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Archive for January, 2006

yes, folks, it's time for the most important democratic process in US politics. The nominees are in, race is tight, the candidates are talented and well-spoken, and the integrity of the voting process is held in highest security until the final announcements are made. You guessed it – it's Oscar time!Every year, I watch. Every year, I rush out to see the nominated movies. Every year, I pick my favourites and root for them from the confines of my living room. Righteous indignation rears its ugly head when my picks lose, especially due to Hollywood politicking. (Denzel, for example, should have won for Malcolm X, and for Hurricane, but instead he won for Training Day? come ON!) In any case, I am in good luck this year, I have seen so many of the nominated movies. So, in that spirit, here are my picks for this year's winners:

Holy Crap! Did anyone notice that all the nominated pictures are rather political in nature? Here are the nominees for
Best Picture:

  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Munich
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • Crash
  • Capote (ok, this one might be a bit of stretch, but Truman Capote was one of the most flamboyantly gay public personas in modern pop culture history)

How to pick a favourite for Best Picture? Well, I'm going to go with my gut on this one, and pick Brokeback Mountain. It's been so well-received, half of Hollywood is gay, and the movie is really very good. True, I didn't see Capote, or Good Night and Good Luck, but… I think I'm sticking with my gut on this. 2nd choice: CrashBest Actor:

  • David Strathairn, Good Night and Good Luck
  • Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
  • Joaquin Pheonix, Walk the Line
  • Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow

'k. This one is fairly easy, I think… Phillip Seymour Hoffman is going to take it. He is an underrated, unglamourous, workhorse of a chameleon with incredible skill and he has been nominated before and lost. He is on the rise, he's been around a long while now, and he deserves it. Also, he's won both the Golden Globe and the SAG for this performance. 2nd choice: Jaoquin Pheonix. Wild card: David Strathairn (he's a fabulous actor, underrated, and highly respected. It may be his due.)Best Actress:

  • Keira Knightly, Pride and Prejudice
  • Judy Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
  • Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
  • Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
  • Charlize Theron, North Country

This is a little tough. It's either Reese or Felicity. Hard to say until I see Transamerica, but she is getting race reviews for her performance in this movie about a group of peopole who are highly misunderstood and marginalized in society. Also, transsexuals are the new homosexuals (:P): trans politics is pretty hot topic lately, lots of visibility. I think I'll reserve judgement for now, but I'm leaning Felicity's way. I'll update this once I've seen it.Best Supporting Actor:

  • Jake Gyllenhall, Brokeback Mountain
  • George Clooney, Syriana
  • Matt Dillon, Crash
  • William Hurt, A History of Violence
  • Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

OK, well, George won the Globe, and Paul won the SAG. I saw all but History of Violence, but I think I'm safe on betting against Hurt on that one. I'm not sure about George this year, both his nominated movies are highly political, and that might not go over so well. Then again, Hollywood is sick of Bush and his politics, and they might be willing to send such a message again through their votes (remember Michael Moore winning for Bowling for Columbine a couple years ago?) Also, they like to throw in one surprise it seems, always in the supporting roles. This year's Best Supporting Actress is pretty much all tied up, so I'm going to say…. Matt Dillon. It may be Crash's only win. 2nd pick: Paul Giamatti (he lost last year in Sideways, he is perpetually in movies and been working forever, and he was the best thing about Cinderella Man).Best Supporting Actress:

  • Amy Adams, Junebug
  • Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
  • Catherine Keener, Capote
  • Frances McDormand, North Country
  • Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

This is easy, I'm willing to bet it's in the bag for Rachel Weisz. She won the Globe and the SAG, and she really was great in that movie. The only thing that was better about that movie was the beautiful children of Africa. 2nd pick: Catherine Keener (I first fell for her for her quirky performance in Being John Malkovich, a movie that I am obsessed with. I hear she's great in Capote, as always).Best Director:

  • Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
  • Stephen Speilberg, Munich
  • George Clooney, Good Night and Good Luck
  • Paul Haggis, Crash
  • Bennett Miller, Capote

Ang Lee will win. Simple as that. Speilberg has enough of those little gold statues, and Clooney is too fresh with the directing thing (although his movie looks absolutely stunning in black and white). 2nd pick: Stephen Speilberg. Wild Card: Paul Haggis (although he'll probably win in the Original Screenplay category).So, there are my picks. Care to disagree? feel free to express your thoughts, as always! Oscars(R) air on Sunday March 5. (hosted by Jon Stewart!) Check back on the 6th for my reactions!

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snow day?

it's snowing! winter is finally here! it looks so pretty out there, everything all covered in white, trees with branches hanging low, heavy with a growing burden.everyone gets their nose out of joint about the snow here in NS. maybe it's the same everywhere, but it seems like it's ALL people talk about. And look! here I am doing it too! Except, I'm not complaining at least, I like this weather. I don't mind driving in the snow, and I don't really mind shovelling, either.

it's the cold I hate. when it's too cold to snow, and you feel like your fingers are gonna turn black and fall off, like you'll never be warm again, and your skin stings and your nostrils freeze and your lungs kinda hurt and you can't go any faster and you want to run like the wind and you can't feel your toes until they start to burn and tingle and you get cramps from trying to shrink your neck down into your shoulders like a human turtle and your car won't start and your jeans kinda get crispy… you get the picture!

but the snow, I like it. It covers everything, and it sounds like winter. the silence is so lovely, and all the ugliness is blanketed in the most pure and beautiful fluff. the smell of new snow is so nice, clean and crisp and fresh. the sun is brighter, the air is clear. snow is good.

also, sometimes classes get cancelled and work gets cancelled and you get to stay inside in your jammies and sleep in and watch TV all day and drink hot chocolate and bake cookies and eat soup! YAY FOR SNOW DAYS!

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well, at least that's how I felt after Monday's upsetting election. I voted NDP, and it didn't matter in my riding, because the liberal incumbent got in. It also didn't matter to the rest of the country, who continued to vote in liberals and tipped the scales in favour of the conservative in the end. I voted knowing that the NDP would never win a federal election. Still, I wanted to express what I felt was for the best for me and for my country through voting. Unfortunately, my voice along with thousands of others singing the same song, was muffled by the loud and thundering footsteps of the Calgary Stampede, taking their show on the road to Ottawa."Finally, the west is in!" they shouted. That victory cry sounds just a tad ironic to my ears. After all, I live in Nova Scotia, have-not province of underachievers looking for a handout from the feds, funded by Alberta oil and Upper Canadian industry. Doesn't matter how hard we work for our living. Doesn't matter that our government gives away all our natural resources. Doesn't matter that our industries and our health are becoming depleted thanks to exploitation (yeah, let's re-open that coal mine in Sydney for the Aussies! After all, when those miners all get black lung, the Canadian health care system will pay for all their treatment!). I'm just not sure why the west has felt excluded from the country for so long – it seems to me, sitting in my beautiful home province, that the west has it pretty damn good compared to the east. We're stuck out here, separated by a language barrier in Quebec that seems to be like a brick wall that Ottawa can't hear past, cut off by a province in the middle of our country that wants out. What exactly would happen to the rest of us, the have-not little guys?

I am heartened in a strange way by the resurgence of the conservative vote in Quebec. While I don't understand why anyone would vote conservative, I am glad to see an air of federalism return to my francophone neighbours. I'm also somewhat encouraged that Harper won such a slim minority – smaller than even the last liberal government. Thank god the western voice isn't louder and more clear! And I'm also glad to see the NDP gain a little bit of momentum and strength. Their voice is needed in Ottawa, to make sure those Bush-lovers don't ruin the good thing we've got going on here in the Great White North.

My advice to Harper is a bit more vulgar than I normally like to be. Harper, better buy a big box of popsicles to practice with, 'cause it won't be long before you'll be under Bush's desk.

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voting day!

well, today is the day we elect a government. Red or blue? (liberal or conservative?) we'll see later on tonight. could it be orange (NDP)? I doubt it, but that's the way I voted today. One more orange riding might help keep whichever government that gets (back) into power on the straight and narrow. Maybe one day our little orange party will be more than the opposition, the idealist voice of social reform. Maybe.I'm interested to see how voting will turn out in Quebec. It seems the blues have gained some ground in a territory dominated by the reds and the Bloc (what colour do they use? Isn't it another shade of blue? I think they should pick purple, since it has such ties to sovereignty). The rest of the country seems to care not at all about the liberal sponsorship scandal, but in Quebec, where the scandal hit hardest, it is certainly enough to turn the tide for so many red supporters who do not want separation. I will be watching to see how the voters respond.

Looks like more and more Canadians are getting out to exercise their democratic rights today. That's heartening, after such an embarrassing turnout at the polls last time around.

My polling station was my old juniour high school! It was funny to be in there again. Everyone looked so little, and if I do say, so STUNNED. Did we look like that when we were that age – like little walking zombies, wandering aimlessly, waiting for someone to push us in the next direction? I know I have always lived in my own little world inside my head, but wow – these kids I saw today looked totally out of it. Who knows? maybe they were all high.

Well, I'm sure I'll have something to say about the results tomorrow. With any luck, we won't be hailing to Harper tomorrow! Peace!

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so, I was reading the paper this morning, and happened upon this article, about a heated exchange live on talk radio between long-time NDP leader Alexa McDonough and deputy leader of the Conservative party, Peter MacKay (there's a link on that page where you can actually listen to the clip in question). MacKay actually told McDonough she should "stick to her knitting"! Can you imagine, telling the former leader of the federal NDP party, and the current leaer of the provincial NDPs, a woman who is so well-respected and formidable, that she should stay at home and knit rather than talk about the big issues of this election? He denied it was a sexist remark, but COME ON. Of course it was a sexist remark – you wouldn't tell a man to stay at home and knit, would you? The implicit suggestion to this comment is that women should stay at home where they belong and mind their manners, while leaving the hard decisions to the men.Yesterday, driving home I was listening to Freestyle on CBC radio. The two hosts seem to get along quite well, and have a good rapport. The woman was talking about Reese Witherspoon's Golden Globe dress, and how it was worn by Kirsten Dunst a couple years back to the same awards show. (In my opinion, it looked way better on Reese! Then again, I can't stand Kirsten Dunst!) She went on to say that "people have been talking" about the gaffe, and the male host interrupted to say, "No, people haven't been talking. Women and gay men have been talking." !!! So, I guess only straight men are people. Another example of the heteromasculine machine at work.

These things are subtle in a lot of cases, but I've really been noticing how much of our language is sexist, racist, and heterosexist – common turns of phrase denote how our society assumes white straight wealthy able-bodied christian men are the norm, the standard by which all others are measured. I've been trying to keep my language neutral, and sometimes it's hard not to slip into common patterns of speech that serve to reduce and demean other people – and even at times, the group to which you belong yourself.

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this week in HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality, for those who don't know) there was a dispute that arose at the Halifax Regional School Board meeting over the reassignment of seats. From what I understand, seating used to be arranged alphabetically according to the members' last name, and now seating is according to numerical district. The dispute arose because one elected member doesn't have a district. His seat is representative of the African-Canadian community. Apparently, his new seat is on the end since he doesn't have a number. Mr Sparks sees this as a human rights issue, as if he and the people he represent are an afterthought to the HRM School Board, and more broadly, to the people of HRM and Nova Scotia. Mr Sparks refused to take his newly assigned seat at the meeting, which prompted other members to walk out in protest, which led to the cancellation of the meeting due to an insufficient number of members present to discuss and vote on matters of business. There has since been a public outcry against both Mr Sparks and the rest of the SB members who chose to leave the meeting, with accusations of childish behaviour and political grandstanding, and not putting the needs of the people who elected them (and their children) before their own petty disagreements. New reports say the matter is going to be dealt with through a mediator to the tune of $15,000, paid for by the taxpayers of the province.Does Mr Sparks have a point? Are the actions of the board, in assigning him a new seat, racist? Or is he simply "playing the race card, which trumps all others?"

In a way, I would hope that Mr Sparks is acting out of sheer childish brattiness. He is an elected official who is meant to represent black people in HRM. (What about other racial minorities? What about other minorities and oppressed groups? Should there also be an elected official to represent female students, diabled students, non-christian students, immigrant students/descendants of immigrants?) If Mr Sparks has a point, and he is acurately representing the concerns of black students and their families in HRM, this is indicative of a larger social problem. I think that while the reason seems petty, considering the history of race relations in this area, Mr Sparks is right to complain. As I have said in this space before, racism is systemic and involves groups of people; individuals experience racism based on their membership in those groups. Especially in our politically correct society, racism must find subtle ways to operate; racists can no longer insist on seperate washrooms and water fountains. Furthermore, I also feel that I, and other white people, don't have a right to decide whether or not Mr Sparks is right or wrong, because we are not in the position of experiencing racism on a daily basis. In order to figure out whether this issue is petty or not, my suggestion is that we should talk to the people Mr Sparks represents, and see what they have to say about it. This might be difficult, because it is well accepted that people who are oppressed internalize their own oppression. However, I think it's the closest we can get to resolving the question of whether the actions of the HRMSB are racist.

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I read this interesting report this morning on how prenatal testing, which determines the sex of a fetus, has led to the selective abortion of approximately 10 million female fetuses in India since 1998. In India, generally speaking, female children are not valued as highly as male children, and are seen as more of a burden than a benefit. Male children are preferred, as they carry on the family name, provide extra income for the family, and financially support elderly parents (actual caregiving usually falls to the male children's wives). Female children are seen as a burden because the family raises them and then they marry and leave the household to go to live with their in-laws, taking a large dowry (ever increasing in today's India) with them. What is worse, it seems that the likelihood of a pregnant woman aborting a female fetus increases depending on her level of education. It's interesting how the medical technology involved – ultrasound – is available in even economically depressed rural areas because such value is placed on knowing the condition of the fetus prior to birth.I wonder how this will affect India in the future? Considering the still-active caste system, if higher income, well-educated families are not giving birth to as many girls, will this mean more unmarried Indian men? Will it mean the balance of power will shift to women, and perhaps women (or more likely, parents) will be able to choose from among several potential suitors? Perhaps dowry will change, and eventually men will be forced to give a dowry in order to secure the wife he most wants. Or, perhaps caste will become less important in arranging marriages. who knows how Indian soceity may be affected by this sexist practice.

In developed countries, there is less emphasis on the technology for the reason of sex-selection (I'm sure this happens as well), but rather, prenatal testing is primarily used to determine whether the fetus has genetic anomalies such as Downs Syndrome or spina bifida, and physical difficulties like a hole in the heart. Women are encouraged to abort pregnancies for these reasons, rather than carry the fetus to term, give birth, and raise a child that is considered a burden, both on the family and on society.

The medicalization of pregnancy has long been a bone of contention for feminists. All these technologies are presented as giving the pregnant woman more choices, but they all serve to place a heavy burden on women to produce perfect, healthy babies, and encourages the tendancy to think of women according to their pregnancy status. One friend of mine is currently pregnant (overdue, actually, and getting very anxious to have her baby) and she has told me how complete strangers come up to her in public places and touch her stomach! As if suddenly, because she is growing another human, her body is somehow public. Imagine someone coming up to you in the street and touching your stomach – invasion of personal space, right? Not so with pregnant women – their bodies become public, conversation pieces, and they are expected to do everything in their power to produce a healthy baby, including eat well, give up alcohol and smoking and drugs, take vitamins, stop any physically strenuous or dangerous activities, and undergo all manner of poking and prodding by doctors. The invasion of personal privacy becomes all the more increased by technology such as ultrasound, which allows you to actually see into the woman's body, in some cases putting a tangible face on the fetus, and reducing the woman to a vessel.

All of this is seen as providing women with more information, and thus, more choices. Is it really? Women who find out they are carrying fetuses with physical anomalies are encouraged to abort and try again. Considering the high value society places on health and able bodies, and the difficulties she would face in raising a child with physical and/or mental disabilities, is this really a choice she is free to make? We are effectively breeding certain types of persons out of the human race. Diability activists are growing more and more concerned with the impact this will have on those who do have the type of anomalies that are considered undesirable. Imagine how you would feel if you found out the very type of condition you have is valued so little by society that every effort is made to exclude people like you from even being born.

Consider also women who are unable to produce children; these women are seen as having something "wrong" with them, as people to be pitied. Women often undergo all sorts of invasive and expensive medical treatments to "treat" their infirtility (even if the infirtility is not hers but her partners, by the way!). In-vitro fertilization, or IVF, and artificial insemination involve massive doses of hormones to increase the number of ova a woman produces during a cycle. In IVF, the ova are then extracted surgically using a long syringe through the vagina and cervix, and the eggs (usually around 10) are then fertilized outside the body and grown to a stage of development that allows for – you guessed it – pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which will tell whether the fetus has any genetic anomalies. (the worry with this type of testing is that eventually, only fetuses with preferred characteristics, such as sex, potential intelligence, eye and hair colour, etc. will be implanted.) After the testing, several fertilized ova are then implanted into the woman's uterus surgically. This gives better chances of one of the fetuses attaching to the uterine wall and developing fully. Sometimes, all of the fertilized eggs attach, and the woman becomes pregnant with multiple fetuses. She (and her partner) must then decide whether to carry all the fetuses to term, which places undue strain on the woman'd body and threatens her health even further, or to selectively abort one or more precious fetus.

All of this happens to the woman's body. What invasive procedure does the male partner undergo to contribute to this process? The answer: none. All he has to do is masturbate into a cup.

Anyway, this turned into a rather lengthy post, so sorry about that, but recent reading has struck a chord with me.

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