July 23, 2007

News of the World

*After 30 years of being on top, it looks as though Toronto's CN Tower will lose its status as the world's tallest freestanding structure sometime later this year, assuming the Burj Dubai stays on target to reach an astonishing height of 2625 ft.

*A Democratic Senator is planning to introduce a motion to censure President Bush for, among many things, the greatest assault on the U.S. Constitution in its history. The effects of a censure would largely be symbolic as it is merely a public reprimand. Besides, it's clear that Bush's political savings account has been in serious overdraft for at least a year or so.

*Tammy Faye Messner passed away July 20, after a long and hard battle with cancer. She had weathered the sex and financial scandals of her former husband, televangelist James (Jim) Bakker, and she has always struck me as a great American sad clown, what with her penchant for excessive facial makeup. Still, she deserves a great deal of credit for being a voice of tolerance amidst the cacophany of conservative Christian rhetoric.

*The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Friday that butane lighters are allowed on-board planes again, although it's still pretty tricky to bring on a bottle of water.

*The National Center for Health Statistics reports that, in 2005, over 650,000 Americans died of heart disease, over 550,000 died of cancer, over 150,000 died of stroke, over 120,000 died of lower respiratory diseases, over 72,000 died from diabetes, and over 31,000 died from self-inflicted injuries. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2004, 37 million Americans lived in poverty and 45.8 million were without health insurance coverage. What more will it take for the Bush administration to raise the alert level to red on the real crisis in the homeland?!

July 20, 2007

The amount of construction on the Queen's campus these days is absolutely astounding! The place is a complete mess, and even walking across the main campus is a trial in itself.
Our main artery, University Avenue, has been completely dug up, as part of a $7-million revitalization; the University's main administrative building is about to get a $12.2-million renovation; work is underway for a $3-million facelift to one of our residences; blasting is underway on our northern end and our arena is being torn down for first phase of our new $230-million student centre; and the work starts in a week or so on a new $30-million athletic field and parking complex on our western fringe.

July 17, 2007

Civil Rights, Not Special Rights

"We are not a theocracy and our rights are not and should not be determined by religious traditions. We live under a constitution, not Leviticus. We obey a rule of law, not your pastor or priest. Whoever your god is, whatever book you think communicates this god's laws, and however you interpret them is irrelevant to a debate about the distribution of rights and privileges. We are a secular nation.

Rights are too important to be left to the irrational moral sentiments or visceral reactions of others, and the law is not about enforcing the morality of the majority. We need reasons why we grant rights to some and not to others. Reasons are what hold our society together and afford all of us an equal voice.

Instead of telling a group of people that they can't have family rights and must remain social outcasts because too many of us are bigoted, perhaps we should fight against bigotry. Let's argue for moral progress rather than acquiese to bigotry and hatred. Revulsion, personal disgust, or visceral reactions are not moral positions--they are mere reactions, and they do not make for admissable arguments for public policy. My rights are not contingent on your opinion of me or my lifestyle.

If the family's role is to serve a function, namely, to raise children and to be a stabilizing force on society, and if there is no reasons to suspect that gays can't also serve this function and may even help to strengthen it, then they should be allowed to join in for the benefit of all of us. But to use a different word to denote gay marriage [civil union] sets it off as different and inferior. It doesn't treat gays as equals, but, rather, reaffirms their second-class citizenship. To classify gays differently is to deny them equal status as members of the community. It is degrading and humiliating.

Marriage as an institution is important, not just because of the rights it affords the members of the marriage, but because of the order it bestows on society through its moral message of commitment. This is an aspect of marriage denied to civil unions by its very nature as a relationship that isn't a marriage. Separate but equal is never equal for the simple reason of the stigma attached to that which is set apart. "

-Jacob M. Held, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy & Religion, University of Central Arkansas. From his article "You Can't Get Married, You're Faggots: Mrs. Garrison and the Gay Marriage Debate" in South Park and Philosophy (Blackwell Publishing, 2007)

July 16, 2007

Tasting the County

Food and wine enthusiasts are flocking in droves to beautiful Prince Edward County. What is quickly becoming the region's worst-kept secrets are the wineries and restaurants, cafes, and bakeries on this peninsula jutting out into Lake Ontario a mere hour west of Kingston. Nestled mostly in the town of Picton and the nearby village of Bloomfield, is the province's latest designated viticultural appellation, and home to a dozen or so worthy vineyards.
On Sunday I had the pleasure of taking in some of the region's most well-known treats, with my partner Mark and two lovely friends, including three hotdogs at Buddha Dog, a latte at the Bean Counter Cafe, some book-browsing at Olivia & Company Fine Used Books, an ice-cream cone at Slickers, and tasting some cheese at the Black River Cheese Company, and finally some cider at the County Cider Company.
With all the publicity the region is getting in the Toronto media one wonders how long before the County's charms are ruined. For the moment, Prince Edward County is to the Niagara Region as Sonoma is to Napa, with the charm of genuine yesteryear, a slower pace, and a grassroots sensibility.

July 13, 2007

Elections in AmericaLand

How difficult it is not to slip into bouts of cynicism, as we watch the candidates on both sides of the non-existent divide get ready to trample across New Hampshire.

There was Clinton-squared in Idaho on a flatbed truck, miming a perfect marriage, Giuliani taking heat from the largest firefighters' union over inaccurate claims made by his team, and McCain re-arranging the deck chairs on his doomed vessel of a campaign.

There was President Bush commuting Cheney's right-hand man, "Scooter" Libby, and the press blinked their eyes repeatedly, rolled over and played dead. Surely somewhere, a relaxed Rumsfield is polishing his notes for a lecture circuit that will have him laughing all the way to the bank.

July 10, 2007


Barry Zwicker's Towers of Deception (2006) should be required reading for anyone interested in the failure of the mass media organizations to uphold their fourth estate role as the gatekeepers of truth and meaning.

Centred on the events at the World Trade Center and The Pentagon that fateful September morning, Zwicker--a Canadian journalist-- methodically presents a haunting and worrisome collection of omissions, disinformation, and on-the-record evidence that cumulatively serve to irrefutably contradict the official story of "the day the world changed". Zwicker also demonstrates the profound complicity in the mainstream media outlets in perpetuating demonstrable falsities and fallacies. The entire book heightens the tragedy of the events, and it cannot be simply brushed aside as the ranting of a troubled mind in a basement apartment.

Indeed, Towers is remarkably well-researched, and painstakingly presented to do what the supposedly "final word" 9/11 Commission failed so blatantly to: ask the logical questions that follow the best available evidence. The results are frightening, enlightening, and empowering...

July 9, 2007

Witches and Demons, and Magic, Oh My

Fans of "Buffy" may well want to check out season 1 of "Hex", a British take on the battle between witches and a fallen angel now available on DVD.
While not as consistently clever as "Buffy" there are some excellent turns of phrases and a scene-stealing lesbian character named Thelma. Less-evolved North American viewers will be shocked and intrigued by scenes of partial nudity, and the depictions of various forms of sexuality, and mental illness. The show only made it to the end of two seasons, so it's a breeze to watch and digest.

July 5, 2007

The Key is the Key

For all those who dearly miss episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits", I implore you to run to your favourite rental store and get yourself the SCI-FI channel miniseries, "The Lost Room".

Starring Pater Krause ("Six Feet Under"), this captivating story centres on a motel key that opens any door in the world (provided it has a key-lock). Any door opened with the key always leads to room #10, a room that exists outside of time and space. Of note, there were roughly 100 or so objects that were once within the room, and most have been taken out by previous key-holders. Outside the room, the Objects take on supernatural powers in the real world.

A tragic set of events catapult our reluctant hero into the middle of a battle between one cabal called the Order of the Reunification (aka 'The Order')--who want to reunite all the Objects and thus directly talk to God--and another cabal called the Legion--who want to find the objects so they can hide them and protect humanity from the Order and the Objects' perceived collective power. Along the way, Joe Miller (Krause) meets other Object holders, a fierce Object collector on his own quest, and an apparently neutral Object locator, who tracks and sells objects.

One of the best things about the show is that we only know as much as Miller, so you are on the edge of your seat as each new revelation occurs. The whole series runs a little under 5 hours, so you can easily commit yourself over a couple of nights to what the New York Times calls a "beguiling" show!

Magnifique Montreal

We have just returned from a lovely romantic getaway to Montreal. We had an amazing meal on Tuesday night. Not only was the meal very fine but heightened greatly by our wonderful server and the singular ambience of our surroundings. Our genial host informed us that the building we were in (pictured above) was built in 1725, which makes it the third oldest building in Montreal. Wow!

While this old-stone is now one of our favourite places, we stayed in a most modern environment at the opposite end of the aesthetic scale, the ultra-hip W Montreal. From our personal and warm welcome from the staff to the cool, large room, we knew we had made a good decision.

After settling in our room we embarked on a whirlwind, 4-hour walk of Montreal. We started by heading over to "Le Village" (the gay village), where we enjoyed some great shops and the dozens of rainbow flags draped on just about every business. We then hopped on the Metro (subway) and up to Le Plateau district, taking in the awesome Saint-Denis street and the cozy Duluth street, and we then lined up in the rain in front of Shwartz's deli. It was worth the wait, and we were seated at the bar in this famous eatery, open since 1928. We enjoyed the classic combo of smoked meat sandwich, cole slaw, and cherry cola. Yummy!

We then decided to walk back to downtown, through Mordecai Richler's neighborhood, along Saint Laurent. We eventually came to Chinatown, browsed some more cool shops, and then wandered back to our hotel room to take a well-deserved rest. To our delight, a complimentary bottle of 2004 red wine and a platter of fruit was awaiting us. We collapsed on our chaise lounge and dug into our treats!

After a rest and clean-up we were ready to head into Old Montreal, my favourite part of the city, where we eventually found our restaurant mentioned above. We then enjoyed a romantic stroll along the narrow streets and winded our way back to our hotel.

Wednesday morning we again headed back to Old Montreal on a quest for a light breakfast. After a rather long search we found the perfect bistro where I had a coffee and a croissant and Mark had juice and a bagel. We then had a marvelous walk criss-crossing the awesome art galleries on Saint Paul street, and wound our way back to the hotel.

Although we had arranged a late 4PM check-out, we decided to check out early, and we got in our rental car and decided to head back up to Le Plateau to try and find what is arguably the most famous bagel shop in North America, St-Viateur Bagel. This turned into a small odyssey, as it was dumping buckets of rain and we weren't exactly sure where the shop is, just the neighborhood in general. And, thanks to the famed Montreal style of driving, we were almost hit about 20 times! Finally, we spotted it through the deluge, found parking, and ran into the store.

Opened in 1957, this bagel shop is really a small factory, where the wood-burning ovens go 24/7 and you can watch the bagels being made and cooked. We got a dozen, and we ate three as they were still piping warm. Mmmmm.

We then spent the next two hours getting out of the city limits, as it was now rush hour and the main entrance to HWY 720 was closed. We finally got out and then we stopped in Valleyfield for an awesome meal of poutine before heading back to Ontario. A great and memorable trip!