Archive for December, 2007

Fairytale of New York

My two dabblings in transvestism were both very public events. The first time, I was supreme.

More accurately, I was a Supreme, being one third of a trio of ten-year olds miming a choreographed routine to the pop classic “Baby Love” at a school Christmas concert. Sadly, no footage has survived, and I’m disinclined to organize a reunion.

A decade or so later, working at an international summer school, I was persuaded to (fail miserably in a shambolic bid to) impersonate the much-missed Kirsty MacColl in yet another mimed and choreographed rendition of a timeless pop classic: “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues.

This Pogues song hit the headlines in the UK again this Christmas when BBC Radio One temporarily censored the song, by beeping out the words “faggot” and “slut.”

Of course, there are far worse injustices going on in the world right now.

However, when your favourite anti-carol gets bowdlerized during the season of joy and merriment, it does give you pause for reflection.

The song is a beautiful depiction of hope refusing to die amid a relationship ravaged by alcohol and heroin abuse. In the “offensive” mid-section of the song, the evening turns ugly as the protagonists exit the warm hazy glow and descend into hurling abuse at each other. “You cheap lousy faggot” and “you’re an old slut on junk”, whether we like it or not, are exactly what we’d expect to hear at this point.

Writing in The Observer, former NME scribe Sean O’Hagan wrote a wonderful paean to the song, paying tribute to the “great anti-carol, a blast of dirty realism that cuts a swathe through the po-faced piety of the more traditional Christmas song.”

Meanwhile, Peter Tatchell, co-founder of Outrage!, took a different view.

Mr Tatchell is unhappy about the public broadcasting of a song that includes the word “faggot” as an insult. He goes further and states that:

I challenge those who defend the use of the word faggot in these lyrics to state publicly that they would also defend the right of white singers to use the n-word as a term of abuse in a song. They won’t and that makes them cowardly homophobic hypocrites.”

Hang on a second. The song is a depiction of two fictional characters. The insults are part of a traded slanging match as the characters stagger around New York late one Christmas Eve.

By defending the song, no one is condoning homophobia here. Likewise, the use of the n-word as a term of abuse might be entirely apposite if it were part of a dialogue between two bombed-out revellers. Writing offensive dialogue doesn’t make a songwriter, author, or scriptwriter complicit in their characters’ drunken ravings.

Mr. Tatchell attempts to equate any defence of the lyrics with the type of reasoning that defends the right of people to incite murder and foment racial hatred.

I can’t make this mental leap. The song, however much it might be rooted in personal experience, is presented as a work of fiction, not as a political diatribe against a societal group.

For me, Peter Tatchell makes a telling set of points about media hypocrisy, but I think he was woefully off target with “Fairytale of New York.”

The BBC revoked its decision– I think Mr. Tatchell should do the same with his views on the song.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope you all get on a lucky one.

Here’s the song:

Further blogospshere reading on this topic can be found at: Fora, Bod’s Blog, Tracey Crouch, and Adventures and Random Brain Waves


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Hot property

When mounds of snow line the driveway, and impossibly long icicles taper from the eavestroughs, coming home to a warm house is one of the greatest joys of the Canadian winter. Possibly the only one.

Our house is an older home, so it offers a greater range of temperatures than your average dwelling.

Housing the furnace, the basement provides a reliable source of warm air, making it perfect for early morning exercise. Or, if you need a blast of torridity, head for the downstairs bathroom. Here, an air register expels an unfeasibly hot stream of sauna-like heat, gratefully lapped up by lucky occupants.

To cool off after your bathroom experience, there’s only one place to go: The walk-in closet off the master bedroom.

Just head due north from the foot of the bed and haul aside the thick arras.

And no, that isn’t a thinly-veiled reference to my dear sweet spouse.

Beyond the curtain lurks an unheated, uninsulated space, where clothes are chilled overnight in preparation for those balmy Canadian January mornings.

If moths still ate clothing, this zone would handily freeze them upon impact. Sadly, evolution seems to have rendered this perk unnecessary.

Given the frigid stillness of the air molecules, it is not so much a WIC (walk-in closet) as a rapid WOC (walk-out closet). My nascent realtor acumen hones in on a potential selling point here.

The WICWOC is born.

Should we ever decide to sell up and tear ourselves away from the climatic paradise that is Ontario, I think the wicwoc may one day prove a deal-clincher (as opposed to the type of clincher it currently embodies).

Wicwoc has a vaguely First Nations chic surrounding it.

I can almost hear the prospective buyers now:

“Ooh, read this, Reginald, ‘in this historical Mississauga abode, the master bedroom gives onto its own wicwoc.’ You know I’ve always wanted a wicwoc of my own.”

“Sure, honey, whatever you say.”

A tastefully installed pi-shaped (sic) heap of rocks to the left of my sock drawer should solidify the effect.

Wicwoc. Go ahead. Google it. You know you want to. Trust me, they’re the next big thing in real estate.


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A stroll down verdant cliffs above the English Channel, a ten-minute drive around a headland topped with a twelfth-century castle, a misty amble through the medieval alleyways of a sleepy Auvergne town – I’ve enjoyed some decent commutes.

scarborough castle

My current daily trek pretty much props up the pile: A 40-minute drive through suburban blight along 18 kilometres of eyelid-drooping roads. Head north, lurch west, and jolt north again, trapped in the aural hell of Radio WNKR.

I could take the bus, of course. Even Mississauga has a bus service. Door to door, including the walk to the bus stop, I’d  be looking at 90 minutes each way. That’s right, 180 minutes a day to travel a total of 36 kilometres.

Average speed: 12 km/h or, in olde English, 7.5 miles an hour. Which is more or less my running pace.

So, forget the bus.

Since this is merely the sixth largest city in Canada, with a smattering of just three quarters of a million people, naturally there is no mainline railway station in Mississauga.

Granted, there is a suburban train to Toronto (the optimistically titled GO train – is “non-eponymous” a word?).

There’s one train an hour. Plus a couple of one-offs at “peak times.”

I’d love to be able to cycle, but there are several reasons why I won’t consider this: winter roads, the survival instinct, and a healthy appreciation for the driving “inconsistencies” of many fellow residents.

Blissful memory flashback: I fondly recall my daily cycling commute in Tilburg, Holland. Here a network of cycle paths, largely independent of the road system, snakes in silence throughout the city.

Southern Ontario is flat like the majority of Holland. So why not here? Real winter only lasts a couple of months these days.

The Greater Toronto Area is finally waking up to how woefully inadequate its transit systems are.

As Steve Munro, Toronto transit activist, notes, “population growth vastly exceeds our plans for providing more and better transportation services, and the public is getting fed up with excuses for what we cannot do. ”

At the Mississauga Summit 2007, transit was at the heart of residents’ concerns. This report from The Toronto Star pointed out that:

“a majority of the Mississauga Summit 2007 focused on how to make transit a viable option for car-dependent Peel Region residents.”

There are even talks about talks about a feasibility study for a light-rail transit link running north-south through Mississauga.

Sadly, should this project along with the rest ever reach completion, I suspect the pull of verdant headlands, downtown cycling networks, and pedestrianized medieval town centres, will have proved all too strong.


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