The Cowardice Of Denial

The great Dan Savage has written an excellent, EXCELLENT feature about something global warming and the AIDS epidemic have in common–the cowardly impulse to reject facts as a crisis unfolds. And you! You must read it! Here’s a long but good excerpt:

Which brings me to Pat Buchanan. In 1983, Buchanan wrote a vicious column for the New York Post about the emerging AIDS crisis. Buchanan gloated and celebrated a disease that had already killed hundreds and would go on to kill millions. Buchanan’s reaction wasn’t unique; almost all social conservatives at the time welcomed the AIDS epidemic with unconcealed glee. God’s judgment had come at last, and it vindicated everything the TV preachers had been saying since Stonewall. Homosexuals were sinners, the wages of sin is death, and now the homosexual sinners were dying. Praise the Lord.

The last line of Buchanan’s acid column was etched into my brain the day I read it: “The poor homosexuals—they have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.”

That line—17 words—stung more than all the anti-gay sermons thundering down from the pulpits of all the American churches combined. Writing this piece, I didn’t even have to look it up. I could recite it from memory. We had long been told that gay sex was unnatural—that we were unnatural—and now nature was moving to exterminate us.

Every time I read about fires in Colorado or rising seas or Canadian tar sands or Native villages already being washed away in Alaska or preparations for the next hurricane that slams into New York City, a slightly modified version of Buchanan’s vicious line about AIDS plays in my head. We have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.

We have declared war on the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have declared war on the forests and the oceans. We have declared war on the honeybees. All of us have—liberal, conservative, independent. Some of us, however, are ready to start making the changes that must be made if we want to survive in this world.

The Stranger ran another spectacular feature on the menace of global warming last year that you should also read.

This is top of mind for me because this morning I edited (well, proofread) the upcoming issue’s David Suzuki column, and it’s essentially about the same topic: the dimwitted, frightened, angry, corrupt and complicit villainy of the sort of fools and tools who insist there’s nothing wrong when evidence clearly contradicts that.

The fools and tools are mistaken and we must change their minds. And if we can’t? Then we must fight! Roar!

Chicago Sun-Times Lays Off Entire Photo-Staff, Effective Immediately

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Among those laid off is John H. White (see photo above), a 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner. Meanwhile, the Poynter Institute reports that the Sun-Times will start giving their reporters mandatory training in iPhone photography. Because that’s the same thing, right?

We know print journalism is under siege – it has been for years. And, contrary to popular opinion, this is not so much because of “the internet” as the fact that there’s a smaller number of companies that own more and more news outlets. And the practice of these companies is to prioritize their bottom line over – oh, I don’t know – being a watchdog for democracy. But still, every time you hear about another paper laying off staff, or shutting down altogether, it hurts. News today that the Chicago Sun-Times has laid off its entire photo-staff feels like a sucker punch. This is terrible news, not just for journalism, but because it debases the craft of photography itself. Is it just me, or does it seem like we’re getting to a point where no one knows anything about anything. Maybe that’s the idea.

Me Being A Duplicitous Bastard: My Interview With Psychic, Chip Coffey

Chip's people sent me this image to use in the article so I'm not breaking any rules posting this image here.Tonight, renowned paranormal-television personality, Chip Coffey, will be at the Sask Hotel showing off his skills of a psychic.

I interviewed him for the most recent issue and as I mentioned in the resulting article, “Psychic Coffey“, I am not a believer in the spiritual mumbo-jumbo that Coffey is selling so it was maybe a tad on the shitty side for me talk to him without tipping him to my skepticism.

But I’m unrepentant.

I find that whole mediumship schtick of claiming to contact the dead friends or relatives of grieving people to be a pretty egregious misuse of a talent for cold reading.

But Coffey took things a step or seven further with his A&E show, Psychic Kids, in which he convinced teens and pre-teens that their normal feelings of weirdness and adolescent confusion are actually signs of psychic powers. That was a despicable sideshow of child exploitation. These were kids who needed a sit down with a trained psychologist, or, more likely, a hug and a hobby.¹

Instead they were encouraged to chase chimeras.

I did ask Coffey about the show and the criticism he’s received. And he defended himself in the way you might expect.

After the jump, a transcript of the interview.

Continue reading “Me Being A Duplicitous Bastard: My Interview With Psychic, Chip Coffey”

I Used To Live Here

 

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More than one year after its tenants were evicted, the Crescent Apartments have finally come down. And I, for one, am glad. I used to live there. When my husband and I were evicted over a year ago, I was furious. At the time, Regina had a vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent – and the City was approving the demolition of a building housing 12 families (the vacancy rate is still below one per cent). Now that it’s down, I can stop feeling steam coming out of my ears every time I pass through that area, knowing that there are huge, beautiful two and three bedroom apartments sitting empty. I suppose others must be breathing a sigh of relief too. With the city’s housing summit only a few weeks away, an empty building full of spacious apartments sure would look bad.

Shortly after receiving our notices, my neighbours and I would often exchange rumours we’d heard about the landlord’s plans. Some were convinced it was coming down for parking – not a crazy theory given that’s exactly what is becoming of the landlord’s other property, the Black Building, at 1755 Hamilton St. That building housed 46 families. The parking lot theory was also not crazy because the General Hospital, just next door, is renowned across the city for being a tough place to find a parking spot. But these were people’s homes. And they were beautiful. Yeah, they’d seen better days, but the bones of the place were great. The Crescents was built in 1912, and was even on the heritage holding bylaw list (until it was taken off so the landlord could apply to demolish it). All of the apartments had at least some – if not all – of their original features; oak trim, mantle pieces, cornices, and glass lighting fixtures. Surely the landlords had something else in mind. I wondered if they might be thinking of turning the place over to refurbished, retrofitted luxury condos once they’d turfed everyone out. They might have made a killing off that. That’s what would happen in other cities, anyway. Of course, I should have known they didn’t have that kind of imagination. When I went by the other day and took these pictures, I could make out the old iron radiators, and at least one mantle piece left on the main floor, barely visible through the rubble. I guess no one was told that they could take these things out and sell them in other provinces where people actually value that kind of thing.

As you can probably tell, I’m still angry. I can’t complain for myself anymore, though. My husband and I landed very comfortably on our feet, and we now own a nice little house that I love. We even have a garden (at least we did the last time I checked, before all this snow arrived). But that’s not really the point. Some of our neighbours didn’t land as comfortably as we did, and either had to move to parts of the city they never wanted to be in, or to other apartments at twice the price and with half the space. And, because they live in a province without rent control, they never know how much the rent will rise. It’s a stressful situation that a lot of people in this province are forced to live with.

Goodbye, Crescent Apartments. I’m told you housed half the arts community in this town at some point or other. You were a great old building, and probably could have lasted another hundred years if you’d been treated right. The wreckage of your former walls now lays as a monument to apathy and neglect, like the ghosts of so many buildings in this city that have gone before you.

Dept. Of For God’s Sake Stop It: Badly Designed Pink Nightmares Bring Shame Upon Regina

Over the lunch hour I picked up a copy of one of the ugliest advertising flyer/brochure things I’ve ever seen. It has a tacky Photoshop spray-can pattern. The typography is cliched, clueless and stupid. There’s an incoherent film strip doohickey that serves no purpose. And this thing’s pink. And not even a NICE pink.

The whole package is a design calamity. It is, in one all-caps word, UNPROFESSIONAL. Every business that bought an ad in this eyeball-searing monstrosity has a right (and, I’ll argue, an obligation) to complain to the crapulent barbarians who crammed this pink turd through whatever 15-year-old desktop publishing software is popular with visigoths these days.

(Publisher Morash says the company perpetrating this graphic infraction, Steedman Publications, has been publishing ’em for years. He also said I should ignore it and do some actual work. Ha ha, Terry’s funny.)

I realize that every city has free advertising brochures for tourists and residents. I have no beef with the format — they’re handy guides to local businesses. But come on, Regina–professional design is important and this amateur-hour crap makes our city look really bad. This isn’t something we want to put in front of tourists and new residents who have heard Saskatchewan is now a place to be.

There are Regina companies that produce excellent design. This firm,  for instance, is fantastic. There’s also this firm and this firm. And there are independent freelancers out there who are pretty good, too (although  there are also terrible ones, so be careful). And if you want to go out of province? How about these guys? They rock all the casbahs.

Good design is important. Bad design makes Regina look like a stupid place full of no-taste imbeciles. We’re better than that. So have some pride, Regina businesses, and don’t work with clueless morlocks.

Thank you.

31 Days Of Horror: The Bride Of Frankenstein

James Whale’s many masterpieces was this sequel to his classic 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein. The Bride of Frankenstein was released in 1935 and featured most of the original cast. Boris Karloff returned as the monster as did Colin Clive as the mad Doctor Frankenstein. Dwight Frye returned to play another evil assistant and Ernest Thesiger joined the cast as the evil Doctor Pretorius.

The film picks up where the last film ended, the villagers burned down the mill and have believed to have killed the monster. Dr. Frankenstein was also hurt but recovers. The father of the drowned little girl from the first movie wants to make sure that the monster is dead only to discover that he survived the fire. The monster kills both the father and the mother and goes on another rampage.

Meanwhile Dr. Pretorius arrives and shows Frankenstein his work with homunculi, miniature creatures that he grew in the lab. Pretorius wants to collaborate with Frankenstein to create a mate for the monster. Frankenstein refuses. Later Pretorius finds the monster and informs it that they want to create a mate for it. They then force Frankenstein to go work on a new creature which leads to another fiery ending (there were a lot of fiery endings in Universal Horror movies).

As usual, Universal had trouble with the Hays Code over content. After coming to a compromise, the movie still had trouble in the southern states and overseas. The good old United Kingdom and their prudish ways have banned and censored more movies than most other countries (excluding the obvious suspects) They, along with China protested the scene in which the Monster gazes longingly upon the as yet unanimated body of the Bride, citing concerns that it looked like necrophilia. (Shakes head in disbelief).

The film was a hit and has become considered a classic, at times placed higher than the original. I think that the first film is the better film, but this film does have several memorable moments. Moments that Mel Brooks made fun of in his classic comedy Young Frankenstein. Moments like the blind man teaching the monster how to speak and of course the ending when the bride makes her famous response to the monster asking “friend?”

31 Days Of Monstrous Horror: King Kong

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World.”

King Kong (1933) is more than just a great and influential monster movie. It’s been remade, ripped-off and parodied. It has influenced several generations of filmmakers and the special effects, while crude, are still effective today.

The story begins with a filmmaker played by Robert Armstrong looking for an actress for his next amazing picture. Fay Wray is duped into accepting the part and off they sail for a mysterious destination. It seems that Armstrong has a map to an island where a legendary beast lives and he wants to film it. Once they get to the island, they discover a village surrounded by a giant wall that cuts it off from the rest of the jungle. The natives that live in the village kidnap Wray to sacrifice her to the great giant beast Kong. Kong arrives and takes Wray away. Armstrong and Bruce Cabot (the ship’s captain and in love with Wray) along with the crew give chase into the jungle. They quickly discover that the island has many inhabitants. All of them dangerous. Dinosaurs populate the place and kill off some of the crew while Kong kills anything that gets in his path. They rescue Wray and capture Kong leading the film to it’s fateful and memorable ending.

Monster movies don’t get any better than this. Directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (The Most Dangerous Game) keep things moving at a fast pace. And I wouldn’t trade Willis O’Brien’s stop motion effects over the latest CGI effects any day.

31 Days Of Monstrous Horror: The Invisible Man

“An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and rape, and kill!”

The Invisible Man (1933) was one of the best Universal pre-code horror movies. Adapted from H.G. Wells’ novel, directed by James Whale (Frankenstein) and starring Claude Rains in his first on screen role (despite never being seen on film until the very end), The Invisible Man is one of my favourite films from this period.

The film starts off with a mysterious bandaged man arriving at an inn in a small English village on a dark and snowy night. He demands a private room where he can be undisturbed. Naturally the town can’t leave the stranger alone and in one of the more classic scenes in film history, it’s revealed that the stranger is invisible.

Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin, the invisible man of the title, a scientist who has experimented on himself and now can’t change back. Also one of the chemicals that he used in turning himself invisible has a dangerous side effect. It causes madness. And Griffin is extremely mad. He starts a reign of terror across England, murdering people with his bare hands, causing destruction and holding the country hostage to his demands.

And after 78 years, the effects hold up extremely well. In fact it’s kind of sad that films today create virtually the same invisible effects with a computer, granted with a more polished look, while in 1933 they did it with a lot of trick photography and really nothing has been improved upon. A masterpiece.

31 Days Of Monstrous Horror: The Thing From Another World

From the sounds of it, the latest remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (1951) is a dud. Like the creature itself it’s a pale imitation of a genuine thing.

The original film was based on the short story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. The story follows an Air Force crew who fly out to the North Pole at the request of a Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite). It seems that a UFO has crashed near by and they want to investigate it. They find the ship buried in the ice but when they try to dig it out using explosives, it’s destroyed. Fortunately a life form is found near the ship in the ice. It’s taken back to base where it can be studied but it thaws out and escapes. The scientists quickly discover that the creature is a plant-like alien and it needs blood. Thus the chilling fight for survive begins.

This horror film was the highest grossing science fiction film of 1951. It even beat The Day the Earth Stood Still at the box office. It has also influenced the vast majority of science fiction horror films that have followed in it’s wake.

There has been a debate over who really directed the movie. It was produced by Howard Hawks and most people think that he really directed the film instead of first time director Christian Nyby. Nyby went on to direct a ton of television shows and co-star James Arness (who played the thing) claims that while Hawks was on set a lot, Nyby directed it. Either way this was the only film of note in Nyby’s long career while Hawks made plenty of classic pieces of cinema.