Friday, January 25, 2008

So close, but no cigar

On the face of it, it would appear two right-wing radio ratbags, Steve Price and Neil Mitchell, are suddenly coming to the defence of the humble homo against the insanity that is the Westboro 'God Hates Fags' Baptist Church.

Listen to Price interviewing Shirley Phelps-Roper here, and then jumping on his soapbox here. If you can stomach any more, listen to Mitchell's interview with the same subject here.

Steve 'do the kiddies really need to see the fairies?' Price doesn't exactly have a proud history championing all things queer, and neither does Neil 'OK to be straight, too' Mitchell. But I guess like Zemanek, Jonesy and Lawsie, conservative gay men probably make up a not insignificant portion of their audience, so they have to tread a bit more carefully here compared to their usual Muslim, union and/or single-mother bashing.

So both have stuck the boot into Roper in their interviews, with Price claiming such people are part of the reason why the membership numbers for organised religion are down, and Mitchell dismissing them simply as 'absolute nutcases'. In fact, listening to Mitchell he sounds genuinely astounded, as though he really had no idea just what Westboro is all about. Maybe he didn't, in which case hopefully he's learning something, which is never a bad thing.

The problem, however, is that it appears to have taken the death of a heterosexual actor, Heath Ledger, to spur them into action against the church and its funeral-picketing ways. Price in fact goes to great lengths during his interview/editorial to stress that Ledger was only ever an actor playing gay, as though by implication it would only be acceptable for Westboro to picket the actual fags at their funeral, as they did with Matthew Shepard and have done with dozens of other men and women over the years. I don't remember any indignation or outrage coming from the airwaves back in 1998 on this subject.

Admittedly, Price does manage to claim that 'even if (Ledger) was a raving gay (!), this church and its timing is completely out of touch', which is probably the closest to queer tolerance we can ever hope to expect from a shock-jock. But one wonders why Price and Mitchell even allowed Roper airspace to begin with, if they only ever planned to shoot her down. A cynic might think this was a ratings grab to get the crazy, controversial woman on radio to espouse her maniacal views, before pwning her before a captive audience.

One also wonders why it's taken the untimely death of a beloved, heterosexual local son to get the shock-jocks onto their soapbox about this church (and anti-queer 'Christian' extremism generally). Would they have done so if it had been, say, Rupert Everett or Sir Ian McKellen who had recently passed and whose funeral Westboro had announced they planned to picket? And why is it so important to both these men to stress that Ledger was only ever an actor playing a gay role? Surely the issue at hand is the offensive tactics of a bunch of religious whack-jobs, regardless of whether they're combatting 'fags' or 'fag-enablers', who in their dark minds are equal sinners anyway?

Will Price and Mitchell now get the Fred Niles and George Pells and Peter Jensens onto their shows, who I don't imagine (officially) condone Westboro's tactics, and suggest to them that it is perhaps their attitudes and actions that lay the ground for the Fred Phelps seeds to germinate - that Phelps is merely an extreme, but logical, extension of the sort of anti-queer propaganda espoused by relatively more 'moderate' figures?

Broadly, if it takes the death of Heath Ledger to bring awareness and condemnation of Westboro by shock-jocks, and consequently their thousands of listeners, then there is a positive to his tragic death. It just says a lot about the mainstream media that this is the case - not much of it good.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Older chicks rule

The untimely death of a certain Oz actor has somewhat overshadowed news of the release of Oscar nominations - and what with the US writers' strike now in its 11th week there are still no guarantees the ceremony will even go ahead. (Aside: Anybody else really feeling the Ugly Betty/Desperate Housewives/Dirty Sexy Money withdrawals? Just me? Righto.)

Still, the awards will be issued one way or another, and I'm thrilled that one of my all-time faves, Julie Christie, is frontrunner for Best Actress, for her devastatingly good work in Sarah Polley's Away From Her.


The first and to-date only time Christie won a Best Actress Oscar was back in 1965 for John Schlesinger's Darling, when she looked more like this:


And personally, I don't think the woman in the top photo is any less radiant, captivating or compelling to watch on screen than the woman in the bottom photo.

Perhaps Christie is just of that fortunate breed of actresses who seem to become more beautiful the older they get - Kate Hepburn, Anne Bancroft, Helen Mirren etc. Or maybe, as I like to hope, the world is increasingly comfortable with older women and resolved to accepting that turning 40 does not automatically negate her beauty, sex appeal and sexuality.

After all, going by the Oscars alone, Christie will be 66 if she wins this year. Last year, Mirren was 61. Among the other Best or Supporting Actress nominees, Laura Linney is 42, Tilda Swinton 47 and Ruby Dee is 83!

It's rare for an actress on that side of 40 to be nominated for lead roles - supporting maybe, but seldom lead - and rarer still for an actress of that vintage to win, as will likely be the case with Christie, playing a woman who is somebody other than a man's mother or grandmother. In the scenes prior to Christie's character Fiona entering a care facility for her growing Alzheimer's, she is seen as an independent, childless free spirit, otherwise healthy, sexy and still desperately in love with a man who has betrayed her. A noticeable contrast, perhaps, to Mirren's win, in which she donned the chub suit to play a woman traditionally not renowned (not publicly, anyway) for her raw sexuality.

Still - and maybe it's reading a bit too much into a single ceremony or industry - I hope this is a sign that the world is not quite so perennially obsessed with yoof as might otherwise appear. It's always shat the inner femmo in me that actors' ageing threshold is always far greater than actresses' - or as Goldie put it in First Wives Club, Angela Lansbury is Monique's mother, but Sean Connery is Monique's boyfriend, coz he's 300 years old but he's still a stud. How does that work?!

I firmly believe Madge deserves kudos for helping to make 50 the new 40. Likewise Kyles for making 40 the new 30. In TV land, 4 of the 5 Desperate Housewives are still sex kittens or vixens at 40+. Over at Ugly Betty, 44-year-old Vanessa Williams is making at least one of the planet's gay boys question whether he is genuinely all 100% butt pirate. And yes, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Nicollette Sheridan and (probably) Williams have all had plenty - some would say way too much - assistance from aunty Bo to get to the point where they are today, but they are still portraying characters - original wives, mothers and grandmothers - who traditionally have not been allowed to be sexy or desirable on screen.

Perhaps this is an inevitable symptom of the baby boomers entering their 50s and 60s. And for every Julie Christie winning an Oscar, there will still always be a top 10 of highest paid actresses of the Dunst, Witherspoon and Barrymore vintage. But if Christie does win the Best Actress gong this year, it will be unprecedented for two actresses over 60 to have done so consecutively. I hope this is a sign of things to come.

(PS - A great Julie Christie film worth tracking down is 1977's Demon Seed, based on the Dean R Koontz novel. Woman is trapped in and impregnated by her computerised house - as you do. Far. Keen. Weird. Very trippy, very 70s and I don't imagine any other actress could have pulled off the role.)

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Two things that have shat me this week...

...But have already been better articulated on other blogs before I got a chance to (so I'll keep it brief and link to them instead). Damn you, snow!/all to hell!/stinking ape!/Papparazzo! etc.

1. That 3-year-old thing and his wacky misadventures. (OK, he's 16. You know who I'm talking about.)

Why. The. Fuck. Is. This. Even. News?!

Not just news - Number 1 website hit news. News being reported on the other side of the world. Are people just so collectively lobotomised they don't realise this is EXACTLY the sort of response the little twerp would've hoped for?

FFS, a teen bogan throws a party that gets out of control while his folks are away, and then acts defiantly unrepentant after the event? In other major news, Dog chases cat - PM stunned; World in mourning as 127 y.o great-great-great grandmother of 43 dies unexpectedly and Office quarantined as slighty expired food found in shared workplace fridge - more at 11.

Event, response, perspective, people. I mean, I know why the Herald Scum, Today Tonight (*sigh*, miss Naomi SO much) etc make mileage out of it - it's easy fuel for the 'all youth are scum, stay inside, lock your doors, protect your crochet' truck they like to ram through.

But as munkey nails it:
Perhaps we should consider that what's going "wrong" with today's youth has a lot to do with the fact that every time they turn on the television or open a newspaper, their minds are filled with repugnant mindless drivel.

Drivel such as non-news events like this BS, that create instant celebrity, just add hot water. It's not like it's a slow news week, after all.

As Paul Anka sang, if you just don't look at the giant, offensive advertising statues and billboards, they're powerless and can't continue destroying Springfield.

2. Paul Burrell

Paul Burrell is a cnut. I'm not particularly pro-Diana - I think that maybe, just maybe, over ten years after her death, it might be a nice idea to actually let her be dead - but what sort of man makes his entire career out of exploiting all the 'secrets' a person reveals to him in what was apparently (at least according to him) an intimately confidential relationship? It seems to be the only thing he now has to offer the world, and again, rather than just looking away, everybody keeps feeding him.

It says a lot about the state of the world that it permits a cnut like this man to be in a position to pass judgment on the personal qualities of others, as he did briefly during that Oz Princess thing. (Not that I should really be taking too seriously any program that a/involves Jackie-O in any way, or b/ involves Jackie-O in any way).

As Jacob nails it:
I hope Diana comes back as a ghost and smacks him and breaks his tiny cock for selling out her memory over the last ten years. He's written not one but two (two!) books on her based on his experience as her butler. What, did he just remember some extra stuff the moment the first book when to print? How much information did she entrust to the guy who fluffed her pillow anyway?

Hrm. I'm probably negating my own argument here giving both these tools (Burrell and party bogan I mean, not munkey and Jacob) space on my blog. OK - just not looking.....nnnnnnow.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The world needs a bitch

Jacob says: 'I can't believe Mike Huckabee isn't Kevin Spacey!'

In a similar vein, QP says: 'I can't believe Mitt Romney


isn't Ted Danson!'


Meanwhile, it would seem more and more Yanks are coming down with Barack fever. Obamarama, if you will. And just as they were getting over their Chester A Arthritis.

My wise Californian ex-flatmate recently updated her Facebook page to suggest that 'Iowans are too easily influenced by Oprah'. Certainly, the Kiss of Winfrey has not harmed Obama's cause one iota. I asked said ex-flatmate if that means she's a Hillary girl, not a Barack groupie, and her response was basically along the lines that the US is so broken right now, it needs a tough-love Hillary type to repair it, not the kisses, snuggles and (probably) instant Facebook friend-grantingness that defines Barack's approach.

Hillary Clinton is not an especially likeable or charismatic person. I reckon if she were your boss, she'd be the sort of woman who was all sweetness and light to your face, but bitched about you the moment your back was turned, and blamed you and all her other subordinates the moment something went wrong and she had her superiors breathing down her neck. Think of one of those overemotional, manipulative, senior public service management types. I don't really have any concrete proof for this, just a gut feeling from seeing her in action. I think Barack Obama by comparison is smarter, more sincere and more genuinely concerned with presiding over a nation than lusting after personal glory.

But I still think Clinton should be the next president.

The ex-flatmate is right: Bush has fucked up the US - and consequently the world - so much, that it needs a ruthless Democrat to guide it back on track. Clinton has demonstrated she can compromise (or sell out, depending on your perspective) as required to devise pragmatic solutions to problems, but also kick arse when required. Her husband was often able to do likewise, which was a mark of his success. Obama has many lofty ideals - of reaching out to and working with Democrats and Republicans, secularists and Bible-bashers alike - but I'm just not sure the current climate is conducive to such love and kindness. Republicans deserve to be annihilated and humiliated for the debacle they've served up to us over the past 8 years through their dancing monkey president, and I think Clinton will bring the annihilation and humiliation much more readily than Obama.

Ex-flatmate and I reckon the best option would be Clinton/Clinton as president(s), and Obama as VP. I think he could accept that job offer and then run for the top job himself in 2012 or 2016 with a fighting chance and VP experience behind him. I imagine there's a snowball's chance Clinton would accept an offer of VP running mate from Obama should he win the primaries. Let's face it, the woman really wants the top job. She stayed married to a serial cheater only because she knew the US might just be ready for its first female president but it definitely wasn't ready for a divorced female president. She has drive and ambition, which will make a pleasant change from the current numnut who failed miserably at yet another senior position cooked up for him by his daddy.

Plus, as setting the mould for first female US presidents goes, Clinton's a solid cast. Mercifully, she won't be a Thatcher, although she won't exactly be Helen Clark either.

That's not to say Obama becoming the first African-American president isn't an important mould to cast either, and again he'd be an admirable contender. In fact, Obama continues the tradition of quality potential African-American candidates, from Jesse Jackson to Colin Powell. But as Philip Adams argues, being black and gunning for the top job puts your life in major jeopardy, and it would be a tragedy if a loony racist bigot put a bullet in him during his presidency. It's difficult to say with certainty whether the US is a more racist or misogynistic country, but I tend to think it's slightly the former, even decades after Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and Malcolm X.

The world needs a Democrat with big balls, and frankly I think Hillary's are far bigger than Barack's. However, if Obama maintains this momentum and does win the primaries, and later the presidency, the guy deserves major kudos. In the US, candidates have to battle not just to get voters to vote for them, but to get off their arses and vote at all. A relatively moderate African-American Democrat winning over the majority of US voters would be an incredible feat.

PS: A final presidential lookalike:



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Friday, January 04, 2008

The perils of Frankie

So I have this ... friend ... called Frankie. Fandango. Muffinhead. And Frankie currently finds himself in a bit of a quandary. Frankie is currently working for an organisation towards which he has certain significant moral, ethical and political...reservations, let's say. Obviously he can't go into too many details about said organisation on a public blog, suffice to say its CEO probably won't be caught dry humping Sharan Burrow anytime soon.

Now, before y'all get stuck into Frankie for fraternising with the enemy, hear him out. He was particularly unhappy at his last job after a restructure effectively led to the death of his team and many fine people with whom he greatly enjoyed working left to find pastures greener. Frankie was slated to begin essentially a whole new position in a whole new team in a whole new office anyway, and he was about as enthusiastic about starting with this new job/team/manager as he is about Angela Bishop. And Frankie DEFINITELY isn't enthusiastic about Angela Bishop.

So he set about finding something bigger and better, but after a few weeks of job interviews that didn't translate to job offers, rejection letters or even, rudest of all, complete lack of any kind of response to expressions of interest in certain positions, Frankie grew despondent. When he was finally graced with a swift response, interview and offer from this particular organisation - with a chunky pay rise, no less - if nothing else it was a bit of a boost his increasingly fragile ego was needing.

Frankie, who happens to be a writer, has rationalised staying with this organisation on several levels:

1. Currently he needs ongoing income greater than any other point in recent history, given his schedule of moving and overseas travel over the next few months. And fortunately, he's only contracted for six months, so he has a get-out-of-jail card after that time should the need (most likely) arise.

2. Frankie's job essentially involves providing objective facts and information to the organisation's members about day-to-day workplace matters - he's not directly involved with the more troubling lobby/representation aspects of the organisation. Information dissemination is Frankie's game. And any good writer can report facts objectively without editorialising - that's what the nice folk at Fairfax and the ABC and sometimes even News Ltd do, isn't it?

3. Frankie likens himself to his public service friends, even though his PS friends probably won't like the comparison. Frankie thinks of his buds in the PS who have worked for years under the Howard administration even though they despised that administration even more than Frankie did - but hey, it was their job to enforce the law, not defend it. Well, unless you're Barbara Bennett, of course. Plus, they were always aiming to quietly effect change where needed from the inside, which is never a bad thing, right?

4. Frankie gets his own office, which he's never had before.

Of course, Frankie knows the counter-arguments to all 4 points that y'all have no doubt mutterered quietly to yourselves while reading this:

1. Doing a job, any kind of job, just for the money and no other reason can be considered whoredom. And I don't mean the empowering, I'm-a-fucking-great-sex-worker-who-loves-their-job-and-gets-paid-well-for-it-so-fuck-you-if-you-don't-like-my-job-coz-I-do sort of whoredom, I mean more the 'hey man, take you 'round the back alley here? I really need my visit from Aunt Tina, wink wink' sorta whoredom. Sometimes there are just more important things than cash.

2. Yeah right - Nuremberg defence, just following orders. Fuck off. You voluntarily choose to join the enemy, you can't whinge when they ask you to take out your friends.

3. PS folk have a legitimate Nuremberg defence, you don't - plus they always have the hope that, as eventually happened last year, their evil overlords will finally be vanquished and the sun can shine again, the happy townsfolk can return to their villages with gaiety in their hearts, bunnies can jump in meadows again and etc. Your overlords remain firmly entrenched. There's no hope.

4. The office is 80s beige blandness. It almost feels like it should have one of those green 80s phones that Ann Reynolds had in the governor's office in Prisoner.

I've pointed all this out to Frankie but he's still very reluctant to leave, at least not before his contract runs out. Nonetheless, he's keen to find out other people's thoughts and experiences. He wants me to ask y'all if you've ever worked in a job where you literally feel your soul slowly fading. At what point does the need for money negate noble principles - which let's face it, are nice and noble and all but don't pay the pickle man. When you can't be with the job you love, honey, do you love the job you're with or do you stay unemployed and pure?

I'll forward onto Frankie any and all correspondence.

Oh - and welcome ye to 2008.