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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

21 Junk Heap

I'm a cat who was raised in the 80s, and as such I was exposed to a gritty drama called 21 Jump Street. The series tackled some of the tough issues like abortion and abuse and featured a cast of young-looking characters, making Johnny Depp into a Tiger Beat staple.

Now, 20-odd years down the road, Hollyweird is doing what it always does, turning a great series into a film, except this time Jump Street is a ridiculous frathouse-style comedy. It stars Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill because they're hot right now, and I can see from the various trailers that this is going to suck on so many levels.

On a superficial level, Tatum and Hill are far too old for the parts they're playing. They both have noticeably thick 5 o'clock shadows that teenagers simply do not possess in addition to facial wear and lines. These facts alone bring the believability factor down to near zero, but there are tons of other issues with this trailer alone.

Next on, we have the police narrative. While the dumb cop plotline has been played to death, these 2 bozos take it to a new level, doing about 500 things that no officer of the law simply could do, but hey, its premise is stupid, so oh well. I'll even forget the fact that you don't have to actually read someone the Miranda Rights until they are actually questioned and not on arrest, as is stated in this flick.

My major problem comes at 3:35 below. You'll notice that the word autistic is used as an insult, much in the way that some ignorant jerk may use retarded. While the original series may have dealt with an autistic character in a plotline, the usage in this film is simply inexcusable.

There are numerous conditions on the autism spectrum and this jab insults a whole load of people and their families. The writers knew that they couldn't use the "r" word, so they tossed in the name of another condition as a synonym and thought nobody would notice. Well I noticed, and I'm not wasting 10 dollars to be insulted.

Fuck you MGM for taking an emotional, groundbreaking series and turning it into yet another unrealistic, trashy affront to comedy.

Warning: This trailer contains tons of NSFW language and pot shots at a few marginalized groups. Watch with this in mind.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spy Vs. Spy : Who Cured The Leprosy?

This is a common image of Jesus of Nazareth. While there is much argument as to whether or not said man/deity did exist, faithful believe that he healed 10 random lepers of their disfiguring disease, sending a message of tolerance to the Middle East. Since this event is alleged to have occurred over 1900 years prior to the discovery of drugs to rid the body of the leprosy bacilli, it is not possible for it to have happened, but it's a real feel-good story and millions of people use it daily to make them better people.

Regardless of the verisimilitude of the Christ story, most people in the Western world have certainly heard of the guy.

This grandfatherly gentleman is 98 year old doctor and super-scientist Jacinto Convit. For 75 years, he has worked in developing vaccines and cures for some of the world's most dreaded diseases. Dr. Convit was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988 for developing a vaccine to fight leprosy. He is also regarded as the man who developed the cure for the awful disease, saving the livelihoods of a great number of people worldwide and providing very real hope where there previously was none. Combined, his treatments have caused the number of new leprosy infections to drop at a rate of approximately 20% per annum. Additionally, his research was the basis for the vaccine against Leishmaniasis.

He currently leads a team at Vargas Hospital in Venezuela that is working on a vaccine to combat stomach, breast, and colon cancer. The therapeutic vaccine combines a tumor sample with BCG and formalin with the idea that the body will recognize the invasive cells when it previously could not, triggering an immune response  that attacks the malignancy. While still in early stages, this therapy has very few side effects and will hopefully replace chemotherapy, becoming a real cure for a disease which has claimed millions.

There is no disputing the fact that Dr. Jacinto Convit has altered the lives of so many people around the world, with his work continuing to live on long after he does, provided that he doesn't cure dying of old age. A curious science geek can find hundreds of research papers and millions of words that all come from the mind of this brilliant gentleman, and the folks who work with him on a daily basis will attest to the fact that Jacinto Convit Garcia is very much a living human being despite the fact that his accomplishments may seem legendary.

Even though he has truly altered the course of medicine, very few people outside of the medical research field have ever heard of Jacinto Convit.

What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When Art Evolves

TW: racially charged language, sexual language

  On Friday, I wrote a piece about New York photographer and performance artist Clifford Owens and his intention to take a score written by Kara Walker to a point where he would sexually abuse a random audience member. Needless to say, I received numerous replies via e-mail, Reddit, and other avenues. However, I wasn't the only one to get a message about Mr. Owens' intentions. The author of the score also did, and she was horrified enough about Mr. Owens' extension of her idea that she issued the following to Clifford Owens:

I am withdrawing my piece from your Anthology Series. Your interpretation of my score, which I composed as a hypothetical, a ‘modest proposal’ in the Swiftian sense has pushed at the boundaries of what I deem acceptable. It has been told to me that you plan to take the gesture a step further and “force a sex act” on a viewer in an up coming performance.  I refuse to have this idea of mine cause anyone physical harm.  Challenging and highlighting abusive power dynamics in our culture is my goal, replicating them is not. Please cease and desist.”

Even though Ms. Walker had requested Owens not perform her work, the decision whether to "take it there" and face the consequences or find an alternative rest upon the shoulders of the 40 year old artist.

So what went down at the Museum of Modern Art this afternoon?

As it turns out, Kara Walker showed up and participated in her inaugural live performance.

According to Gallerist's Rozalia Jovanovic, it went down as follows:

“Perhaps they are wondering what they will do or how they will react if they are chosen,” Ms. Walker said in her opening remarks, a show of empathy with the audience, many of whom, she added, may have read Gallerist’s article or heard about what Mr. Owens planned to do in this performance. She explained that she first heard of his intentions to force a sex act on an audience member in the article we published on March 8. She then told the audience what they could expect: Mr. Owens would say things like “I’m going to fuck your brains out,” and “You know you want it, baby” and “This is what you think I am, just a nigger toy.”

And while Mr. Owens performed the score similar to the way he had in previous performances, by walking around the room selecting audience members to move in on and kiss or grope, this time he seemed inhibited, somewhat emasculated, as Ms. Walker remained in the center of the room with him, as if on sentry duty, diffusing his machismo, at times kneeling and watching him as if ensuring that Mr. Owens didn’t force someone to engage in a sex act.
At other times, with an angry expression that felt very real, as if she didn’t want to be part of this, she challenged him with questions like “Why did you ask me to do this?” and “Why did you put me in this situation?” He would talk to her—”Kara, I need your help,” or respond, as if to the audience, “Why did you come here? What do you want from me?” or speak in soliloquy as he marched around with a glimmer of his normal cocksure attitude, “This ain’t nothing but a high tech lynching.” Mr. Owens and Ms. Walker would walk in a circle engaged in a kind of war of words.
There is a fine line between provocation and unacceptability that exists in all facets of life, as well as in the art world. Kara Walker is a woman who is acutely aware of this sometimes murky difference between right and wrong, so her and Clifford Owens altered an idea and put the power in a place not before witnessed. While Owens' performances have been criticized as phallocentric and misogynistic, he ceded his control somewhat and created something new. The audience was treated to a surprise in which they felt relaxed instead of threatened. Clifford Owens did something he never had before out of necessity and it was a success. 
One is now left wondering if Kara Walker's policing altered this performance alone or planted a seed in the mind of an artist known for his controversial treatment of living and inanimate subjects. Will Owens become Mr. Nice Guy? I doubt it. But will he stop and think before molesting women or live animals in front of live audiences? Only time will tell.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Your Daily Awesome

Dylan is a kid who came out to his old-school Italian pop last year and went off to school. Today, he came home for spring break and his dad had a little surprise for him.

Grab your Kleenex kiddos.

WTBlue F*ck Of The Weak

  GOP candidates ran on the premise of jobs, jobs, jobs, but since being elected, it's been a series of one uterine invasion after another. Lawmakers used to try to hide regulations inside other bills, which is how socially-charged issues banning things like same-sex adoption slipped through in some parts of the United States, but now they're just being upfront about their disdain for anyone and anything they do not agree with.

The sheer magnitude of legislative bullshit became most apparent recently in the Georgia State House where a bunch of old white dudes were debating a bill designed to ban abortions after 20 weeks, even if the fetus would be stillborn or born with severe anomalies resulting in death soon after. In a so-called fetal pain bill, a physician would be required to comply with new regulations or face 10 years incarceration.

The appeal to emotion obviously got intense, with Rep. Terry England rising to deliver a speech that was as follows:

“Life gives us many experiences. I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive — delivering pigs, dead and alive. … It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it."

“You know a few years ago, I had a man come to me in our store, it was when we were debating, talking about dog and hog hunting, I believe, and at that point there was some language inserted in there that dealt with chicken fighting. And the young man called me to the side and he said, ‘I want to tell you one thing.’ And y’all, this is salt of the Earth people I’m talking about, someone I would have never in a hundred years expected to tell me what he told me that day.”
“He said, ‘Mr. Terry, I want to tell you something. You tell those folks down there when they quit killing babies, they can have every chicken I’ve got.’”

I'll at least give Rep. England some credit here for being upfront about his views on those who possess uteri. You're livestock; your sole purpose being to reproduce. And don't you forget it.

If you don't believe me, here's the horseshit right from the hillbilly's mouth.

Rep. Terry England compares women to cows, pigs and chickens. from Bryan Long on Vimeo.

By the way, House Bill 954 passed by a huge margin. 102 people decided that half of you were equivalent to animals on a factory farm. Only 65 folks voted against it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

When Art Becomes Evil

TW: Rape, assault, sexual assault, mention of animal abuse.

Clifford Owens is no stranger to the world of performance art. Since November, the frequent university lecturer has performed a series of scores, written by others, in front of live audiences. In some displays, he has groped and kissed audience members, fondled vegetables, and even molested chickens. But on Sunday, he plans to go one step further in an effort to provoke his audience and the art world at large.

Sunday will be his last show, during which he will perform this Kara Walker score:

“Score: French kiss an audience member. Force them against a wall and demand Sex. The audience/viewer should be an adult. If they are willing to participate in the forced sex act abruptly turn the tables and you assume the role of victim. Accuse your attacker. Seek help from others, describe your ordeal. Repeat.”

All in all, this sets up a scenario where Mr. Owens may actually rape someone (or multiple people) on stage or falsely accuse someone of said crime whilst pretending to be victimized. While he acknowledges that he doesn't think it will involve penile penetration, it might. At the very least, Mr. Owens will peruse the audience for victims of his choosing and force himself upon them. For the African-American artist, it's a game where he gets to play with power dynamics and racial theories, but even he sees a problem with getting psyched up to do the show: "There's a reason why I don't try and force a sex act on the audience. But on Sunday, I'm going to take it there. And I'm really nervous about it.", mused Owens when questioned.

I, for one, think that rape, real or pretend, is not art. While I have defended exhibitions where people have shat on stage or pissed on crucifixes, this is different entirely. With a captive audience, Clifford Owens may feel a rush, one that will take him to the point of sexually assaulting another human being. The audience will want more, and collective apathy could cause a very real person to be very really harmed. All it will take is someone to be too terrified to physically resist the "artist" and Owens will violate someone with the express consent of viewers.

On Sunday night, there will be many women in New York who will be sexually attacked and you and I will be powerless to stop these most heinous of crimes. But one man, fascinated with his own private parts and the sexual exploitation of everything within reach, will attack people and call it art.

Whether it's in pornography or on a stage, I have a serious problem with the term art being applied to the degradation of human beings, as well as non-human animals. As someone who has made a living from art, I'm absolutely disgusted that someone could equate something I find absolutely repugnant with something amazing. But, moreover, as a victim of rape, I find it absolutely appalling that someone could trivialize my experience and those of others.

I really hope nobody attends this brutal performance, I really do, but I know that there will be the curious; those looking for someone willing to test this limits of what society deems acceptable. All I can hope for now is that when Clifford Owens steps on stage, he is immediately arrested for Conspiracy to Commit Rape.

Art is a wonderful thing- sometimes it's dark, sometimes pure; it can be on stage or on a canvas. It captivates the eye and makes you think. It could be an image of a war gone by or a guy hanging from meat hooks to see how much he can take, and when it is live, consent is a given in art. Regardless of what you call it, violence against a woman with limited or no consent is criminal. Where I come from that's not called art- it's called evil.

Image credit: On Stellar Rays

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Media Moment: Misappropriation Nation

TW: Images of racism, slavery, animal cruelty, and genocide

There are a good number of you that know I have written a ton of papers on religion, atheism, spirituality, as well as the media portrayals thereof. Myself, I do not believe in any gods or goddesses presented before me, but I do have great respect for our planet, revering it in the way many people may view whatever they may believe in.

I am also a critic of many organized religions, their texts, and the way in which adherents use belief to either better their existence or make that of others intolerable. I am well versed and I do have opinions of religions. In my eye, some make more sense than others, some condone brutality whereas others view an ant as sacred, some subjugating women whilst others celebrate them.

I do primarily have problems with Abrahamic faiths. As ones I have been exposed most to, I will describe my experiences with them, their followers, and their founders. Sometimes I will even use text to point out what someone else may use to base their own bigotries on. With theoretic acceptance of rape, racism, genocide, infanticide, slavery, and more, men of the past and present have indeed used the Bible, Torah, Talmud, and Qu'ran to justify their reprehensible actions. I can most certainly ponder and write about these things and discuss them amongst my peers.

Naturally, religious groups aren't the only gathering of like-minded folks. There are clubs for gay people, motorcyclists, vegetarians, hockey fans, and quilters. And there are those too for atheists, so imagine my dismay when I opened a message from American Atheists linking to a piece on this billboard.

Needless to say, I was shocked. I could not understand how anyone would view this as acceptable. While it is absolutely true that the bible was used in the defense of slavery in the political arena, it's also true that not all of those who owned slaves were of the Christian faith. Moreover it's cruel to use imagery that cuts far too deep. Needless to say, this billboard does not speak for this atheist.

Seeing this print ad certainly made me feel, I'll give it that, but the emotions that come to mind are disgust, embarrassment, but mainly, serious sadness. It made me feel as bad to be atheist as when PeTA used this image as part of an installation back in 2003 when I was considering vegetarianism. The exhibit toured for 2 years before PeTA finally pulled it and issued an apology. I went veg a year later and it had nothing to do with PeTA.

Use of shock, be it in print or on the airwaves, has a tendency to actually repel your potential audience. Instead of accolades, you may receive negative consequences for the ignorant way in which you voice your message. You can lose listeners, readers, potential members, clients, and your respectability when you engage in such thoughtlessness, and in my opinion, you should.

Freedom of speech does not grant you immunity from the ramifications of said speech. Just as you are allowed to say what you wish, others are permitted to feel shocked, horrified, and exploited, and use their voices to convey disagreement with your choices and opinions.

With precedents like the one just above, American Atheists should have known that misappropriating an image of a horrible tragedy would upset people. A degrading image was used to shame others, and in kind, the display humiliated every atheist I know.

Terrible events have marred human history. There are well-known tragedies and some stories yet to be told. However, these events are autonomous- they're to be remembered with respect and not used for political or social gain, whether it is comparing Obama to Hitler or today's Christians to racist slaveholders. We shouldn't have to tell people that doing this is wrong, but in our self-centred and thoughtless world, we sometimes to have to check the behaviour of others in our group and say "That's not okay. That doesn't speak for the rest of us. Knock it off.".

 You cannot gain respect unless you give it, and once you have it you can lose it with one disgusting deed. American Atheists stole history from African-Americans, and even if they only did so for a scarce few days, they have brought a backlash against all atheists and religious critics. American Atheists used history as a weapon and it backfired, and as someone inadvertently caught in the smoke cloud, I'm downright pissed.

The Breakdown: The XTra Doesn't Speak For Me Edition

  XTra is a Canadian news outlet that proudly proclaims itself to be our premier source of LGBT- related news. Since the long-gone days of The Body Politic, XTra has certainly been at the forefront of queer media here and is also gaining a global audience, ready to soak in everything from political happenings to interviews with their favourite avant-garde artists. And with due respect to all of the good things XTra has accomplished in the past, they have done some things in recent years that range from baffling to horrifying.

  Today marks International Women's Day- a day to spark dialogue and profess appreciation; one to protest abuses and call for action. I would expect XTra to shine the light on lesbian rape victims in South Africa, trans women incarcerated overseas, or at the very least, odes to all of the mothers that made the writers possible. But when I opened XTra's Twitter feed this morning, they linked to this video.

  I'll begin by saying that nothing contained in this video speaks for me. I have no desire to steal women's spaces, let alone a most important day on the calendar. Not only does this glorify the co-opting of women's spaces by trans* men, but reinforces many radfem tropes, namely that we're often simply unhappy dykes. It's this kind of thinking that kept me from transitioning until later in my life. Being a trans* person is not a choice, and having problematic misogynist Buck Angel telling kids they aren't really thinking things through; that he is a man but they aren't reinforces stereotypes and can cause serious distress in the younger trans* population. Coming out as the human being I am took years of thought and involved substance abuse, self-harm, psychiatric hospital commitments, and worse. But, on to the most important thing...

XTra promoted this as a piece about trans* men being part of the lesbian community, and they did it on International Women's Day. They spliced together clips about men to post a piece on a day reserved for women. Every other day of the year is for men in our society, so they have hundreds of other days to air this offensive piece, but they chose this for a reason. They did it to erase women from the picture, and that's so manifestly atrocious that I can barely come up with the words to convey how I and other thinking members of our community feel.

I'll end by telling you wonderful mamas out there that I do not want to occupy your pubs, spaces, days, or festivals. There are some places, designed to be safe, where I do not belong. While it is important for gay, trans*, and nonconforming men to have harm-free arenas to be themselves, invading those designated for women, particularly lesbians, is wrong. Theft of space marginalizes women, especially in a day and age where many of these events exclude trans* women . If Buck is right about only one thing, it is the fact that gender does not involve what you carry below the belt. If you identify as a man and wish to be perceived as one, you aren't a lesbian. Period.

Shame on XTra and any of the men who knew they were going to be a part of this insulting farce. Most of us want to foster unity among queers and we're not going to do so while our media outlets are categorizing trans* men as dykes and trans* women as secretly male. So here's a big fat moon to XTra for their stupid stunt and much love to all of the wonderful women harmed by a segment of queer culture that still views male as the ideal.

Now go hug your girl, daughter, mum, or best friend. She deserves it. It's her day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Time To Pet The Peeve

  Here's the deal- you're at a shindig; you may be sitting or standing, sipping wine or downing a beer. It's a social event so you try to converse without having a panic attack/stuttering/leaving. And then it happens- a woman reaches into her brassiere and removes a lipstick, money, weed, or a mobile phone.

  Then everything stops.

  Everyone in the general vicinity winds up looking at this woman's chest. Some mamas are oblivious to it, and some are outwardly proud to the point of being as obvious as possible about the fact that they're using their bras as substitutes for purse or pockets.

  And this is not a good look. It makes everyone in the room feel something, and it's usually not interpreted in the way the person answering the text from her tit thinks. And while the reception may differ based on location, it tends to make others feel uncomfortable. For me, I feel awkward and weird. If I call someone out on it or express any form of obvious discomfort, a woman will usually say something like "you know you like it", but the thing is, I don't. There's just something unsettling about smoking a joint that has been under one of your cousin's breasts, but all joking aside, my aversion is because it embarrasses me.

  There are things that people can do that make others shy out, and the titsling totebag is at the top of my personal list. I asked numerous friends and they agreed. When they bear witness to bra purse, they don't know how to react. Some are terrified they'll be seen as perverts because they noticed; some pretend they are oblivious; some point it out. The point is- it hits the radar of 99% of people and the majority of folks who actually do like it are creepy fucks you don't want near you.

 Please, ladies, drag queens, and anyone else who likes to wear bras, use them to hold what they were intended to. Stop assaulting peoples eyeballs and psyches and weirding out your friends and relatives. If you absolutely must put things in your bra, please do it in the ladies' room.

  Thank you.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Brave : Part One

  I began writing this over a week ago..

  I shut the phone off tonight. No mobile, no UberTweet, no texts -- all because a human being doesn't get it. Although I'll freely admit that I've had sex with this woman, she expects me to accept open sexual harassment including touching in front of my friends. Tonight, I confronted her about outing me to her parents. She treated it cavalierly and then phoned me to attempt to force me to apologize for bringing up the mispronouning and numerous outings. To her, I was expected to beg for forgiveness for mentioning her transphobia and cissexism. I refused to comply with her demands and also to give her "her" booze. (she claims she'll pay me back)

So I turned off my phone. I turned it off while Jay drank half a soda and a glass of water. I had a hipster beer and did a rolling paper run. We smoked a coupla hand roll smokes, a roach, and more. My decision to turn off my phone introduced fun, and even though I'm sitting in my apartment alone drinking an Okanagan Sprongs 1516 lager, I'm content. And less stressed. I don't feel like more of a man; I feel like an improved example, something that may approach the meaning Linnaeus was going for.

Recently, I'm not learning a thing a day -- I'm completely expanding my mind. I'm closer to who I was before a few new headwhackings. It's amazing.

****this would be the point in which the girl, Dr. Pakula, and my cat would interrupt me and enjoy my cooking expertise for several hours****