow, what an unorthodox move! From my vantagepoint, it appears to be an Adirondack chair made out of recycled hockey sticks. On the back support, Gretzky has signed it . Apparently, the fan purchased it in a fundraising auction for a local ringette team. Woods is down for the count once again. Let's see if he can get out of this one:

In talking to Earl Woods, Smith got quotes in which the father insisted that his son had been sent by God and that he would be the most important human ever – not the most important golfer or the most important athlete, but the most important human. "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity," Earl Woods said. When Smith asked Earl Woods if he honestly thought his son – a golfer – would have more impact than Nelson Mandela, more than Gandhi, more than the Buddha, Earl Woods didn’t blink. "Yes, because he has a larger forum than any of them. Because he’s playing a sport that’s international. Because he’s qualified through his ethnicity to achieve miracles. . . . There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don’t know exactly what form this will take, but he is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Wow, did this fight turn ugly. I thought I'd seen everything ringside when Tyson bit off Evander Holyfeld's ear in Vegas!

It's Gretzky by Disqualification in round one!
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