Monday, August 31, 2009

News and Pop Culture

Veteran gay filmmaker John Greyson pulls out of Toronto International Film Fest in protest

Veteran gay filmmaker John Greyson has withdrawn his short film Covered from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in protest over the inaugural City to City program on Tel Aviv. In a public letter dated Aug 27 Greyson zeroed in on press comments from the Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin describing the Tel Aviv spotlight as the culmination of the Israeli government's "Brand Israel" campaign. "What eventually determined my decision to pull out was the subject of Covered itself," Greyson writes. "It's a doc about the 2008 Sarajevo Queer Festival, which was cancelled due to brutal anti-gay violence. The film focuses on the bravery of the organizers and their supporters and, equally, on the ostriches, on those who remained silent, who refused to speak out: most notoriously the Sarajevo International Film Festival and the Canadian ambassador in Sarajevo. To stand in judgment of these ostriches before a TIFF audience, but then say nothing about this Tel Aviv spotlight — finally, I realized that that was a brand I couldn't stomach."(

TMZ: DJ AM's death is NOT a suicide

Law enforcement sources directly connected with the death of DJ AM tell us that his death was the result of an accidental overdose and not a suicide -- and there is a tragic, ironic twist of fate. Our sources say DJ AM, a recovering addict, developed a dependency to Xanax and other benzodiazepines (a group of drugs used to treat anxiety) as a direct result of the plane crash a year ago. We're told AM (aka Adam Goldstein) developed a tremendous anxiety over flying --something he had to do frequently for his job. We're told doctors began prescribing Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications to relieve his fear, but the benzos triggered a relapse into addiction. We're told benzos are particularly dicey for recovering addicts. Our sources say DJ AM's relapse was "recent" -- he was not abusing for a prolonged period of time before his death. We're also told the OD had "absolutely nothing to do with his recent breakup." Our sources say the evidence strongly indicates cause of death will be a combination of crack cocaine and benzos. (TMZ)

Oops! Prized moon rock a fake!

The Dutch national museum said Thursday that one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by U.S. astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood. Rijksmuseum spokeswoman Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation that proved the piece was a fake, said the museum will keep it anyway as a curiosity. "It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," she said. "We can laugh about it." The museum acquired the rock after the death of former Prime Minister Willem Drees in 1988. Drees received it as a private gift on Oct. 9, 1969 from then-U.S. ambassador J. William Middendorf during a visit by the three Apollo 11 astronauts, part of their "Giant Leap" goodwill tour after the first moon landing. The U.S. Embassy in the Hague said it was investigating the matter. (AP)

Thriller dance, party mark Michael Jackson's birthday

Events around the world Saturday marked what would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday. One of the more notable gatherings was at Prospect Park in Brooklyn, for a party hosted by filmmaker Spike Lee. As DJs spun some of Jackson's hits, thousands enjoyed the tunes while dressed in Jackson-type costumes, sporting the singer's trademark white gloves. "I was just like everyone else. I loved his talent," said Lee, who directed two music videos for Jackson in 1996. The pop icon died on June 25 and a coroner's report indicated he likely died from lethal levels of the powerful anesthetic propofol. A cocktail of drugs was also found in his system. He is expected to be buried Sept. 3 at private ceremony in a Los Angeles cemetery. A police investigation is still ongoing into the singer's death. (CBC)

Hugh Hefner, gay rights pioneer

An upcoming documentary about Playboy founder Hugh Hefner reveals information about his earlier years, including his early advocacy for gay inclusiveness. When Esquire rejected a science-fiction short story by Charles Beaumont that depicted a world where heterosexuals were in the minority, Hefner accepted the piece and published it in a 1955 edition of Playboy, then still a relatively new publication. After letters of outrage at Beaumont's "The Crooked Man" poured in, Hefner addressed readers. "If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society," he wrote in response, "then the reverse was wrong, too." The documentary, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. (Advocate)

After 54 years of nearly unbroken rule, Japan's ruling conservative party conceded defeat Sunday to the left-of-centre opposition party

The opposition's win comes as Japan struggles with record unemployment and an economy that is showing tentative signs of emerging from a bruising recession. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, the apparent new prime minister-in-waiting, said voters were "angry with politics and the ruling coalition." During the campaign, the party accused the government of ruining Japan's social security net and widening the gap between the rich and poor. "We felt a great sense of people wanting change for their livelihoods and we fought this election for a change in government," he said. As opposition leader, Hatoyama, 62, was a strong critic of what he called Tokyo's subservient position to Washington. With his party now expected to take power, he is expected to strengthen economic ties with Japan's Asian neighbours, including China. Japan should work with other Asian countries to create a single regional currency, Hatoyama wrote in an op-ed piece for The New York Times last week. He said he would not seek radical change in Japan's foreign policy — that the U.S.-Japan alliance would continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy — but he predicted "the era of U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end." (CBC)

Troubled TV star, Mischa Barton explains why she was placed under psychiatric hold

The former O.C. star says before she was scheduled to start filming the CW show The Beautiful Life, she had been traveling abroad "for contract stuff" and then had a "terrible" wisdom tooth surgery – a procedure she says went wrong and is still just healing. "I went through a tough spot where everything compounded on me, and it was like a perfect storm, like everything was happening to me at once," the actress, 23, tells Time Out New York. "I had to get through it without proper painkillers because I couldn't take those during work," she said of the procedure. "So it's been a nightmare." The timing and combination of the two, plus getting prepared for the new show, she says, took a significant toll on her. "I was down in the dumps about everything there for a while," she reveals. "Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom about things and have to get the most stressed out just to feel better again. I got completely stressed out and couldn’t handle everything, and now I feel really in control." She denies it was a mental breakdown, but Barton admits the ordeal "was pretty bad." Still, she says it was also blown out of proportion. (People)

Bash Back!: The new LGBT activism?

Journalist David France travels to the “end of a dead-end street” and passes “restless dogs and rusty cars on cinder blocks” to reach the railroad tracks in Lansing Mich., where he meets leaders of the “most notorious” chapter of Bash Back! The fast-growing group claims chapters in 15 cities, with actions that have included gluing shut the doors of a Mormon church in response to the church’s financial support for Proposition 8 in California. “Founded just over a year ago,” France writes, “the group adamantly opposes what it calls the 'gender binary system' that classifies people as either male or female. Most members consider themselves neither or both. It's anti-establishment, anti-military, and anti-marriage -- or anyone. What Bash Back! supports is gender self-determination, lots of sex and pornography, and confrontation as a first resort -- a necessary response to violence.” (Advocate)

Scientists find 'Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch'

Scientists have just completed an unprecedented journey into the vast and little-explored "Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch." On the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX), researchers got the first detailed view of plastic debris floating in a remote ocean region. It wasn't a pretty sight. Before this research, little was known about the size of the "garbage patch" and the threats it poses to marine life and the gyre's biological environment. By the end of the expedition, the researchers were intrigued by the gyre, but had seen their fill of its trash. "Finding so much plastic there was shocking," said Goldstein. "How could there be this much plastic floating in a random patch of ocean--a thousand miles from land?" (Science Daily)

Ellen DeGeneres announces guests to kick off season 7

David Beckham and Lady Gaga are set to join the daytime diva for the premiere episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show on September 8. And be sure to cozy up on your couch early. During the opening moments of the show, Ellen promises she’s going to do “something she has never done before that will have everyone talking.” Any guesses? Other premiere week guests include Antonio Banderas, the cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Katherine Heigl, Kate Beckinsale, Rumer Willis and Bachelorette couple Jillian Harris and Ed Swiderski. (Faded Youth)

Semenya's hormone levels within acceptable range: report

South African runner and world 800-metre champion Caster Semenya was found to have higher-than-normal levels of testosterone when tested by South African officials but still fell within the range allowable for female athletes, according to a media report. The Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian reported on its website that Athletics South Africa — the country's track and field governing body — administered a standard urine test on Semenya, though it didn't conduct a gender verification test. After Semenya blew away the field to win the women's 800 last week in Berlin, world track officials said they were conducting gender tests because of questions that arose about her muscular build and deep voice. "She was tested three years ago when she started competing, and it was found that she is a woman," the Mail & Guardian quoted an unnamed source in the ASA as saying. "She may have rather high levels of male hormones, but she is definitely a woman." (CBC)

Gay candidates to keep an eye on!

The Victory Fund, a group that works to elect LGBT people to public office, has identified eight more aspiring politicians they hope to see sworn in shortly. Among the list are big-city candidates and small-town upstarts. The Victory Fund is offering financial support and advice to Daniel Dromm and Rosie Méndez, running for New York City Council seats representing Queens and Manhattan, respectively. Ken Reeves, running for Cambridge, Mass., city council; Amaad Rivera, hoping to secure a seat on the Springfield, Mass., city council; and Fred Chang, running for the Port Orchard, Wash., city council, also have the Victory Fund's support. The Victory Fund is also supporting Simone Bell, running for the Georgia house of representatives, and Eric Morrow, hoping to be elected to the East Point, Ga., city council. David Cicilline, the gay mayor of Providence, R.I., running for reelection in November 2010, also has the Victory Fund's support. The other seven elections will all take place in 2009. A total of 76 LGBT candidates have already been endorsed by the Victory Fund this year. (Advocate )

"Gossip Girl" to have same-sex kiss. Why do I smell a ratings stunt?

It looks like despite the fact that Gossip Girl already has one gay character the show can't find any storylines for, the show's sixth episode is going to throw in a same-sex kiss between Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) and Josh Ellis (Neal Bledsoe). Perhaps not coincidentally, the episode might air just in time for this fall's sweeps period. Hey, isn't that what God made lesbian kisses for? The news of the potential smooch comes via Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello who says insiders told him the kiss was being filmed this week. Fans of the Gossip Girl books know that the character of Chuck is bisexual, something which the show hasn't addressed thus far. READ MORE at

Torch Theater will recreate 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' onstage as a fundraiser!

Torch Theater will present staged performances of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" as its annual fundraiser. The performances will take place September 11th through 26th at the Theater Garage. The company will recreate three episodes of the popular 1970s series, including the infamous "Chuckles Bites The Dust" episode. It has been called one of the most acclaimed television programs ever produced in US television history. It won three straight Emmy awards for Outstanding Comedy. It was set in Minneapolis. A single hat toss has been locked into our collective memories. We bring it to the stage. Live. And hilarious. For more information please visit Broadway

Adam Beach to shoot "The Stranger" in Vancouver

Manitoba-born actor Adam Beach is to play an FBI agent seeking a witness involved in a top-secret investigation in a film being shot in Vancouver this week. He stars opposite wrestling star Steve Austin in The Stranger, directed by Rob Lieberman, according to Hollywood Reporter. Austin plays a man on the run in the action film. Canadian actress Erica Cerra of Battlestar Galactica is to play a psychiatrist. The Stranger is being produced by Nasser Entertainment Group and Caliber Media. Beach, who had a continuing role as a detective in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit this season, also has accepted a recurring role in HBO's polygamy series Big Love. Beach is a Saulteaux who grew up on the Dog Creek Native Reserve and in Winnipeg, where he began his career as an actor. He has had roles in films such as Flags of Our Fathers and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and also has begun to move into production work. (CBC)

Tim Hortons fiasco helps spawn new gay rights group

The anti-gay "Marriage and Family Day" event in Warwick, Rhode Island that provoked a temporary backlash against Tim Hortons has also led to the birth of a new civil rights group in the state. Queer Action of Rhode Island organized a demonstration on Sun, Aug 16 outside the mansion where the anti-gay picnic took place. As over 100 heterosexual couples passed by the front gates to renew their wedding vows, 15 members of Queer Action waved signs with messages like 'Marriage is a civil right' and 'Don't define my marriage.' "We chanted and let people know we were there," says Paul Auger, one of the group's organizers. Read more at Xtra.

Facebook to make privacy changes in Canada

Facebook has agreed to make changes to better protect users' personal information on the social networking site and comply with Canadian privacy laws within one year, Canada's privacy commissioner said Thursday. "These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected," said privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. "This is extremely important. People will be able to enjoy the benefits of social networking without giving up control of their personal information. We're very pleased Facebook has been responsive to our recommendations." However, the site will continue to keep users' information indefinitely if they have not deleted their accounts. Facebook is used by 12 million Canadians. Canadian officials had been negotiating with representatives of the site since the Office of the Privacy Commissioner reported a month ago that Facebook's practices breached the Personal Information and Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Read more about the changes at CBC.