Author Archives: Amos

“American Homo: Community and Perversity: by Jeffrey Escoffier— How Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people Have Challenged and Changed Society

Escoffier, Jeffrey. “American Homo: Community and Perversity”, Verso, 2018. How Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people Have Challenged and Changed Society Amos Lassen In ”American Homo”, Jeffrey Escoffier looks at LGBT movements across American political life, where they have had to deal with the historical tension between the homoeroticism and outbreaks of homophobia. He explores how “every new success brings about a new disciplinary and normalizing form of domination; only the active exercise of democratic rights and participation in radical coalitions allows LGBT people to sustain the benefits of community and the freedom of sexual perversity.” This is an exploration of sexual revolution as a process instead of singular events as well as a look at the central and formative role of LGBT struggles within that process. LGBT agency and grass-roots knowledge are necessary in order to create  the conditions for radical change.  We see the deconstructionist tradition of Foucault and Marcuse in this collection of essays and articles that  span 15 years in the author’s attempt to ‘recode’ the sociopolitical identity of gays and lesbians in contemporary American life.  The book covers such topics as sexual revolution and the politics of gay identity, the political economy of the closet, and the limits of multiculturalism, Escoffier traces the political vitality of gays and lesbians and “how that vitality challenges the traditional heterosexist political and economic hegemony.” In order to overcome the antidemocratic agenda of the far Right, gays and lesbians will have to unite with other social movements.

In the early chapters, we look at the rise of the gay movement and the increasing importance of visible sexuality in gay people’s lives. He go from there to the importance of how identity manifests itself in community and politics. The tensions that exist between a professionalized homosexual politic (particularly in the academy) and the more independent, community-based models of grass-roots groups such as ACT UP and Queer Nation are important to understanding how we got to where we are.

“OF LOVE AND LAW”— The Absurdities of Japanese Life

“Of Love & Law” The Absurdities of Japanese Life Amos Lassen To many outside of Asia, Japan is a mysterious land but in reality it is a nation and state like any other, with charms, foibles and contemporary challenges that the very real people living there must deal with every day. It’s these challenges that filmmaker Hikaru Toda examines in “Of Love & Law”,  a documentary about the legal battles that marginalized Japanese are fighting in 2018.
The film tracks lawyers Masafumi Yoshida and Kazayuki Minami — Fumi and Kazu — who are also personal and professional partners, over the course of several years as they take on constitutional challenges. Toda shines a light on the apparent self-contradiction and traditional rigidity that are making life difficult for thousands of Japanese citizens raised to be nonconfrontational and respectful of others and community to the detriment of themselves. Though the film isn’t particularly cutting-edge stylistically or formally, it doesn’t have to be because it is socially current.   The lives of Fumi and Kazu become the lens through which Toda examines Japanese society’s more draconian elements, particularly those that apply to freedom of expression, nonconforming legal statuses and LGBT rights. The two lawyers are Osaka’s, and Japan’s, first openly gay practicing lawyers. attract a niche clientele almost by default: those who feel Japan’s tendency to social conformity and obedience is suffocating their personal freedoms, quashing their voices, jeopardizing their very survival or all of the above. Among the cases Fumi and Kazu take on are those of an artist arrested for obscenity as a result of her vagina-themed art, this despite Kazu walks into an adult department store and buys all manner of sex toys from the window display; a teacher who refused to sing the national anthem as a form of protest and lost her job for it and a pair of twentysomethings who were undocumented on their family registries for varying reasons, including hiding from an abusive husband. Without a registration, the two have nominal legal status as citizens at best, and are unable to get passports, driver’s licenses or into a university, among other issues.
“Of Love & Law” lays out the details, and lets the inconsistencies, illogic and, to Western audiences, illegalities reveal themselves.Most interesting perhaps is that the film is a record of two men proudly bucking an entrenched, confining system and doing well anyway— Fumi and Kazu have been together 15 years, and as a portrait of a nation in flux, one that is being forced to deal with the individual at a pace and in a way it never has before.

“HORROR EXPRESS”— On a Train to Moscow

 “HORROR EXPRESS” On a Train to Moscow Amos Lassen Horror stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee act together in this story of mad monks, primitive humanoids and bloodthirsty zombies on a train bound to Moscow.  Renowned anthropologist Saxton (Lee) boards the Trans-Siberian Express with a large crate containing the frozen remains of a primitive humanoid which, he believes, may prove to be the missing link in human evolution. All hell breaks loose when the creature thaws out, turning out to be quite alive and begins killing passengers.
Directed by Eugenio Martin, “Horror Express” is  one for the most thrilling chilling horror efforts of the early 1970s. Cushing plays an acquaintance of his. Both men are aboard the train and Dr. Wells’, Cushing’s character is very interested in what Saxton has in his trunk.
The film has a great story with this mystery surrounding the as to whether it is the missing link, some sort of alien or the devil himself. It’s all eventually revealed and I liked where they went with it. The acting is excellent throughout and Lee and Cushing are both great actors. They have a great chemistry and I can see why they were paired up. There’s a sense of mutual respect and hatred all at the same time between their two characters and it’s very believable.
At the station, a thief is struck dead trying to rob the crate and his eyes turn white. After the crate is loaded in the baggage car, the curious Wells bribes the baggage man to drill a hole in the crate to see what the fossil looks like. But the monster thaws out and when his eyes turn red in the dark he kills the baggage man by intently staring at him and escapes on the train. The dead man’s eyes also turn white, as we further learn the monster drains his brain and absorbs all his knowledge. This is just the beginning.
The train journey will have many more victims and this  results in a power-hungry Cossack, Captain Kazan (Telly Savalas), boarding the train with his soldiers to investigate the murders and bullying everyone aboard, especially the weird acting Russian police Inspector Mirov (Julio Pea) and the even weirder acting crazed monk Father Pujardov (Alberto de Mendoza). Since the monster was killed by the police inspector, the Cossack hunts down the party who became possessed by the alien creature and is carrying on the murder spree.
The film is pure entertainment and speedily paced as well. The new pristine blu ray transfer is a real treat. Colors are vivid and framing also looks accurate throughout. SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS   Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements   High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation   Original Uncompressed mono audio   Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing   Brand new audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman   Introduction to the film by film journalist and Horror Express super-fan Chris Alexander   Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express an interview with director Eugenio Martin   Notes from the Blacklist Horror Express producer Bernard Gordon on working in Hollywood during the McCarthy Era   Telly and Me an interview with composer John Cacavas   Original Theatrical Trailer   Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys   FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully-illustrated collector s booklet with new writing by Adam Scovell

“THE DRAG ROAST OF HEKLINA”— Coming February 1, 2019.

THE DRAG ROAST OF HEKLINA  Wide Release Friday February. 1st on Revry.tv 
“Heklina is Drag’s most enduring professional who has broken barriers and is one of the formative creators of the big business that is Drag.  Revry is proud to produce this special for not only an Icon, but with our current drag Super Stars.” – LaShawn McGhee, Revry CPO
Revry presents THE DRAG ROAST OF HEKLINA featuring a talented dais of roasters including noted LGBTQ celebrities, Alaska Thunderfuck, Jackie Beat, Jinkx Monsoon, Bob the Drag Queen, Sister Roma, Julie Brown, and Peaches Christ.  Watch as a panel of iconic drag superstars and comedians grill drag legend Heklina. 
Creator’s Comments Throughout our career, we’ve worked in various capacities with a range of drag queens and comedians. After the success in recent years of celebrity roasts, and in the increasingly high-stress and polictically-correct atmosphere we live in, we wanted to bring the genres of comedy and drag together to bring some levity to the world. Underneath the shade that most people associate with drag queen humor, there is a deep bond of friendship and sisterhood. With the Drag Roast series, we wanted to showcase how drag can not only entertain, but also help us face reality and deal with it, through cruel, harsh and tasteless jokes.
With The Drag Roast of Heklina, we wanted to honor one of San Francisco’s most well-known drag queens. Heklina has been doing drag for over 20 years and is well known for her influence in San Francisco’s LGBTQ community, whether it be through Mother, her parody shows, or her landmark venue The Oasis. In order to provide her with the honor she deserved, we gathered some of her closest friends and esteemed colleagues to roast her in a night she’ll never forget. 
Co-Creators / Executive Producers – BeeZee Productions (Kyle Burt & Evan Zampella) BeeZee Productions was formed in 2017 by Evan Zampella and Kyle Burt. We are content creators who work with a network of writers, performers, and producers, actively developing original series, narratives, and specials. With Kyle’s experience from his career in marketing and advertising, and Evan’s entrepreneurial and production background, together we bring our holistic view to all of our projects. We are one of New York City’s most prolific LGBTQ+ producers actively developing content with many of the country’s top LGBTQ+ talent including Thorgy Thor, Heklina, Sherry Vine, Marti Gould Cummings, and others. BeeZee Productions recent credits include The Drag Roast of Thorgy Thor, Queens of Kings Season 3, and The Drag Roast of Sherry Vine.
About Revry Revry is the first queer global streaming network, available in 35 million homes in over 100 countries, with a uniquely curated selection of LGBTQ+ film, series, and originals along with the world’s largest queer libraries of groundbreaking podcasts, albums and music videos. Revry is available worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and hosts the exclusive LGBTQ+ channels on Pluto TV and XUMO. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry is led by an inclusive team of queer, multi-ethnic and allied partners who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.  Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @REVRYTV. Go Online to: https://revry.tv.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/xd6fso7dv4swkxe/2_DRH_Trailer_Press_v1.mp4?dl=0

“Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma” by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone— Ethnic Trauma

Firestone, PhD. Rabbi Tirzah. “Wounds into Wisdom: Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma”, Adam Kadmon Books, Monkfish Publishing, 2019. Ethnic Trauma Amos Lassen I doubt that anyone will deny that members of the Jewish religion suffer from ethnic trauma. New research in neuroscience and clinical psychology shows that even when they are hidden, trauma histories (from persecution and deportation to the horrors of the Holocaust) leave imprints on the minds and bodies of future generations. In “Wounds Into Wisdom”, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone “makes a compelling case that trauma legacies can be transformed and healed.” She brings together contemporary neuroscience, psychology, and ancient Jewish wisdom and values, to give us a roadmap for Jews, and all individuals and groups with trauma history, who wish to find and use the power to change their lives. We have case studies and interviews with trauma survivors and their descendants (from Berlin to Shanghai, Cairo to Colorado) to demonstrate what Viktor Frankl called, “the uniquely human potential to transform personal tragedy into triumph.”  Rabbi Firestone is both a rabbi and a psychotherapist and she has studied and counseled many Jewish families and individuals for over 30 years and here she shares how these people have been able to deal with  their tragedies. We all learn something here. We see the ways that past trauma influences and shapes the present regardless of the nature of that trauma. Out of the testimonies she has received, Rabbi Firestone draws seven principles that contain traditional Jewish wisdom and give way to the freedoms we have today. Rabbi Firestone builds on the work of traumatologists that have come before here including Drs. Rachel Yehuda, Bessel van der Kolk, and Yael Danieli. We see how people can transform the residual effects of their families’ painful pasts and change their long-term futures. It is important for us to remember and to be reminded that we have the capacity to rise above whatever devastation comes our way because of our innate wisdom and inner freedom. Collective trauma has impacted the world today and we see this in entire populations being dislocated by war, us with a template for people everywhere to emerge from their tragedies and reshape their destinies. This is relevant not only to the tragic past, “but to the world of turmoil and displacement we live in today”. This is a book for everyone and especially for anyone who has suffered trauma, either directly or in a family whose generational trauma is buried. Reading this helps us  It uncover pain and suffering in order to heal. Humanity has had to deal with death and trauma as a result of the Holocaust and it remains a horrendous event to think about but it is part of history and as Jews it has become an integral part of who we are. Rabbi Firestone shows us how to embrace empathy and compassion which in turn leads us to a “spiritual voice that heals and lifts our souls.” Tirzah Firestone shares ‘resonant truths that hold meaning for today.’ I might note that I do not agree with everything in the book but I am moved by much of what it says. We know that what is happening in the world today opens old wounds and brings new ones and these are issues that we must face but do not always know how to do so. If you have ever wondered if it is possible to come out of a tragedy as a stronger person, then you need to read this book. Not only can we learn to deal with trauma but we can become wiser as a result. Because trauma is painful we tend to try to bury it rather than face it head on thus causing it to enter the unconscious, and it can be passed unknowingly from generation to generation. We read the stories people who’ve suffered extreme pain, faced it head-on, and found a path to healing. These stories mellow our hearts and inspire gratitude and compassion for our fellow humans,. It is also from these stories that we find the tools to make sure the trauma stops. From the rabbi we gain the wisdom of a compassionate therapist and the spiritual perspective of a rabbi who has found her way to the deeper currents of Jewish understanding. We read of Firestone’s own family’s trauma and it is powerful in itself and empowering. We can feel how the rabbi has herself lived through trauma and has even found her way to become a great healer and teacher. While the book is addressed primarily to the Jewish experience of trauma in the twentieth century but I think it can be profound help to anyone seeking to navigate the path to healing from trauma and that is really all of us.

“Thorn” by Anna Burke— A Fairy Tale

Burke, Anna. “Thorn”, Bywater Books, 2019. A Fairy Tale Amos Lassen We are never too old to enjoy a good fairy tale and Anna Burke has a great one that will remind of sitting in front of a fire and listening to a thrilling story. I had no idea of what to expect when I stated reading and when I finished, I did not want to close the covers of the book because that usually means the story is over. “Thorn” is set on a cold day in the winter and it begins when Rowan’s father returns from “an ill-fated hunting trip bearing a single, white rose.” Now following the Rose is the legendary Huntress The rose is followed by the Huntress who is tall, cruel, and beautiful and she takes Rowan back with her to a mountain that is populated solely by the creatures of the hunt. Rowan knows she must change—she had once thought that she was better than the villagers and their superstitions. She now finds herself in a curse that has deep roots and ruled by an old insidious magic.  Rowan is torn by her family loyalties. She feels both guilt and relief about escaping her betrothal to Avery Lockland who is both charming and arrogant. Yet she has complicated feelings for the Huntress, Rowan must find a way to break the curse she is under before it destroys everything she loves. There is a problem, however. If she can find a way to lift the curse, she will have to return to the life she left behind and that means the villagers and Avery and the cold winters that plague her village. With the Huntress, she can have eternal springs. “Thorn” is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast” but with a lesbian twist. This is the story of Rowan’s self-discovery when she inevitably met The Huntress. We go back in time to read how Rose became the prisoner of The Huntress. The Huntress has her own back story that led to the curse cast against her by the witch. Burke gives the story true beauty with her words. It becomes the story of two women who are completely different  yet fall in love with each other and deal with the truth of their lives. The Huntress is dark, cold and mysterious yet is one of the heroines of the story. We work our way, with Anna Burke’s help,  to understand her. We want her to be a positive kind of character and so we work at becoming empathetic and it is not always easy. It is the beauty of Anna Burke’s prose that brings the Huntress and, in fact, the entire story to life. We are determined to break down her defenses and get to know her so that we can relate. With time we watch her change from a misunderstood and tortured character who is arrogant, selfish and heartless but who transcends the journey to redemption. By the time we reach Rose’s ultimate sacrifice, we learn of the real meaning of the curse. In case you could not tell, I am having a bit of a difficult time writing this review and I just wonder if that has anything to do with my being a gay male reviewing a lesbian novel. There is so much that I can say but I do not want to ruin the read for anyone. I love that there is so much social relevance here and that this is a fairy tale for our times. There are several minor themes here— clothing, the release from bearing children, self-reliance, rdealing with a family or past that no longer fits, partnership, and the iimportance of self-knowledge and love. The book is a lovely way to escape into fantasy for a while.

“The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky” by Susie Linfield— “The Very Nature of Modernity”

Linfield, Susie. “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky”, Yale University Press, 2019. “The Very Nature of Modernity” Amos Lassen Susie Linfield’s “The Lion’s Den” is an intellectual history that explores how prominent midcentury public intellectuals approached Zionism and the State of Israel itself and its conflicts with the Arab world. It is an intense look at the political Left that investigates how eight prominent twentieth-century intellectuals struggled with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. It comes to us as a series of interrelated portraits that bring together the personal and the political and it includes includes philosophers, historians, journalists, and activists including Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, I. F. Stone, and Noam Chomsky. It. Does not shy from controversy or radicalism. In their engagement with Zionism, influential thinkers also wrestle with socialism, nationalism, democracy, colonialism, terrorism, and anti‑Semitism. In looking at Zionism, they confront the very nature of modernity and the often catastrophic histories of our time. By examining these leftist intellectuals, we begin to understand how the contemporary Left has become focused on anti‑Zionism and how Israel itself has moved rightward. Wherever one stands on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is a fascinating read. If you are like me and change positions constantly, this is a must-read. Have you even wondered why some of the greatest minds in the American and European Left are unable to understand Jewish nationalism? You probably won’t find that answer here but you will find plenty to talk about.  The book comes to grips with “both the tragedy of Zionism and the way in which anti-Zionism became a touchstone for the global Left.” We get a commentary on eight intellectuals who wrote about the Israel/Palestine conflict. We find ways to deal with both the tragedy of Zionism and the way in which anti-Zionism became a touchstone for the global Left.

“ARE YOU FROM DIXIE’— Finding One’s Place

“Are You from Dixie?” Finding One’s Place Amos Lassen I am from Dixie—born, raised and educated in New Orleans and I have watched as symbols of the old South have been taken away. This film is about two Latino brothers with opposing views about their American identity who search for their place in a modern South. I recently learned that what I thought were tributes to great men were only “scarred Confederate monuments” in the land of the racially divided and the struggling middle class. This is what the two brothers, Manny and Ramon Castillo, feel although I must say that in New Orleans I was never aware of this (aside from the monuments to Confederate soldiers.)
I understand that the idea for the film came to director Art Arutyunyan from a conversation he had with his frequent collaborator Armand Petri (who plays Ramon Castillo. Petri began talking about Confederate monuments and the controversy surrounding them in New Orleans. From that conversation, the script evolved into a story of brotherhood and family responsibility, both universal and personal subjects.
I just one to make a personal note here. Everyone has something to say about the removal of the Confederate monuments and I have noticed that. Great deal of what has been said has been done so not by people who live in the places where the monuments are located. I grew up with this kinds of monuments for a good part of my life and really never paid them any mind and neither did I ever think about the Confederacy and the role it played in building New Orleans. Now that I live in Boston, we are getting some of the same controversy with the names of schools being changed because the original names belonged to slaveholders. Slavery is part of American history and it is our onus but I am fascinated how this controversy has brought it back into the spotlight again. Now back to the film.
We meet Ramon and Manny (Drake Malone) as they share information on how to survive with each other and we immediately realize that the two are total opposites.Ramon is a traditionalist and believes in responsibility while Manny is a millennial ease and cares nothing about “the once-again brewing racial tension in the South.” The brothers had only been raised apart but in two different countries so in the film, they each represent a distinctive voice in the times when having a different opinion can cost one his job, his home and even his life.  They find themselves in the midst of the Confederate Monument saga  during which the South is divided into two polar opposites.
I understand that the film was shot in Southeast Louisiana about the time when the “Lee Circle” statue was removed in New Orleans and the debate was at its peak. Lee Circle was like the Statue of Liberty to many New Orleanians and we often used it in giving directions around town. I never once thought of it as a Confederate monument—it was just Lee’s Circle.
We share the brothers’ journey from their own opposites to where they see each other with more understanding and compassion. It is an amazing transformation and everything about the film is good (well, not everything but I found it to be most definitely deserving of praise). These days we are filled with confusion and we host conflicts but one thing I can say for sure it that the South is not going to rise again.

“THE OTHER STORY”— Tension and Intrigue from Israel


Avi Nesher’s “The Other Story” is a family drama from Israel that is tense and filled with intrigue. Anat has recently become an ultra-Orthodox Jew, is about to get married. Her father returns to Israel to try to stop the wedding and family disputes and conspiracies arise. Meanwhile, her grandfather, Shlomo (Sasson Gabai), a marriage counselor, has a client who has chosen to reject Orthodoxy and embrace spiritual freedom. When the women cross paths, the consequences are unexpected.  While the film is grounded through a father-daughter relationship, it also touches on the struggles between Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and secular lifestyles. There are two major plots going on in the film. One is the relationship between Anat Abadi (Joy Rieger) and Shachar Elkayam (Nathan Goshen).  The other deals with patients of Dr. Shlomo Abadi (Sasson Gabai), Rami (Maayan Bloom) and Sari (Avigail Harari). 

When Shlomo brings in his son, Yonatan (Yuval Segal), to help these two, it somehow enables Yonatan to become closer with his daughter.  Anat and Sari are rebels in their own way.  Where Anat has found herself becoming more religious, Sari is driven further away from Judaism. When the film begins, Tali (Maya Dagan) didn’t have the best relationship with her daughter, Anat.  Neither did her ex-husband, Yonatan.  He escaped a damaging scandal to be there for his daughter but only after Shlomo buys a plane ticket.  Their relationship hasn’t been the best but he wants to be there for her now.  Of course, he will try to manipulate her so that Tali wins but love can be strange.  None of them are happy that she followed her boyfriend Shachar into the Ultra-Orthodox Judaism lifestyle.  They’ll do anything if it meets getting her to forget that way of life. While Anat rebels against her parents by becoming religious, it’s interesting to see how her parents react to these decisions.  Based on a true story, the film will shows us a lot about these two different worldviews–Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and the secular world.  The film is more entertaining than one might’ve expected but because it is all-over-the-place, it becomes tiresome and uninvolving.

“Lock and West” by Alexander Eberhart— An Emotional Story

Eberhart, Alexander C. “Lock & West”, 7 Sisters Publishing, 2019. An Emotional Story Amos Lassen Lock is an awkward guy. He is unable to make eye contact, gets nervous easily and has to remind himself several times a day how ‘normal’ teens behave.  He has been homeschooled for most of his life and his resigned himself to a friendless existence at his new Atlanta high school. West has everything.  He is good looking, has talent and money but he also has secrets. He harbors a pain that is buried so deep that a million therapists have not been able to get to it and West is determined to keep it that way. He’s an actor and he can act normal. Locke’s  and West’s lives are equal but opposite and the universe just keeps throwing obstacles in their path. Every time they are together they find it harder to say goodbye, harder to keep their secrets and harder not to lean on each other. What they need to do to keep this relationship going is to stop trying to re-write the past and start to understand out how to build a future together.  Here is a novel that plays with the emotions and there are intense moments in this book. We have quite a look at sexual assault that is intense. We also read about eating disorders. This is a beautifully written novel with wonderful LGBT representation and accurate portrayals of various mental health and social issues. Writer Alexander Eberhart has the ability to make us feel everything his characters feel and some of it is quite disturbing.