Benjamin, Larry. “Damaged Angels”, Beaten Track Publishing, 2013.
Thirteen short stories make up Larry Benjamin’s “Damaged Angels” and they all deal with some aspect of the “other”—“the invisible, the damaged: the drug addicts and hustlers, the mentally ill, the confused, and the men who fall in love with them”. For these men, the rest of the world is fine and they want to be a part of it and not marginalized by it. They live in the smaller darker world that is part of the other world and they are at a disadvantage just because of who they are. The love they explore is unlike the love explored by others for their world is dark and we learn via these stories that perfection has a plethora of meanings.
Each story the theme of being the “other” is looked at in non-judgmental ways which in itself is difficult. Have you ever wondered why he are afraid of the disabled and the homeless? Benjamin places us within each story and we are up-close observers to what happens. But we are a bit more than just observers—we taste and feel what happens in each story and in some, more than others. Benjamin has built some amazing characters and while they are not someone you would bring home to introduce to your family, they have something to say. We grow to know the characters and develop affection. Whether the author gives us camp and farce as he does in “Howdy, Billy. Cabbage, Ma’am” or a serious look at society in “The Hunger”, there is something here for everyone.
Benjamin’s stories show his diversity not just in subject but in length and perspective. Yet all show us a slice of life that we are probably not familiar with. There is eroticism, humor, surprise—and the volume is an excellently diverse experience. I want to know some f these characters better and I hope that I will be given that chance in Benjamin’s future writing.
Gidney, Craig Laurence. “Bereft”, Tiny Satchel Press, 2013.
At fourteen years old, Rafael Fannen wins a minority scholarship to an all male college preparatory Catholic school but what was supposed to be a great honor soon becomes his having to deal with racism from his fellow students. When he becomes the target of a mean and vicious bully, things go out of control. Rafael (Rafe) decides to fight back but it is not only his life that is affected by that decision but the lives of everyone around him.
We all know what a trying time adolescence can be but when the issue of race is added to the issues that already exist; being a junior high school student can become a terrible experience. When I was in junior high school, life was easy but times were different then. There was no integration and we did not have to deal with racism (at least not at school). During the time Rafe was a student we see boys behaving badly and not as one reviewer put it “being boys”. (I think we sometimes forget that the values we have come from the home). The schoolboys that we see here are hurtful and violent and they antagonize others almost as a test of strength. Coupled with this are the sexual tensions of adolescence and friendships that develop.
Rafe might be described as something of a dreamer and he uses his dreams as a way of dealing with the reality which he faces in attending a new school and the racism that goes with it. He has another problem and he is experiencing his sexual awakening that he might be gay (and with this we see his two battles). When he is at home, he is fine and able to face what is happening. His mother is teetering between her devotion to religion and losing it mentally. Rafe’s father from whom he is estranged is facing being homeless. So his problems seem minor to those of his parents.
Rafe is, on one hand, a nerdy fantasy-driven geek and on the other hand, he is a teenager dealing with his sexuality and racism as well his mother’s Christian beliefs and his father’s new way of life (or, better said, lack of a way of life). Meanwhile, the barbarians are at the gates and they are overt and covert at the same time. One of the things that Gidney shows us here is that our teen years stay with us forever as integral parts of the way we make decisions and see ourselves. Rafe eventually learns to accept himself and to deal with reality as well as the challenges that come with it.
We see Rafe is a boy (not yet a man) dealing with man-sized realities and as he tells his story we see him trying to be strong in a world that does not care about him. He carries a double minority status and that is difficult for an adult and certainly a real hardship for a teen, especially one who is just coming into himself. He is an idealist and most of us have shared his idealism sometimes in our lives. Like Rafe, we have wanted to repair the world and we have faced issues that are comparable (in our minds) to his.
There is no happy ending here and I doubt there ever will be if we do not live up to our responsibilities to make the world a better place for everyone. I suspect that there is a lot of the author’s own life here but even if there is not, I believe we can all agree that we do not yet live in a world that is free of racism and homophobia. It is surprising that we have to be reminded of that. If we do have to be reminded, I am glad that it is Craig Gidney’s powerful and beautiful prose.
CHASTITY BITES, releases today!
Weirdsmobile Productions wants you to fasten your chastity belts and say your prayers… The official one sheet for its new horror-comedy, CHASTITY BITES, releases today! The movie is set to makes its World Premiere on June 1, 2013 at the Dances With Films film festival in Hollywood, CA.
The poster is designed by illustrator, writer, and filmmaker Nathan Thomas Milliner, owner of Rebel Rouser Art and whose recent work includes Scream Factory!’s DVD/Blu-ray special edition releases of “Halloween II,” “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” “The Funhouse,” “Terror Train,” “Deadly Blessing,” “The Burning” and “The Howling.” He has just completed his first directorial effort with “A Wish for the Dead.”
Says producer and screenwriter Lotti Pharriss Knowles, “We are huge fans of classic horror, and we love Nathan’s take on some of those classics for Scream Factory! We were so excited to get to work with him, because we really wanted the CHASTITY BITES poster to have that throwback feel to horror posters from the 70s and 80s.”
Check out the teaser trailer here: http://youtu.be/wwoE2howJPk
Grab tickets to the Hollywood premiere at: http://www.danceswithfilms.com/slt_chastity_bites.html
Get “bitten’ and keep up-to-date with us on
Official website: http://www.ChastityBites.com
Notorious serial killer Elizabeth Bathory believed that bathing in virgin blood would keep her young and beautiful forever. Still alive today she’s found a perfect hunting ground for her “botox” as an abstinence educator in conservative America…but will a brave young blogger and reporter for the high school paper finally put an end to the “Blood Countess’s” reign of terror, and save her best friend from becoming the next victim? The film, written and produced by Lotti Pharriss Knowles (producer on HBO Documentary Films’ “Vito” and “I Am Divine”), marks the feature film directorial debut of John V. Knowles (short film “SHADOW.NET”).
The film stars Allison Scagliotti (SyFy’s “Warehouse 13″), Francia Raisa (ABC Family’s “Secret Life of the American Teenager”), Louise Griffiths (“The Revenant”), Eddy Rioseco (ABC’s “Parenthood”), Amy Okuda (“The Guild”), Sarah Stouffer (“Bloomington”), Lindsey Morgan (ABC’s “General Hospital”), Laura Niemi (upcoming “Jobs”), Jennifer Gimenez (Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), Greer Grammer (MTV’s “Awkward.”) and Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator”).
ABOUT NATHAN THOMAS MILLINER
Nathan Thomas Milliner was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. After seeing the 1989 film “Batman”, Nate decided he wanted to make comic books and after 14 years of studying the medium he finally made his dream come true when his crime saga “The Malevolent” made it’s debut in the pages of “Feral Comix Presents #1″ in 2003. In 2006, Nate began publishing his own set of graphic novels for “The Malevolent” series to rave reviews. In 2007, Nate published his first horror comic, “Girl Number Three” which was soon being adapted to film by a local filmmaker, Herschel Zahnd III, who believed it to be “one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read.” The film was released in 2009. During all of this, Nate was also able to fulfill yet another lifelong dream of working in the horror genre when he became a staff artist and writer for Horrorhound Magazine, producing two covers for the publication in 2009, one of which earned him a Rondo Award nomination in which he took second runner up honors.
In 2012 Nathan was tapped by Shout! Factory to be the premiere artist on their new sister label “SCREAM! FACTORY” and commissioned him to provide original artwork for the DVD/Blu-ray special editions of “Halloween II,” “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” “The Funhouse,” “Terror Train,” “Deadly Blessing,” “The Burning” and “The Howling.”
Nathan has recently published Volume One of his Monsters and Madmen artbook series–his first artbook. And he has just finished writing and directing his first directorial effort with the film “A Wish for the Dead” set for release in Summer 2013. Visit his official website at: http://www.rebelrouserart.com/
“Two Brothers and Two Others”
Dealing with Life and Death
A gay brother and a straight brother move in together after the death of their mother. They try to reconnect after having been separated for six years. This film proves that a lot of money is not necessary to make a good film. This is a sincere and sensitive look at our lives and has extremely good performances. As Chad and Riley try to find themselves and one another, their lives come together with love and reconciliation. While they may never be able to really regain their losses, they do come together. They both find what went wrong in their relationships and the time came to repair that. This is a touching story about dealing with family and with lovers.
Each brother is on a journey to see what their futures will be, and how it would resemble their parents’ relationship. This movie vividly depicts two brothers that have been raised in such a family and they feel as if they are doomed but are willing to go through the pain and with their past and the weakness in their personalities.
Riley Adamson (Norbert Orlewicz) comes to live with his older brother Chad (Cody Campbell) after their mom dies. Chad had some severe problems with their parents and they all come out when Riley arrives. Riley meets Gavin (Kevin Macdonald) and falls in love. Chad has a girlfriend Tobie (Karen Kae) and things slowly escalate and finally explode.
The movie is in black and white and it is grainy, off focus, but that becomes unimportant as we enter the lives of the two brothers. Different stories and very different issues – slowly unfold and as the characters gain more density. It starts with a character’s words about his mother, and it ends with his mother’s words about the characters. In a perfect circle, where at its end everything can happen, like tracing a beginning where the characters have grown, but still do not reach a conclusion.
Included on the DVD are two short films by writer/director Lawrence Ferber. The first “Cruise Control” runs only 6 minutes but establishes so much about character and the theme… and is pretty funny. The second “Birthday Time,” runs 19 minutes and makes the whole DVD worth every penny you pay for it. In just 25 minutes Lawrence Ferber firmly establishes himself as an important talent with an insightful, honest voice.
Daley, James (editor). “Great Speeches on Gay Rights”, Dover, 2013.
Reminding Us of Who We Are
This anthology of speeches should be in every library so that they are never lost. Here is our history in our language in our rhetoric. From the beginning in the late 1800s through the current discussions about marriage equality they represent the important milestones in our community. While they might not seem as powerful reading them, they still hold power. Reading them is reading our history and learning about the major figures who dared to speak out. Through them we get an alternative view of what LGBT community has been through. We also get some references to religion and are reminded of the struggle we have faced to achieve liberation. However there is one glaring omission and that is in the speeches we have here there is little mention of AIDS and three very important speakers— Barney Frank, Vito Russo and Larry Kramer are not included. It may also bother some people that the term “gay” rather than LGBT is used throughout. I believe that the emphasis on gay issues is important but a little more background would have made this a much better book. Below is the table of contents to give you an idea of just what is here:
1. Robert G. Ingersoll: “Address at the Funeral of Walt Whitman” 1892
2. August Bebel: “Address at the Reichstag” 1898 (translated)
3. Anna Rueling: “…Solving the homosexual problem” 1904 (translated)
4. Kurt Hiller: “…An Oppressed Human Variety.” 1928 (translated)
5. Franklin Kameny: “Civil Liberties: A Progress Report” 1964
6. Jack Nichols: “Why I Joined the Movement” 1967
7. Sally Gearhart: “The Lesbian and God-the-Father” 1972
8. Harvey Milk: “The Hope Speech” 1978
9. Harry Hay: “Unity and More in ’84″ 1984
10. Sue Hyde: “We Gather in Dubuque” 1988
11. Urvashi Vaid: “Speech at the March on Washington” 1991
12. Jim Kepner: “Why Can’t We All Get Together?” 1997
13. Eric Rofes: “The Emerging Sex Panic Targeting Gay Men” 1997
14. Elizabeth Toledo: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” 2000
15. Elizabeth Birch: “Convention Speech by a Gay Organization’s Leader” 2000
16. Evan Wolfson: “Marriage Equality and Lessons” 2004
17. Paul Martin: “The Civil Marriage Act” 2005
18. Ian Hunter: “A Matter of Interest” 2009
Wearing, Alison. “Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad”, Knopf, 2013.
Her Gay Dad
When Alison Wearing was 12 years old, she realized that her family was not like others. She knew her dad was “different” and when he “came-out”, she understood just how different he really was. This was in the 1970s when being gay was one of the ultimate taboos. No one was more shocked than the town of Peterborough, Ohio and his wife and children. In this part memoir, part history, part diary and lots of heart and love, Wearing brings a story about who we are and our families.
Alison’s father, Joe, was a professor of political science and an amateur choral director. Her mother was a pianist and marathon runner. The two parents took their parental responsibilities very seriously. Things seemed fine but beneath the surface there was something else. Joe was suffering from conflicting desires and when he started to explore his feelings, he remained determined to live as both a gay man and a devoted father. His daughter, Alison, shares those thought with us having learned about them through her dad’s letters and journals and we get to read how he could understand his life and how he worked as a gay activist in Canada.
This is not just the story of Joe’s coming out but Alison’s coming out as well. When her father came out, Alison was dealing with her own quest for identity. She told no one about her father and made up stories about family activities. It took some time for her to realize that was really nothing to hide. It was difficult for many reasons especially those dealing with acceptance. Joe, she tells us, busted down the closet door when he came out. He shared things with his daughter, including his diaries.
Wearing’s writing shows the love and compassion she has for her father and her memoir becomes epic in that she not only writes about her family but of America. She shares many details that both break your heart and also want to revel in the freedom with which she writes. It is amazing to see how she balances history and intimacy and adds her own wit and humor to it. She even shows us the imperfections in. her own family. She touches on the important issues in a family and in a person and, in effect, gives us a taste of a social history of that time in this country. Historically, this is an important book for that reason. Gay life in the 1980s was totally different than it is today and homophobia was rampant. Wearing shows what it was like for her father to be gay in small town America and how his family was, of course, affected by it. We also become very aware of the difference in meaning of the words “acceptance” and “understanding”.
“MUMIA: LONG DISTANCE REVOLUTIONARY”
Sentenced to Death
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an unrepentant communist cop killer and/or a political martyr depending upon who you talk with. Stephen Vittoria takes us for a look at the man who has spent 29 years in solitary confinement on death row. However, his crime is not the subject here but rather the man as a brilliant journalist who cannot be silenced. Mumia has his own analysis of Black history and he sees that struggle for freedom and liberation in larger and non-exclusive terms. He is admired by many and his integrity and politics cannot be separated.
When he was just 15 years old, he was a founding member and communications secretary for the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. It was here that be began his journalistic life by writing for the organizations newsletter. He denounced the racism in Philadelphia and to see how that was understood we hear from former Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, to tell us about the bigotry, racism and police brutality toward Black citizens. Frank Rizzo was chief of police when Mumia started on the radio and he won many listeners and fans. His relaying of current events and the war against the Move enclave brought about the clash between the Black Panthers and the police and the FBI.
Mumia really gained fame when he was set to prison and gained international attention. His trial for murder was disputed by many organizations including the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The fact that he is still in prison has caused riots all over the world and notably in France and in Germany.
While in prison, Mumia gave many interviews and wrote a series of books about Black history and the Black Panthers and prison. He was lauded by educators and Black activists such as Cornell West, Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Dick Gregory. The government has tried to silence him but to no avail. Here we get to know Mumia. He killed a police officer over 30 years ago and that is all that is said about that. His sentence was eventually commuted from death to life behind bars.
The documentary sets the scene by showing us how life was Philadelphia at the time. There was a huge police presence then and the mayor, Rizzo, had once been chief of police. Since then he was become the symbol of injustice but his guilt is not the subject here. What we see are Mumia’s many supporters and hear them give Mumia their gratitude and admiration.
Rakoff, David. “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel”, Doubleday, 2013,
The Song of America
David Rakoff left us much too soon; he was incomparable whether on the air or in print. He spoke his mind and it was a mind that was witty and sharp. He left behind this novel—his song to America. He writes of the freedom we have and dares to say it can be brutal. This is a novel and Rakoff was noted for his essays and so it seems as his legacy includes another genre. In it we go to many cities and meet characters that are united by either acts of generosity or acts of kindness. We meet “a daughter of Irish slaughterhouse workers in early-twentieth-century Chicago who faces a desperate choice; a hobo who is offered an unexpected refuge on the rails during the Great Depression; a vivacious aunt who provides her clever nephew with a path out of the crushed dream of postwar Southern California; an office girl who endures the casually vicious sexism of 1950s Manhattan; the young man from Southern California who revels in the electrifying sexual and artistic openness of 1960s San Francisco, then later tends to dying friends and lovers as the AIDS pandemic devastates the community he cherishes. There is a love triangle that reveals the empty materialism of the Reagan years; a marriage that crumbles under the distinction between self-actualization and humanity. As the new century opens, we meet a man who has lost his way finds a measure of peace in a photograph he discovers in an old box an image of pure and simple joy that unites the themes of this brilliantly conceived work”.
Just Too Much
I have no idea why I decided to watch “Starrbooty” again. I saw it when it first came out some seen years ago and thought it was a clever parody of several other films. Basically (although there is nothing very basic about it) it is about a supermodel and secret agent infiltrating a prostitution ring to save her girlfriend from human parts traffickers. It is gross, it is camp and it is very silly. One reviewer said it was little more than an excuse to bring soft porn, Michael Lucas’s penis, and farts to the screen (like Lucas needs an excuse to show his cock to the world). Even with what I said above there is something here if we overlook over-the-top acting, artificially dubbed voices and the separation of audio and visual elements. The movie does not pretend to be an art film or even a good film—it considers itself to be a brainless comedy with the purpose of entertaining. It seems to have been made in a parallel universe reminiscent of early John Waters. RuPaul also pays homage to Tamara Dobson, Pam Grier, Mommie Dearest, The Naked Gun, Paris Is Burning & James Bond in one unbelievable hodgepodge of bad taste and dead gerbils. There was obviously no budget for this film and that makes it all the more fun.
The film is a bit different than the kind of stuff RuPaul usually does—this film is sexually graphic. It is silly and entertaining at the same time.
RuPaul plays a secret agent called Starrbooty. She teams up with another drag queen agent to fight the evil Annaka Manners (Candis Cayne) and get her kidnapped niece, Cornisha, back…or something like that. I mean the plot is a mess and there are nonstop quick camera cuts that make it impossible to focus on anything. The dialogue is not understandable an when you can hear it you still have no idea what it means. There is a lot of sick bathroom humor and RuPaul overacts to the hilt (but looks great). There are a lot of penises and the film seems to be an attempt to parody the black exploitation movies of the 70s. You will laugh, you might cry but you will probably think, “WTF?!” The film gives the word disaster a whole new definition.
Seven times Eight
The “UP” series as about 14 people from diverse backgrounds from all over England. Every seven years Michael Apted meets them every seven years and looks at their lives and their dreams for the future. This is an amazing look at how life is structured and an exciting use of film. “From cab driver Tony to schoolmates Jackie, Lynn and Susan and the enigmatic Neil, as they turn 56 more life-changing decisions and surprising developments are revealed”. The subjects come from different economic backgrounds and with each new meeting, we also return to previous years and especially to that very first when we originally met them. Each of the films consists of interviews and we see vibrant lives at particular moments in time. In watching, we think of ourselves in seven year sequences. The people in the series become our friends and we see a tapestry of the world we live in.
In choosing the subjects, Apted was encouraged to find diversity and the results are amazing. As they discuss themselves on screen, the subjects seem to think of their involvement in the project as a public service. Over the years, some have opted out. Peter, for example, returns for the first time since 28 UP and tell us that the reason for this is to promote his new band. The subjects are allowed to speak freely and they can justify their willingness to be filmed every seven years.
Nick has returned each time and talks about the meaning of the series and his relationship to it. Over a montage of new and old clips we see Nick somewhat and saying that the series “is not an absolutely accurate picture of me, but it’s the picture of somebody. And that’s the value of it.”
Neil, the loner spent years off the grid, living his life on government is the conscience of the series. He is the Liberal Democrat of the municipal works council of a town in a remote chunk of Cumbria. As a younger man Neil appeared fatalistic and miserable. But things have changed and he now values life.
Each subject has his own story and all of the stories are different. Some of them live average lives which are uneventful, some become homeless or face tragedy, and others are successful. Each person’s life is interesting and I am sure that this is because we have watched them grow (much like our own children). The time Apted spends with each subject is limited—seven days every seven years and I cannot help but wonder if that has anything to do with the cycles of seven in the Hebrew Bible. We can only see a small bit of who each person really is. Each personality is explored by a series of banal and intellectually uninspired questions dealing with career, marriage, family and money.
Many of the subjects have pointed out that the original series, begun in the 1964, was intended to serve as a class study, one which showed that the richer children would grow up to do great things and fulfil their station in life, while those growing up in foster homes and out in the country wouldn’t make anything of themselves and would only offer tales of poverty and sadness. As the series progresses, however, all of the subjects grow up to show that the original presumptions do show how diverse and unique every life can be. We really only get a surface look at being human, aging and how different our lives can turn out from how we imagined.