What’s That In Your Pants?


If anyone had said to me, even a couple of months ago, that in July of 2017 the President of the United States would suddenly decree, apropos of nothing, and via Twitter no less! to “please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military”  … I’d have snorted like an outraged donkey.trump trans tweet

What the lemon scented fart? If any further proof was needed that the POTUS is not only ignorant of the Constitution, civil rights and the year, his homophobic proclamation sealed the deal.

I get it. He’s 71, and possibly – no, make that probably – suffering from senile dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, and was never the hippest dude on the block even during his heyday, but this ridiculous knee-jerk revealed the ignorant, paranoid and prejudiced clod that somehow managed to fool enough of America to hit his Peter Principle pinnacle; the American paper fortune tellierPresident has reached the extreme tippity top limit of his competence, and is sliding into total incompetence and irrelevance, while clutching America’s nuclear codes like a paper fortune teller.

The news cycle went into overdrive after his tweet. Possible reasons for this cruel verdict included the reveal that a congressional fight over gender reassignment surgery, which threatened funding for his controversial wall with Mexico, was at least partly to blame. This despite studies that clearly showed that the highest possible cost estimates of hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery would range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, (equivalent to two or three Trump weekend getaways to Mar A Lago.) Costs overall would represent an “exceedingly small proportion” of total health care.

The militarsarah huckabee sandersy spends much more on Viagra. The Department of Defence spends $49.3 billion each year on health care.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the President was concerned about the policy. “This is a very expensive and disruptive policy and, based on consultation that he’s had with his national security team, he came to the conclusion that is erodes military readiness and unit cohesion and made the decision based on that,” she said.

I’m gonna guess that consultation involved less of the security team and more of his little, green, G.I. Joe figurines.toys for boys and girls

Tarah Demant, Amnesty International USA’s director of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity program said Mr Trump’s decision violated the human rights of all transgender Americans, adding: “It lays bare the president’s prejudice and underlines the fact that creating policy based on bigotry is becoming a dangerous and cruel pattern for President Trump.”

In other words, his own prejudice about how he personally would feel about serving alongside transgender military personnel was to supersede the many surveys and studies done within the actual military community that concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few (between 1,320 and 6,630) in the military’s 1.3 million-member force. Awful big talk from the Bone Spur Kingtrump bone spurs

Beyond any real or imaginary financial or morale implications, Trump’s words were a dog whistle to his base, those who agree with his fearful and intolerant ravings. Thankfully, there are less and less of them.

Without getting into all of the macho silliness and obvious fear of sexual inadequacy 45 has displayed throughout his life, you’d still think that he’d, by the age of seventy-one, at least be over his fear that the gay might get on him.

Because at the heart of it, an awful lot of people, especially older men like Trump, fear that their sexuality is a delicate thing. Masculinity, defined by male genitalia, is apparently so fragile that even a chance encounter with another male’s naughty bits will break it. Those kids in school who feared getting the gay cooties, who thought the queer might rub off on them if they even spoke to a transgendered kid, or who yelled out “fag” at anyone who broke fashion ranks with the ‘boys’ are more scared of their fragile grasp on their own sexuality than their victims are of their tormentors.

Even the word “homophobia” is a misnomer. A phobia is defined as an “irrational fear or hate,” something you might feel about heights, or spiders. If anything, the term would more appropriately be “homoism” since the range of negative attitudes and feelings towards those whose sexual taste differs from one’s own is more akin to words like racism, sexism, or ageism.

(Homophobia) has been defined as contempt, prejudice, aversion, hatred or antipathy, may be based on irrational fear, and is often related to religious beliefs.” (wikipedia)

Those emotions are a lot more definitive and deep seated than any you’d bring to bear on that poor spider who just happened to wander into your shower.

No, this whole ridiculous and overt terror that some ostensibly macho men exhibit is their fear that contact of any kind with homosexuals or the transgendered might change their “All Boy” identity into one that is “not-normal“.

It’s also that they’re afraid that a man will hit on them the way they hit on women.

It’s so irrational that it even out-irrationalizes racism; a bigot may hate people of a different colour, but he’s really not too worried that he might wake up one morning and find his skin tone has changed to black. No, that would be silly!

i woke up like this. jpgBut a homophobe does have a secret fear that they could wake up one fine morning and find that they suddenly crave the touch and scent and feel of someone who’s got all the same plumbing as they themselves are concealing in their boxers.

Several studies have linked homophobia to latent homosexual arousal. Maybe. After all, it’s not uncommon for those entering puberty to wonder about their own sex’s sexy bits, as well as the opposite’s. Most young people are worried that the acting out of their desires will disqualify them from fitting in with their peers. Closet homosexuals, therefore, have the most to fear; namely, that they’ll be found out, and socially ostracized.

henry rollins gay marriageIt’s crazy and irrational, and that’s why civilized society had to take a stand, and let the grownups decide that the establishment of civil rights made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone. ” And that means ALL people, regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin, and, since 1974, gender.

Which didn’t stop a small group of people, all puffed up with religious arrogance, from deciding that their own Holy Book‘s preachings gave them the right to ignore that legislation, and discriminate against legal same sex marriage.

By late 2014, same-sex marriage had become legal in states that contained more than 70% of the United States population. More than 70% of Americans lived in a jurisdiction where same-sex couples could legally marry. .. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses” (wiki)

Those who morally disagreed with this decision pushed back. Some, putting the lie to that old saying, “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake,” refused to bake wedding cakes for gay marriages. So sue me, they said. And the newlyweds did …

What makes people fear the gay and gay marriage? It’s because you’re giving these people equality. And that’s the biggest fear that people with power have: that you’ll get some too.

“I don’t want to be married. But if two people are crazy enough to be that in love with each other, damn, that’s a great thing. Give them a break. Life’s really short.

If you don’t want a gay marriage, then don’t have one.”

Henry Rollins on Big Think

Trump’s declaration of war upon those who protect their fellow citizens during times of both war and peace is unsavory, ill-advised, homophobic, and unconstitutional. It’s also very ill timed, since it was just last June 30, 2016, that then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that transgender people would be able to serve openly in the military in a memorandum directing the completion of such inclusion by June 30, 2017.

With the deadline approaching, current Defense Secretary James ‘Mad Dog” Mattis announced that he would be delaying the policy, writing: “After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months. … We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.” mattis isis waswas

Mattis and Trump seem unaware of the legally sticky wicket they’re facing with this strategy. An attempt to enforce a reinstated ban against transgender persons currently serving in the military would face steep legal challenges and precedent. Under well-settled law, the courts would almost certainly hold that soldiers who came out as openly transgender in reliance on the military’s own policy could not be subsequently penalized for doing so. Current transgender soldiers, who are relying not just on a policy of de facto tolerance, but on an official policy expressly permitting open service, could and would take legal action.

More importantly, and on a human level, the conversation about transgender military service should not revolve around numbers, or deeply held, albeit illegal, prejudices. Either America respects it’s values and citizens, or it does not. The current President of all Americans has drawn a hard line demonstrating that he stands with those who lack respect for the value and rights of LGBTQ American citizens.
……………………….

And now, a musical interlude to clear your palate …

In the bad old days, the majority of LGBTQ people in the entertainment business strove to cover their sexual proclivities. But there were a few brave souls who dared to flaunt their fabulousness.

Jackie Shane YongeSt_onstageOne bright light that graced Toronto‘s stages was Jackie Shane. Born in Nashville in 1940, he cut his teeth touring with musical house mother, ‘Queen of the Blues’, Marion James, eventually becoming part of the band, The Motley Crew, which was based in Toronto.

Jackie was a soul/R&B singer who frequently performed at the Sapphire Tavern. His appearance was androgynous; he often wore makeup, and sometimes an evening gown.

His flamboyant stage act, makeup and attire so threatened the media gatekeepers that even the  CHUM radio station refused to interview him on-air, and only began playing his hit single, “Any Other Way,” after it had begun climbing the charts, finally peaking at the number two spot in Canada in 1962.

“Jackie Shane wasn’t bringing his act to Toronto so it could be better understood. Instead he was taking it out of context, to someplace where it seemed more alien and strange. Maybe he liked it better that way. By coming to Toronto he was escaping segregation and getting to perform to white people with presumably deeper pockets, who had never seen anything like him before. You could cross over in the States, but then you’d have to pull a Little Richard and turn your ‘freak’ show into a clown act, taking out the gay innuendo.” (Carl Wilson, music journalist)

Shane was the stuff of mystery and legend. Rumours swirled around him, including one that claimed Shane was cousin to Little Richard. Shane left Toronto in 1971, moving to Los Angeles, where Jackie turned down an offer to be part of the band Funkadelic.

After returning to Nashville after her mother’s death, Jackie lived as a woman. Shane had become a legend, and, like most legends, there were rumours of her death, including one claiming that she had been murdered in 1998.

She was gone – but not forgotten.

From Now Toronto‘s Michael Rancic, ” In 2010 the CBC produced a radio documentary about her life, and rare live footage of Shane was featured in Bruce McDonald’s three-part TV documentary, Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories, in 2011.

Noted music journalist Carl Wilson wrote his own extensive take on Shane’s enduring relevance for Hazlitt in 2013, placing Shane within a larger context of the history of queer and Black performers. The following year, Videofag hosted an exhibition for an animation by Sonya Reynolds and Lauren Hortie called Whatever Happened To Jackie Shane?

Her live album was nominated for the Polaris Heritage Prize in both 2015 and 2016, and earlier this year, The Globe And Mail published an article calling Shane a “lost transgender superstar,” and a volume of Toronto queer history, Any Other Way: How Toronto Got Queer, was published by Coach House and featured an essay by Steven Maynard.

Archival record label Numero Group is releasing the first-ever artist-approved collection of soul singer Jackie Shane’s work.

Named after her most well-known single, Any Other Way is an extensive collection of all six of Shane’s 45s, highlights from the often bootlegged 1967 live set recorded at Toronto’s famed Sapphire Tavern, as well as three never-before-heard tracks.”

Any Other Way is out October 20.

Confronting the Higher Moral Ground


Rob Ford Funeral 20160328I’m taking a stand – against those who claim ethically superior principles based solely on their religious beliefs.  I’m sick of the mealy mouthed and the self-righteous who feel free to condemn everyone around them for not toeing some invisible moral line. Enough with placating the unplacatable; no one alive completely exemplifies what it is to be good in the eyes of all. Only the dead attain that status, and even then, usually only through memories conveniently fortified with whitewash, amnesia, and mawkish sentimentality.

sharia law anyoneSocial media and the ever slavering commercial media have been enjoying an all-you-can-eat outrage buffet this year, dining royally on the shock and awe of people actually daring to express and live their vaunted ‘freedoms.’ The last time I checked, neither Canada nor the U.S. were run by Sharia law, but there are days when you’d be hard-pressed to define what does make North America tick, from the hysteria of  the religious and sanctimonious morality squad.

Time and again the most publicly virtuous are exposed as privately lascivious, to our delight. What’s more fun than pointing out the hypocrisy of others, while we clutch our pearls in pretended disgust, and tsk tsk in clucking disapproval?

“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo. I do believe it, I do believe it’s true…”

We’re apparently still talking about the transgender bathroom controversy (and by controversy, I mean it’s been proven unconstitutional and condemned by the country, but a small group of people are still clinging to their mistaken and unproven belief that anyone with a different sexuality is evil and must be burned at the stake.)

The main proponents are self-styled experts with outsized holier-than-thou platforms, who have clearly neither understood nor even looked up the definition of transgender, which is; “denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.”

trans-v-transRather, these morons prefer to double down on their ignorance,  terrified and terrorized by the bad cross-dressers who live in the imaginary closets of their minds, not even realizing that for transvestites, it’s the dressing up that’s the fetish –  sorry, bud, you they don’t find attractive at all.

This very human propensity for characterizing and demonizing others isn’t new, but social media has added new fuel to the fire, since we can now share our disapproval lickety-split quick, and globally, to other people who haven’t time to ‘look into’ the individual offense, but will gladly scan the headline, kneejerk an opinion, add their own stamp of disapproval, and send it out to all those who have the misfortune of knowing them. Ah, brave new world!

It makes me tired. Countering resentment, bitterness, self-righteousness, and the envy of those who would act in the same way, given the same scenario and ability, if they could get away with it, is wearing me out. We publicly condemn the exposed, corrupt, billionaires, crying, “hang ‘em high!” while privately thinking that conning the poor and unfortunate was a pretty clever business plan – until they got caught.

shallow poolWe have become the equivalent of the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen, constantly commentating on what we shoulda woulda coulda done, had that bad thing happened to us.

These analysts cling to their opinions like their thoughts are official flotation devices, when in reality, they’re out of their depths in the shallowest of wading pools.

The only way to rationalize our instincts to do what feels good and makes us happy, despite societal restrictions, is to frame our requests in ways that dance around Bible Belt mentality. Legalize cannabis, because it has health benefits, we say. How can you deny the cries of the ill and injured?  Only a monster would withhold medication from those in need! Meanwhile, we downplay that pot can sometimes just be fun to ingest. Because fun … no no no! Give me a reason why you need pot, you filthy drug addict! Force me to reluctantly concede to make legal an herb that has been unfairly and falsely maligned for a century! (And then, once it’s as legal as alcohol and tobacco, we’ll all get together and indulge ourselves to our hearts content … no hard feelings, eh?)

No, this kind of soft policing by gossip, innuendo, and lack of evidence has got to stop. We have access to more information via our cell phones than any other civilization in history has ever had, and yet so many are backpedalling at top speed into wilful ignorance and pretended stunned condemnation of other people’s actions.

Celeb-Sex-Offender-ScandalsOn the one hand, we recognize that a shocking number of North American women – 1 in 4 –are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, but when a beloved media icon is accused of assault, our immediate response is to reject the allegation, and find culpability in the actions of the victim, all the while spreading the word in hushed, salacious, tones.  For some twisted reason, we find it difficult to separate the creation and creators of art from the actions of abusers, even though history has shown us that celebrity does not guarantee innocence.

Here – I’ll prove it to you. These men have all been accused of, and either admitted publicly or in a court of law, that they were guilty, of abuse. I’ll bet at least one of these names will jump out at you, and propel you into a fit of injured defence: Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Sean Penn, Eminem, Chris Brown, Mike Tyson,  Anthony Kiedis, Tupac Shakur, R Kelly, Jimmy Page, Michael Fassbender, Roman Polanski, Sean Connery, Tommy Lee,  Johnny Depp, Mystikal,  PeeWee Herman, Jeffrey Jones, David O. Russell,  Jared Fogle, Jerry Sandusky, Charles Dickens,  J.D. Salinger, Pablo Picasso.

And that’s before we even get to the more onerous, highly contemptible, disgraced politicians, like Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who pleaded guilty to illegally structuring bank transactions  of $3.5 million to quash allegations of decades of sexual misconduct with students. Or the complete and utter hypocrisy of Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah Palin, the Alaskan Bible Spice, popping out two illegitimate children while pocketing $1 million for promoting abstinence to American high school students.

That old reprobate, Newt Gingrich, illustrated beautifully the convoluted logic of these right wing politicians, caught in a web of discovered ethical misconduct, which nimbly deflects personal criticisms of wrong doing by taking a moral swipe at the dreaded liberal bogeyman

wrapped in a flag Palin “If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.”

Separation of church and state be damned! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, or the flag he’s wrapped around himself.

Don’t even get me started on how many children’s’ lives have been ruined by the actions of those in religious authority. The insistence of those who claim to uphold ‘family values,’ while simultaneously playing the  divine, ‘get out of jail free card’ to excuse their own depravities, past and present, is beneath contempt.

Point being, there’s not just one or two bad actors out there, assaulting the defenceless – there’s an army of abusers who take whatever modicum of fame and power –  no matter how insignificant the power –  they possess, and misuse their authority.  We have to acknowledge that sex is only serendipitously the reason that there are 7 billion people on the planet –  sexuality is a driving force  that ensures the continuation of human life. anti masturbation crossBut it’s also the dynamic that compels some warped individuals to take violent sexual gratification from anyone or anything in their path. Rather than receiving the message that sex can be fun and fulfilling for the parties involved, as well as essential to procreation, they’ve had their own sexuality condemned as immoral and beyond control, leading those poor souls  to act out in ways that are truly immoral.

But we cannot address the sickness without addressing the root causes. The insanity of enforcing puritanical principles in a twenty-first century technology based world has to be laid bare, even at the cost of some offended sensibilities.

Is it too much to ask that humans, living in an unprecedented time of accessible information,  education and enlightenment, live up to their potentials? The modern world, so contemptuous of the presumed backwardness of Third World nations, needs to tell the mealy mouthed, fundamentalist critics to back off. There’s no moving forward for humanity as long as society has to pander to anti-intellectualism, hostility to science, formless fears, grievances, and the perpetually self-victimized walking wounded in the chronically under informed brigade.

Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City


Bruce Springsteen’s refusal to play North Carolina because of new, drastic LGBT laws might have shocked some people, but it didn’t surprise me at all.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cancelled their Greensboro, NC concert because of the state’s new law blocking anti-discrimination rules for the LGBTQ community. The so called “bathroom law” clause in the bill forbids transgender people from using the restroom that matches the gender they identify with, and that’s a real problem for transgendered people.

missippi bathroom lawsSo far, North Carolina is just the latest state to go this route, following in the footsteps of Mississippi and those looking to do something similar: Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin.   As of last Tuesday, the National Center for Transgender Equality was tracking 49 bills across America, 32 of which dealt with bathroom access. More than a third (12) of those bathroom bills are still actively being considered.

From Funny or Die …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqASSN5S2CI

Also tucked inside North Carolina’s HB2 act is a sneaky little Trojan horse that strips workers in the state of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. “If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion, you no longer have a basic remedy,” said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh.

Conservative media and internet pundits sprang to attention at Springsteen’s decision. Most postings were sad admissions of the lack of truly ‘conservative ‘artists, and the pain it caused them to  have to be exposed to thoughts unlike their own, all in the name of entertainment. Like this poor fellow …

 “if I refused to watch any movie or show, listen to any music or laugh at any jokes by people who are flaming liberals, entertainment options would probably come down to a choice between Ron White or watching paint dry.”

States-transgender-lawRepublican Mark Walker unwisely weighed in on the controversy. “I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

No, sir – it’s the state that’s doing the bullying. Springsteen is reacting to discrimination, and the loss of civil rights, levied by the state. And so is PayPal, recently cancelling its plans to open a new global operations center in Charlotte, that would have employed 400 people, following the passage of the law. Add to that basketball great Charles Barkley, who has urged the National Basketball Association to move its All-Star Game next year away from Charlotte, N.C., unless the law is repealed.

Springsteen’s been down this road before – remember Sun City?

sun city artists againstSpringsteen, Steve Van Zandt, producer Arthur Baker and journalist Danny Schechter gathered  together what rock critic Dave Marsh called  “the most diverse line up of popular musicians ever assembled for a single session,” in 1985 to record an album, and video, protesting apartheid in South Africa. The artists also pledged to never perform at Sun City, as long as apartheid was an issue. The group were dubbed Artists United Against Apartheid.

The Sun City video, described by Schecter as “a song about change not charity, freedom not famine,” featured  Miles Davis , Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ruben Blades, Bob Dylan, Pat Benatar, Herbie Hancock, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, Lou Reed, Run–D.M.C., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Clarence Clemons, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Darlene Love, Bobby Womack, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, Jackson Browne, Daryl Hannah, Bono, Peter Wolf, U2, George Clinton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, Jimmy Cliff, Big Youth, Michael Monroe, Stiv Bators, Peter Garrett, Ron Carter, Ray Barretto, Gil Scott-Heron, Nona Hendryx, Lotti Golden, Lakshminarayana Shankar and Joey Ramone, with the signature background vocal sound created by Lotti Golden, B.J.Nelson and Tina B.

From Wikipedia: “The song “Sun City” was only a modest success in the US, reaching #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in December 1985. Only about half of American radio stations played “Sun City,” with some objecting to the lyrics’ explicit criticism of President Ronald Reagan’s policy of “constructive engagement.” Meanwhile, “Sun City” was a major success in countries where there was little or no radio station resistance to the record or its messages, reaching #4 in Australia, #10 in Canada and #21 in the UK. The song was banned in South Africa.”

Said Jackson Browne at the time, “Sun City’s become a symbol of a society which is very oppressive and denies basic rights to the majority of its citizens. In a sense, Sun City is also a symbol of that society’s ‘right’ to entertain itself in any way that it wants to, to basically try to buy us off and to buy off world opinion.”

Could the Boss have seen North Carolina’s new law as anything other than “very oppressive and a denial of basic rights?”  Of course not.

The apartheid regime in South Africa finally ended in 1994.But injustice and discrimination flourish around the world.

Almost unknown, and virtually invisible, is a newer group against apartheid, this time in artists against apartheidthe Middle East. (ArtistsAgainstApartheid.org). No matter which side of the political fence you or your country are on, this group has the right to organize and protest.

“Artists Against Apartheid Declaration of 2010: Artists Against Apartheid is an international alliance committed to Equal Rights and Justice, and the elimination of apartheid in our world. While crimes of apartheid are ongoing in Palestine-Israel, we will stand in solidarity with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS,) and the cultural boycott of Israel.”

A quick search on ‘artists against discrimination’ nets hundreds of thousands of results, from all over the globe, from Australia, to France, and to Mexico, with all stops in between and around.

We don’t hear much about the Guerrilla Girls, a protest group launched in 1985, that call themselves “the conscience of the art world.”  And as they admit, after 30 years of protest, there’s been very little change.

ageism after sexismNor do we hear about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receiving more than 19,000 age discrimination complaints in each of the past two years.

That’s why it’s important when artists of Springsteen’s stature take a stance on injustice. As he said, he could have confined himself to making a political statement from the stage during the concert, but cancelling the concert, which officials have told the media will cost the Greensboro Coliseum a loss of about $100,000, “ is the strongest means I have for raising my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.”

Most of us can’t make a big dent on injustice. The old saw about ‘voting with your wallet’ can certainly help turn the tide in some commercial issues,  but when governments pass laws that cause companies to decide against investing in your state, and artists to refuse to entertain you, the dilemma that the Religious Right and many Republican states must face becomes clear … as much as you may want and need jobs and entertainment, you’re gonna have to decide which is more important –  your fiscal duties or your need to control other peoples’ genitalia.

It Is To Laugh!


samantha bee trevor noah.jpgIn a Salon.com article last week, Steve Almond accused Comedy Central of having “squandered Jon Stewart’s legacy” by appointing South African comedian Trevor Noah as host, over the then-incumbent Samantha Bee.

The author points to the success of Bee’s new show “Full Frontal” as proof that Noah’s lower key, outsider’s perspective, has damaged the credibility and political power of The Daily Show.

There’s so much wrong with that attitude that I barely know where to begin. Full disclosure: my conversion to political junkie is relatively recent, and as with most converts, I just can’t get enough of meaningful discussion on my new passion. I’m also an entertainer who studied comedy and acting for long enough to have a dispassionate overview of what I see on the screen – I’m not buying the physical over the intellectual. I watch for knowledge and to hear something clever that I hadn’t thought of myself.

That being said – there’s lots of leg room in the television/Internet world for a wide spectrum of opinions, and lawdy, lawdy, there’s a fan for every fanatical opinion. I dislike certain types of discourse; insightful commentary has no need to use scatology or childish insults unless justified in context. Those that shriek their thoughts are right off my list of viewing. So, that certainly leaves out the FOX News Network, and all Republican debates, no matter how ‘entertaining.’

But let’s just cut to the chase on why Samantha Bee declined the chance to succeed Jon Stewart.titans of late night 2016

I like how Vanity Fair leaned into the 50’s sexism of late night by making the photo Mad Men-themed’.

The ‘titans of late night’ sausagefest included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and token light skinned Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Not exactly a cultural mosaic going on there.

vanity-fair-cover2

“What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,’ wrote David Kamp.’How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?

(You could also add “people of colour” there, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

While I can appreciate the work of Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, I’ve never really taken to them. I’m just ‘over’ the late night formula, with its emphasis on rising or fading stars, and middle of the road, slightly risqué, rarely challenging patter. That was always the domain of older, white males, and still largely is. That’s more ” falling asleep in front of the TV” stuff, to me.

colbert thumbs upStephen Colbert’s defection to The Tonight Show, despite his best efforts, still landed him in that traditional format. While the move made great career sense overall and I do love his joyful, melodica playing, bandleader, Jon Batiste, Colbert’s brilliance is still best viewed in his political snipes, and thankfully, the cream of his wit usually wind up getting spun off into Internet clips and memes.

Trevor Noah only has to step on stage for the conservative dog whistles to start – he’s a young, black, South African, and an immigrant who’s taken an American’s job! A gentle, soft spoken and thoughtful soul, he is able to laugh at his own foibles and to marvel at American customs and culture. I find his often wide-eyed wonder refreshing – I too sometimes feel the same gulf between how Canadians and Americans think. Sometimes it’s just too wide a mental leap to span.

The contrast between the often brash, broad humoured and ultra-white Stewart and Noah’s more restrained presence can be jarring, if all you are looking for is what you’ve already seen. But Stewart himself knew that it was time to go – he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He saw that it was time to move on and let the next wave of young comedians have their shot. He subsequently signed a four year production contract with HBO, while continuing as executive producer of …larry wilmore

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an Afrocentric look at America’s politics. Maybe it’s the humour of the damned and the resigned, but it’s also intelligent, truthful, often wise, and empathic.

A typical, if bowdlerized, user’s comment on the show: “they have almost no white people on their show at any point, and often just disrespect that person. It’s always a black panel, it’s always the same guys opinion, who is him? I’ve never seen or heard of him. He presents rather, off humor, if any of this is humor, which it’s not, it’s just a group of people acting out raged constantly”

people care about pets over poor blacksThe main take-away being, at least on the commentator’s part, not to see a chance to explore and try to understand a different perspective on the very real problem of racism in America, and how it’s dealt with, legally and individually, but instead a demand for more white faces to rehash white opinions on a series focused on black lives. And there you have your #allLifeMatters in a nutshell.

Stewart was also instrumental in launching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a satirical look at news, politics and current events. Funny-sausage-principle-by-John-OliverOliver had the distinction of guest-hosting The Daily Show in the summer of 2013, when Stewart took a working sabbatical to direct his film, Rosewater. Oliver’s sardonic and exaggerated comedic ‘voice,’ was immediately acceptable to American viewers familiar with the work of British comedians in the Monty Python vein. Although his series airs only once a week, each episode is a little gem, with the bulk of the airtime focusing with laser beam intensity on a well-researched and timely item deserving of closer examination.

 

hollywood_reporter_bill_maher_coverStill a force to be reckoned with, is Bill Maher, of Real Time, and the late, lamented Politically Incorrect. The granddaddy of political satire and discussion, Maher is definitely polarizing. He’s a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. Perhaps that’s the attraction. At any rate, I’ve followed his career since the nineties, and even once seized the opportunity to be in the Politically Incorrect audience, just a week or two after 9/11. Though I can’t remember if that was the episode that got his multi –award winning show cancelled.

ABC decided against renewing Maher’s contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002, after he made a controversial on-air remark six days after the September 11 attacks. He agreed with his guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, that the 9/11 terrorists did not act in a cowardly manner (in rebuttal to President Bush’s statement calling them cowards). Maher said, “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.””

Maher barely skipped a beat, moving from ABC to HBO in 2003, where his hour-long political comedy talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has flourished ever since.

Bill and I have been aging disgracefully – a world apart, but akin in spirit – for decades. We’re both still lippy, lefty, liberals – though I disagree with his pro-gun stance – with a sarcastic attitude, and a hate-on for bad politics, bought off politicians and mass media, inane bureaucracy, and rabid religionists of any stripe. What’s not to love? I’m positively dejected when I miss my Friday night fix of Real Time .

samantha bee on ScaliaBut circling back to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee… this new series airs only once a week. Like John Oliver, Bee touches briefly on current events, before diving deep into the murky waters of American politics. She’s funny, strong, relevant, courageous … even the show’s theme song, PeachesThe Boys Wanna Be Her,” asserts that “the boys want to be her, the girls want to be her.”

And I think that rings true to a young, engaged, non gender discriminating audience. Bee is cocky, unafraid to confront the staid establishment. Her interview with Texas Republican representative Dan Flynn, about writing the anti-abortion restrictions despite knowing little about the procedure, is typical of her style. “I speak with the authority of one who has a uterus,” Bee tells him, “and I guess that’s why I think that you’re the wrongiest, wrongheadedest wrong person.”

She’s exciting, she’s brave – and she’s Canadian! All of which allows her to comment and opine on wrongheadedness from the perspective of a country more known for acceptance than intellectual resistance. But we’re only four episodes in so far. It may seem longer, since that has encompassed four weeks, but we’re talking baby steps here.

By contrast, Trevor Noah’s been at The Daily Show since September 28, 2015, appearing four nights a week most weeks. Viewers have had time to decide on whether they like his shtick or not. Or have they? trevor noah w de Blasio

I recently watched an episode of Noah speaking with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But this time, the episode that I watched was not the regular, clipped for time, segment normally shown in the time spot, but rather, included the ‘extended’ interview that is available only to those who seek out the episode on Comedy Central. There was an entirely different tone between the televised and the ‘only available on the Internet’ conversation.

In the first, commercially aired segment, there was a lot of polite banter and civility. But just as the conversation got started, it was cut short.

De Blasio: And look, a lot of people don’t feel the government’s treating them fairly. For years and years, a lot of – and this is especially why, as you know, I’m very involved in the issue of addressing income inequality. And, you know, it’s amazing, you see the national discussion – like, why are people angry? Why are they frustrated? Because they’ve been screwed. Because for decades they’ve seen their incomes go down. They’ve seen their economic reality decline, and they wonder if their kids are going to have anywhere near as good a life as they had. Would you be content? The anger and frustration are the natural way people should feel when they go through that, and then they take that frustration out on a government that they feel has let them down. 

Noah: That has let them down, especially when it comes to income inequality. It’s funny you bring that up, because you are big on income inequality, which seems like a Bernie Sanders supporter, and, yet, you’ve endorsed Hillary, which we’ll talk more about. TV time is up – we’ll be talking more on the web and on the app.

(the extended interview) http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?vid=821779

Now, I can’t say that I’ve watched many of the extended interviews. However – a different Noah, a more confident, knowledgeable and willing to confront, Noah, appeared during the extended segment. And, in my opinion, that’s the Noah that viewers would prefer to the polished, safe, non-threatening, Noah they’ve been sold since his debut.

sense of humourBut really, in the end, our appreciation of comedy is personal, and only our opinion, as is our sense of humour. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a good thing – it speaks to our individuality. There’s room for all at the inn – pitting comedian against comedian is sophomoric and limiting. Let’s keep any nonsense austerity principles as far away from the distribution of art as we can.

Having a wide range of voices available for regular viewing is the essence of our freedom to choose, a real gift to viewers, and a paean to the right of free speech.

 

(first published Match 6/2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/roxanne-tellier-it-is-to-laugh/)

Co-Opting Transgenderism For Ratings


JennerSawyerIn my regular DBAWIS Sunday column, I wrote about the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview.
https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/roxanne-tellier-shaping-the-new-sexual-revolution-1960-redux/

But by the next day, I was already in despair at the media’s continued fawning over Jenner.Jenner as leader

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, calling Jenner a leader, a trail blazer, an inspiration. But the truth is, it’s all words, hot air, meant to make those commentating seem enlightened and fashionably cool, down with progressive sexual rights.

Come on. It’s not difficult to publicly applaud the actions of a white, wealthy, former Olympian with a high TV profile. The pundits actually were more shocked when he came out as a Republican, saying “Neither political party has a monopoly on understanding”.republicans transgender

Say what? That’s just not true. Republicans – and Conservatives in Canada – want to criminalize transgender restroom usage, to repeal protections for transgender kids in schools and support conversion therapy for LGBT people. And that’s just political small change, with the real heat concentrating on denying the rights of women and minorities.

How lovely for Jenner that his position and wealth allow him a freedom of choice that so many ordinary people will never know.

Some of us, who believe that all beings are created equal, and that we have no moral corner on how people live their lives, hope society is actually moving forward on human rights. Some of us will applaud his confession, but mindlessly agree with those who find the humiliation of others funny, just to keep life simple. Still others will continue to criticize, mock, or if drunk, beat up or even murder, those who are different than themselves, needing to marginalize and crush any person whose sexuality is not like their own, not mainstream enough to please the madding crowd.

bruce-jenner In Touch magAs a society, we’ll give lip service and airtime to anyone who wants to look like they’re hip to ‘the cause’. When a television interview focuses on one person, one being who is asking, not for the right to choose how he/she presents their sexuality, but for societal approval, we can’t really think of any good reason why they should be denied. But behind closed doors, or when it’s dark and no one can see, or when we “go along to get along,” we show our true colours.

I have always suspected that those terrorized by other people’s differing sexuality are saying a great deal about the acceptance of their own sexuality. Those politicians who campaign so vigorously against homosexuality, and then get caught with their pants down, reveal more by their actions than by their words.

canada transgender issueThe world is very disappointing to me. Last week, transgendered people were protesting on Capital Hill against. legislation they say has been hijacked to ban transgender people from using washrooms that match their chosen gender. That’s in April 2015 .. happening right now, right here in Canada … due to an amendment to Bill C-279, put forward by Conservative Sen. Don Plett.

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/trangender-activists-bring-toilet-seats-to-hill-protest-against-rights-bill-amendment

I honestly don’t think Bruce Jenner is brave and honest. I think Jenner’s declaration worked for him, but doesn’t for ‘ordinary’ trans people, who live under very different circumstances. His upcoming reality show is just more entertainment for prurient voyeurs looking for titillating viewing that they can then brag about seeing to their friends as a way of showing how open-minded they are. Just like those who watched poor little Honey Boo Boo‘s dysfunctional family – the viewers, and the people behind the cameras, were mocking that family, not treating them as equals.honey boo boo redneck

And just like Honey Boo-Boo, the media will snicker at Jenner’s efforts, while pretending they actually care about a white, wealthy, former Olympian who wants to dress like a woman.

It’s now a week or two after the ‘interview of the century,’ and the Kardashians are already resorting to puff pieces to keep people listening and talking about their entitled, yet somehow still boring lifestyle. Move along, people, nothing to see here.