Friday, March 20, 2009

Upon reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"

I've just finished reading this highly popular account of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. It's one of those books that I had always meant to get to. However, being exposed to so many books, movies, documentaries and personal memoirs about WWII and the Holocaust I found the prospect of diving into a 1200 page detailed documentation of Hitler and his gang of monsters daunting.

But I did, and I found the book very engrossing. Although very popular, it had been panned by academics when it was published in 1960 because it was "too" popular, both in style and content. The fact that it was written by a journalist who happened to be present throughout much of the narrative, and not by an academic was precisely why it was so widely read.

It's difficult to get your head around the fact that so many people gave up their souls to the Nazis. The people who perpetrated these atrocities were human. They were fathers, brothers, preachers, bankers, judges etc.. Civility is truly a very thin veneer.

There are many themes in this book that stand out as being surprisingly and sadly relevant to today: the dangers of rewriting history and repeating lies so often that they become the "truth"; the appeasement of authoritarian states (see North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Sudan etc.), and the need of people to believe and follow unquestionably a religion be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Capitalism, or Communism.

For an interesting perspective of this book, I invite you to read Ben Galbraith's Thoughts on the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. and look up any of the many documentaries of that period.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
- Georges Orwell

Acadian Flag - 125 years old!

Today marks the 125th anniversary of the Acadian flag, which along with the Hymne national, Ave Maris Stella and motto: "L'union fait la force" was adopted at the second national covention in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island in 1884.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We could use a little “Carol” right about now.

And I don’t mean the Christmas kind. Last night, Carol Burnett appeared in a guest spot on Law and Order: SVU. I had stopped watching that particular show some time ago as I find the cases, involving sexual abuse and other crimes that are “considered especially heinous’ too disturbing. However, as an avid fan, I couldn’t resist checking out the first lady of tv comedy. In case you haven’t watched it, I won’t spoil it other than to say that I couldn’t get ‘Norma Desmond” out of my head.

Also last night, I watch portions of American Idol. In spite of it being Grand Ole Opry night, I though at least half the contestants did a good job. I was especially impressed with Allison Iraheta who sang "Blame it On Your Heart.”

As for Adam who did Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (but definitely not the Cash version) the judges were all over the map; from not having a clue what to make of it, (Kara) to the worst thing ever (Simon). I was blown away at this very Led Zeppelen-ish arrangement. His range is incredible.

Before there was American Idol there was The Gong Show, which brings me back to Carol Burnett. This episode reflects the genius of the show; it’s both funny and poignant. There have been few better depictions of crushed dreams. That it does this in the context of a sketch comedy is brilliant.

Carol Burnett Show- Eunice on the Gong Show, Part 1

Carol Burnett Show- Eunice on the Gong Show, Part 2

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


TU THANH HA - The Globe and Mail -

“Sure, there was never a great love affair between Quebec artists and the Conservatives, but Heritage Minister James Moore initially made a good impression when he appeared on Tout le monde en parle, the popular Sunday-night talk show on the CBC's French-language network.

He spoke good French, said he was pro-choice andwas supportive of gay marriage.

Alas, host Guy Lepage then gave the minister a pop quiz asking him to identify various celebrities, mostly from Quebec. Moore recognized only three out of nine and was lambasted yesterday in Quebec newspapers and blogs.

Moore managed to identify Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau, comedian Rick Mercer and singer Feist.

Among those he failed to identify were Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, folk singer Félix Leclerc and playwright Robert Lepage.

He couldn't even recognize Atom Egoyan when given the clues that it was a filmmaker of Armenian origin whose film The Sweet Hereafter won eight Genies and was nominated for two Oscars.

"Quick, a catch-up class on Quebec culture for idiots," wrote Richard Therrien, TV critic for Le Soleil.”

And the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race is…

-The Guardian
“Pontiff's remarks on first visit to continent outrage health agencies trying to halt spread of HIV and Aids"

The Pope today reignited the controversy over the Catholic church's stance on condom use as he made his first trip to Africa.
The pontiff said condoms were not the answer to the continent's fight against HIV and Aids and could make the problem worse.

Benedict XVI made his comments as he flew to Cameroon for the first leg of a six-day trip that will also see him travelling to Angola.

The Roman Catholic church encourages sexual abstinence and fidelity to prevent the disease from spreading, but it is a policy that has divided some clergy working with Aids patients.

The pontiff, speaking to journalists on his flight, said the condition was "a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".

…It is not the first time the Pope has made public remarks on the HIV/Aids outbreak ravaging the continent.

Shortly after becoming pontiff in 2005, he told senior Catholic clergy from Africa that, while the disease was a "cruel epidemic", it could not be cured through using condoms.

Addressing bishops from South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho who had travelled to the Vatican for papal audience, he said: "The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids."

…More than two-thirds – 67% – of the global total of 32.9 million people with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Three-quarters of all Aids deaths in 2007 happened there.

There are no words.....

Monday, March 16, 2009

When You’re a Shark You’re a Shark All the Way

In the fifties, with West Side Story and Gypsy, Arthur Laurents made theatrical history. Later he became famous for his lacerating tongue. At 91, both he and it are having a comeback. - New York Magazine

(from Towerload)
"As his West Side Story returns to Broadway following the recent revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone, New York magazine serves up a big profile on 91-year-old Arthur Laurents, big on details of both revivals and Laurents' relationships with his collaborators, rivals, enemies, and late longtime partner."

"The NY mag article goes more into Laurents' relationship with Hatcher, who died in 2006 of lung cancer: "After 52 years together, Laurents understandably sees his partner’s hand in everything he does. Until Hatcher died, Laurents didn’t even have an ATM card. And it was Hatcher who convinced him to direct the LuPone Gypsy, so that Mendes’s version wouldn’t be the last one seen on Broadway in Laurents’s life. Part enforcer, part enabler, part keeper of the flame and of the grudges, Hatcher made Laurents’s writing life possible and somehow still would."

While I believe that West Side Story deserves all the accolades it recieves, there's just something about Gypsy that appeals more honestly to the classic post war musical form that I respect. Or, it could be that I just love strippers doing showtunes in fabulous costumes....enjoy.

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Suess

These words offer little solace when you're a teen who feels alone, ostracized, and different. In high school everyone matters because everyone has the power to make your life hell.

And hell is what it appears to have been for 14 year old David Fortin from Alma Québec who disappeared from his home on February 10th.

Among the teen runaway stories that one reads about, David Fortin's story in particular has touched me because it seems that no matter how many times this happens, (in Québec it happens at an alarming rate), parents, teachers and the government don’t take school bullying seriously. There’s lots of lip service given to the subject but what they don’t seem to get is that you may be able to police the school hallways, but you can’t police the minds of these aggressors. (Missing teen was bullied, parents say)

We all live in a society that values human rights, and we are fortunate in Canada to have these rights extended to all people, but legislative enlightenment doesn’t illuminate every nook and cranny of society. There are still too many instances of racism, sexism and homophobia in this country in spite of our proclamations of being a just and liberal society.

It appears evident that David Fortin was bullied at school. He had a slight speech impediment, he liked “crafts and light music” says his father who also adds that he doesn’t think that David is homosexual. That David didn’t confide to his parents about what he had to endure in school is unfortunately an all too common occurrence by bullied teens - “victim shame”. And it’s an important weapon in the arsenal of bullies and other assailants.

I was thinking about my own high school experience and at first thought that I had escaped it fairly unscathed. However, upon more reflection, it seems I had blocked out my first year, grade 10. I couldn’t tell you who my homeroom teacher was, what classes I had or who was in my class. I could have remained an anonymous peon among the over 2000 student body and coasted relatively unscathed through the year, but I had the unfortunate occasional of running afoul of my gym teacher (insert your story here).

I never experienced physical bullying at school, was never pushed into the lockers or called FAG in the corridors. But I had been snickered at as the guys related what the gym teacher had said about me during gym class. You see, I had refused the coach’s (think Don Rickles as an SS officer) invitation to join the football team. Now it wasn’t that I disliked sports, I just disliked “contact” sports. I know so cliché. And this particular coach frankly intimidated me. His reputation had reached me even in grade school. So as I become more creative in finding ways to skip gym, he took the opportunity to comment on my absences in more and more disparaging ways.

I brushed it off at school. I never told anyone how I was feeling. I did think about suicide - a lot. Luckily, the school year was over before I was. Over the following summer, I embarked upon a personal “makeover” that got me through to graduation. I was lucky. I didn’t look gay. I had an athletic build. I had a lot of the same interests as other guys. I could “pass”. This, as I was about to experience in my adult life, was a blessing and a curse.

I hope with all my heart that David is found safe. I can’t imagine the amount of pain he must have endured that would have him think that running away without any resources would be preferable to seeking help at home.

Two-thirds of LGBTQ students feel unsafe: report

More than two-thirds of Canadian high school students who identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual or transgendered said they felt unsafe at school, according to survey results published Monday.(May 12, 2008)

About 1,200 students participated in the nationwide survey on homophobia and transphobia conducted by the gay-rights lobby group Egale Canada.

Forty-one per cent of LGBTQ participants reported sexual harassment, compared to 19 per cent of straight students.

More than one-third of LGBTQ respondents have skipped school because they felt unsafe at the building or on their way there, compared to one-eighth of straight participants.

Almost half of LGBTQ participants reported having had mean rumours spread about them at school.

Close to a third of LGBTQ respondents said the rumours were spread about them on the internet or through text messages.

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