Monthly Archives: January 2013

“When Past Comes to Present” by R.G. Green—Everything Changes

when past comes to prsent

Green, R.G. “When Past Comes to Present”. Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

Everything Changes

Amos Lassen

Tyler Beckett, a police officer gained fame because he discovered evidence that put a murderer in prison. Three years have passed and Tyler has a successful business and a good home life. For some reason, he cannot ask his lover, Sean St. Claire, to move in with him and thereby start a life for the two men together.

All was going fine until a journalist comes to him to talk of the suicide of a gay man and Tyler is torn. The deal is that if the death is not investigated, he could lose the support of the LGBT community. He accepts the case and he is soon dealing with all kinds of problems among them is that he learns Trubett, the man he convicted is out of prison and is seeking revenge. Tyler learns that he is one of many targets. To complicate matters even more is Scott, Tyler’s ex who enters his life once again. Scott is able to disrupt Tyler’s newer relationship with Sean and it provides  another issue to struggle with; that of retribution.

 

“What is Parenthood” edited by Linda C. McClain and Daniel Cere— Redefining Parenthood

what is parenthood

McClain, Linda C. and Daniel Cere. “What Is Parenthood?: Contemporary Debates about the Family”, NYU Press, 2013.

Redefining Parenthood

Amos Lassen

With all of the changes we have witnessed in the world in the last few years, none of us should be surprised to know that the family has also changed just as family law has changed as well. The boundaries of parenthood have changed and  that brings up new questions and debates. We find that we are looking for a new definition of the word “parenthood” and with that we must learn how society regulates and supports this “new” family. Can parenthood be seen as apart from marriage or even couplehood? What role does society have in the well-being of foster children? Which is the best model of parenthood if we look at the result of how a child turns out?

In fact, the world is changing so quickly that by the time we find the answers to the about questions, we might e facing a whole slew of newer ones. This book does give some solutions and when looking at parenthood, we see that it truly rests on parents who are to prepare their children for the future. We are experiencing culture wars now and we must find a way to deal with issues in civil and reasonable manners. Here we get clear but non-polemical looks at science, ethics, and politics and see how they affect how and when there should be regulations placed on parenthood.

It is easy to understand that there have been disagreements about both the definition and the future of marriage and often this takes into account differing ideas about parenthood. In this volume we get a look at what an interdisciplinary group of scholars who may or may not share perspectives have to say. We get an idea as to how they look at the issue of parenthood in today’s society and we see competing models as well as other issues—single parenting, adoption, surrogate families, donor-created families, gay and lesbian parents, transitional parenthood, gender difference and attachment between parent and child.

I am pretty sure that we can agree that the changing family is due to the larger number of single parents households and divorce and blended families. There are solutions offered and we, of course, must realize that the future of our democracy rests upon parents preparing their children for the future. We receive ideas as to how the government and parents should act in order to improve the family. Perhaps the most provocative chapter here is “What Now: Can the Toothpaste Go Back in the Tube?” What we read is bold yet direct and this is what it needs to be especially because the children of today will take our places.

 

 

“Love Means…No Limits” by Andrew Grey— Running from Life

love means no limits

Grey, Andrew. “Love Means… No Limits”, Dreamspinner Press, 2013.

Running from Life

Amos Lassen

Spider (Bart van Andren) as he is known has become involved with drugs. He finds himself in the hospital, he meets Duane who really takes to  him. Duane finds him a job at Laughton Farms and Spider is surprised how kind and patient the people there are. This could be just what he needs and Geff, Eli and Tyrone (who we have met in previous books of the “Love Means” series) give him reason to stop the drugs and start living.

Tyrone is a gay African American whose family does not approve of his working with gay men on the farm and so far, he has been able to keep his work life and his gay life separate.  He sits on the feelings he as for Bart because he knows the dangers of drugs but the attraction he feels for him is very strong. He also knows how his family would react so he continues to hold back. He understands that Bart/Spider has to deal with his own life and his past.

I have read all of the books in the “Love Means” series and have really enjoyed how Andrew Grey has given us life at Laughton Farms, a place that protects those who live and work there. The people at the farm create an unconventional family and so in each book we get the story of another person(s) who are there. Spider is a new character; one whose life is filled with secrets that have led him into the world of drugs. His arrival at the farms and his relationship with Tyrone is what this book is about. Grey also deals with racism here and although many are loathe admitting it, we do find it within the gay community.

I have yet to be disappointed with an Andrew Grey novel and I doubt I ever will. His writing is great and he always has a new idea for a plot. We once again meet the characters we have enjoyed in the other books but this time a new character enters the scene and we watch as Spider, the name he was called in the drug scene, return to being Bart, the name his wealthy parents gave him. We first see him as a guy who has lost control of himself and his life and Duane saves him by bringing him to the farm where he meets Tyrone.

From Tyrone’s point of view, his meeting Bart could have been disastrous. He is still in the closet and his family does not feel kindly about gay people (which are putting it mildly). He sees Ty as a man filled with troubles yet also as a man who excites him and Tyrone knows that he will also have to deal with feelings from his past and from his parents. Even with this, we watch the two come together and a bond of trust and love ensues.

I think that the most amazing thing about the “Love Means” series is that the reader also feels that he is a member of the farm family. This shows us the quality of Grey’s stories and his writing. Grey’s character descriptions allow us to paint mental pictures of how each looks. I found that there is so much to the characters than two dimensions and the situations that they are put into resemble the situations that many of us deal with. While Laughton Farms may be fictional, it is something of a microcosm of society; a place where bigotry and hate is challenged by love and trust.

 

“VANISHING WAVES”— An Erotic Thriller

vanishing

“Vanishing Waves” (“Aurora”)

An Erotic Thriller

Amos Lassen

Scientists have discovered a way to get into the brain of Aurora (Jurga Jutaite), a comatose woman and for the first time get the chance to see what goes on the mind when a person is totally inactive. Part science fiction and part erotic drama, we get a film this is stunning to watch and, at the same time, gives us something to think about. Dialogue is at a minimum because the film works on emotions and feelings instead of actions and reactions.

Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) is a researcher working on a double-blind experiment that will allow him to explore the consciousness of a coma patient.  His head is covered with neural nodes, Lukas goes into a sensory deprivation tank, and begins to journey into the mind of the patient.  At first, all he sees are the neural pathways, but on his second trip, he meets a beautiful woman (Jurga Jutaite)  and the two almost immediately begin to become involved sexually. Every time Lukas goes under, their intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual, grows deeper.  Despite the risks to his career and real-world relationship, Lukas begins an investigation to find the identity of the comatose patient.

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This is a bold, visionary work of science fiction cinema that harkens back to the genre in its cerebral 1960s and ’70s golden age while giving us something new as it unites melodrama with a spectacle of hallucinations. This is the second feature from Lithuanian director Kristina Buozyte. “Vanishing Waves” is a visual feast and a gift of technological advances, “complex characterizations, challenging themes and adventurous narratives”.

Doctors hope to discover a reaffirmation of consciousness but the experiment changes when Lukas and Aurora develop a strong psychic link while in mutually altered forms of that consciousness. What they have between them evolves quickly into a romantic and very sexual relationship. Lukas hides his data and he and Aurora come together secretly and filled with passion in what appears to be very sensuous dreamscapes which they, themselves, have created. They explore the possibilities of forming an all encompassing bond and here is where the film deals with the limitations of the genre of science fiction and we get a very provocative film.

We watch an experiment gone wrong. Initially it was supposed to reach into the mind of a comatose patient using new apparatus which involve neuron waves for transfer and analysis. I had to stop and ask myself what I would do if I had been assigned to work together with another mind—not mind and body—just mind. How is intimacy handled? Does it become a true and complete communion of spirit as I find myself plunging into the unknown? What would I find in that other mind?

There are  many questions and many answers which we never get to. Scientists discover a way to wire the “inactive” brain of a comatose patient, Aurora, with that of a healthy subject, Lukas, as a way of peering into the secret workings of the coma victim’s mind. Of course, things don’t necessarily go as planned. More than anything, the movie is a sci-fi conundrum interspersed with an erotically-charged, luscious program of modern dance. Jutaite and Jampolskis are absolutely wedded to these performances. Emotions are delicately underplayed, with the focus on the on screen pas-de-deux. The lush look of the film is its overarching achievement. It opens with  a single long take that immediately establishes this as a cinematographic showcase. Director of Photography Feliksas Abrukauskas helps craft a motion picture that would be gorgeous to watch even without any plot at all. “Vanishing Waves” has, unquestionably, some of the most beautiful cinematography of any film released in recent times.
“Vanishing Waves” is a study on the limits of scientific objectivity through means of neuro-sexual tampering in a conditioned environment. It is an anticipation film with enough porn mixed into it to grasp attention entirely focused despite the seriousness of the topic in hand.

 

 

“Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity and Islam” by Jon Levenson— To Whom Abraham?

abraham

Levenson, Jon.”Inheriting Abraham: The Legacy of the Patriarch in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Princeton University Press, 2012.

To Whom, Abraham?

Amos Lassen

Jon Levenson, Professor of Bible at Harvard’s School of Divinity has something to say about what many have called the Abrahamic religions. He says that Christianity and Islam are incorrect in showing that Abraham is a unifying transcendent figure between them and Judaism. The tradition that Abraham belongs to all three of the religions, Levenson, says, that although very old, is just not true.

There has obviously been some importance and we see this especially in the covenant of paternity which goes something like this: Abraham is the father of God’s people and this carried on through his son, Isaac. Where Christianity leaves Judaism because of the argument of lineage and legitimacy. In Genesis, Abraham does not preach the idea of monotheism and the story of his breaking his father’s idols is found in sources from the time of the Second Temple. The Abraham of the Koran is a prophet of monotheism who precedes Mohammed. What is the definitive act of Abraham for Christians and Jews is his obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac while for Muslims, this is a proof test but Mohammed comes must later in history.

The idea of sacrifice is something that both Jews and Christians do every day but in a vicarious manner. Sacrifice comes in rituals—circumcision, redemption of the first born and general sacrificial service. We are aware that one of the main purposes of religion is triumph over death. We give God our lives and in return we get eternal life. In the Judaism of ancient times, sacrifice was the religious service that rabbis substituted the three times a day prayer after the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. In every morning service, Jews recite Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac to be reminded that God swore to bless Abraham and his line because he was willing to give up his only son. In Jewish theology, the sacrifice of the ram instead of Isaac goes before the lamb of the Exodus, whose blood keeps the angel of death at bay. What sacrifice is in this instance is God’s gift of love and this simply means that death is displaced by Isaac and in kind from the entire line of Abraham. It takes the place of and represents the almost sacrifice of Isaac who is headed for death but is spared. Likewise Jesus dies and is resurrected. Paul of the Christian Bible goes a step further. It is commonly accepted among Christians that Paul wished to extend the covenant of Israel to all peoples and Levenson maintains that this is not the case at all.

Paul does not hold with the universal identity associated with man and sin; a man who has been recreated as one who achieves righteousness in God’s eyes and bases that on faith. Christians have seen themselves as the adopted children of Abraham and a part of the larger community of sinners. Because Genesis says that Abraham would become the father of nations, Paul says that the gentile Christians have a separate lineage. Some believe that it is only Abraham who is the true ancestor and his line is direct and does not through Isaac and Jacob.

I understand that this is not thinking and other Jewish scholars have come up with similar ideas. By adhering to this idea of Paulian Christianity, we are able to see the continuing existence of the Jewish people despite the fact that we do not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. From the onset of Christianity, the church has claimed that is Israel itself and that the independence of the Jewish people is a schism within Israel and they continue to hope to convert the Jews. With Vatican II, the church has moved away from evangelicalism and missionary work and is not so concerned with Jews on earth.

Levenson maintains that what is not clear is the relationship between the Christian or new community and the Jews or the old community. Since the Jews are not part of the church, they must reject the sacraments but that the glory of God and the covenants belong to the descendents of the flesh. Further, he says that it is Christians and not the Jews who reject Jesus that are the children of God. It is Paul’s belief that the end of time was near and rendered the whole issue moot because the return of Jesus would show the Jews that they had erred.

Let’s look at the issue of whether or not Abraham actually practiced the Torah before it had been handed down at Sinai. Rashi says that Abraham only practiced those parts of Torah that deal with or accessible by human reason. There are of course different views that different Christian accounts provide such as James’s letter and the Epistles of Paul.

Looking at Islam now we see that it is a bit more difficult to deal with. Levenson notes that the binding of Isaac is very much downplayed in Islam which only uses 6 verses in the Koran (Sura 37: 102-107). While Isaac is mentioned again a few verses later, we get the idea that the Islamic version of the story is just a peek at Genesis 22. There are Muslim commentator that believe that is was Ishmael and not Isaac in the account but this view goes against the plain sense of the text. Ishmael is delivered by killing and then eating a sheep (or goat) on the day regarded as the Feast of Eid al-Adha. Nothing has grown out of this and the repetition of the event has become a family affair with clergy and not within a mosque. In fact, we learn that sacrifice is not one of the pillars of Islam and in fact it was the pagan Arabs that sacrificed to various gods hoping to achieve protection, a favor and some kind of material gain and so did the Jews who hoped to appease their God by blood sacrifice because they believed that sins are absolved by it and burnt offerings. As for the Christians, they believed that Jesus was the last sacrifice. They lived in a world where animal sacrifice had become tradition and was used for the absolution of sins. (Interesting enough is that we really are not sure how to define “sin”). Islam left the tradition of appeasing an angry God and in its place demands personal sacrifice and submission as the only way to reach extinction in Allah.

So then we come to the question as to why in none of the three religions do we sacrifice sons. Consider why so few Muslims partake in terrorist activities and we get Levenson’s implication that terrorism is a form of sacrifice. Looking back we are reminded that the path of Allah means propagating Islam through holy wars and as the obedient Muslims journey on the path to Allah, they take upon themselves the dangers associated with the religion and the observance of its laws. In this way, the piety of the faith of Islam comes into the world.

Both Jews and Christians continue sacrificing their sons through rites such as circumcision which has come to become a substitute for human sacrifice so Levenson maintains. Redemption of the first born requests that the father to relive the binding of Isaac on a personal level. In the Christian world, the sacrifice of Jesus at the Last Supper is a form of sacrifice but in Islam what do we have? It eschews vicarious sacrifice and demands personal sacrifice and Muslims see this as an improvement over the monotheistic religions that came before their own. Can we understand that to mean that death during a jihad is what the Muslims consider as sacrifice of a beloved son in both Judaism and Christianity? If so then we can better understand how life is viewed in Muslim countries and how it is shaped. There have been almost 80,000 terrorist attacks in the world from 2004-2011 with the staggering loss of almost 112,000 people and some 228,000+ injured. Almost all of the casualties were Muslims. Compare this to the fact that there are 1.3 billion Muslims and only a small percentage engages in terrorist activity. It seems that these sacrificial acts are built on solid doctrinal foundations.

Levenson nixes that the story of the binding of Isaac is the inspiration for the Muslim suicide sacrifices and those that try to show that what happened on 9/11/01 and similar atrocities is not really related to the theological basis for the crimes in the minds of those that committed them. Jihad is both a legal and theological issue and is in fact, a sacrament of Islam. We clearly see how Judaism and Christianity compare as religions that are descended from Abraham—they are both religions of sacrifice, covenant and paternal love but the idea is not a part of Islam and, in fact, is alien to it. There is, in Islam a god who “deigns to make no covenants with humans, and the matter of lineal or figurative descent from the patriarch is irrelevant to Islam”. If that is indeed the case what kind of religion is Islam? That is yet to be determined.

 

“INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR”— Sexual and Creative Freedom

interior

Interior. Leather Bar”

Sexual and Creative Freedom

Amos Lassen

Like so many others, I am not sure what James Franco is up to. He has made two films about gay poets and now he has teamed up with Travis Mathews to make yet another gay film premiering at Sundance, 2013. “Interior. Leather Bar” is a reimagining of the lost 40 minutes of William Friedkin’s “Cruising” and for these two young men, they use it as a place from where to have a “broader exploration of social and creative freedom”. I am not really sure what that sentence means but we see Val Lauren cruising in a leather bar. The film takes its name from a scene in a script which might be from “Cruising” and the filmmakers tell us that it is their goal to recreate the 40 minutes of film that were cut from the movie. One does not need to know anything about “Cruising”. Franco and Matthews tell us that it is not the original movie that is important but the recreation of what was cut and why some things are considered “verboten” and taboo and what happens when we are exposed to such ideas.

InteriorLeatherBar1

The original cruising starred Al Pacino as a policeman who went undercover to track down a serial killer who was involved in the leather community. To catch him, Pacino had to be unrecognizable as a cop and blend into the scene. He had trouble with it because it was the opposite of everything he believes in. When the film was released (remember we are speaking of some 30 plus years ago) it was not only controversial but the MPAA demanded that scenes of graphic and hardcore gay sex be cut from the movie. Let me just say that I watched “Cruising” again last night and did not think it was controversial at all but rather a look at a time that was—before AIDS and it seems that if I remember correctly, the hullabaloo was not about the film but how the media covered it and how the gay community reacted to it. Today I do not see the film as exploitive so how did Franco and Mathews decide what to do? They film this as if it is a “behind the scenes” documentary that concentrates on those 40 minutes. We see actor Val Lauren pitted against himself and how he feels about sexuality and creativity and as he does this, the throws the question how to those watching the film so that they can consider what art is.

Franco uses film here to look at an idea that is complex. He is able to play with the narration and we must decide if what we see is real or scripted and then we must decide if Val is an honest man or just an actor. Did leaving those 40 minutes out of the film do anything? The supposition is that the audience could not have dealt with what they saw and by recreating it now; we want to know if we can deal with it today. Franco makes a comment that audiences are allowed to watch violence on movie screens but not gay sex. Society has changed and is changing its views on sexuality but how about seeing graphic sex which is certainly not for everyone? (There is enough gay porn out there for those who want to see it).

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The old pornography vs. art discussion constantly resurfaces and we do see gay sex in films today. I have no idea who was shocked by the gay sex in “Brokeback Mountain” and I do not recall hearing a word about it. In Franco’s and Mathew’s film, the gay sex is real and actual and not simulated and that’s what it seems this movie is about. I doubt anyone will remember it for being artistic and innovative. The film does not answer one very important question and that is if actual sex is presented on the screen, does this do anything to the value of art? What the film does do is make us confront what we consider appropriate to watch or to even be part of.

The original 40 minutes cut from “Cruising” has never been seen so we are left to imagine what was cut. Franco and Mathews have not seen it either…what they have done is re-imagine it. Incidentally Val Lauren who plays the Pacino role is straight and the men that we see are both straight and gay and are the stereotypes one thinks he would find in leather bars and S&M clubs.

Probably the best way to describe this is an intellectual look at social norms and preoccupations about sex. We watch Franco test Lauren’s comfort level. We see Lauren on the side of the frames and we watch his eyes as he watches men participate in oral sex, licking boots, sniffing poppers and we sometimes see Lauren speaking to his wife on his cell phone and telling her about his discomfort with what he sees. A lot of the film is shot like a documentary; we see make-up and hair and Mathews discussing some of the kinkier scenes. When the film is over, we are left thinking and that means that we saw something important. To me, that is the sign of a good piece of work.

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“Our Paris: Sketches from Memory” by Edmund White and Hubert Sorin— Capturing Paris Satirically

our paris

White, Edmund and Hubert Sorin. “Our Paris: Sketches from Memory”, Ecco, 2002.

Capturing Paris Satirically

Amos Lassen

The mind of Edmund White meets the artistry of Hubert Sorin to give us a satirical look at Paris. There is also a sad side to this as well. When Sorin was close to finishing this book, he was also very close to the end of his life and we lost him to AIDS. We see Paris—the Marais, Les Halles, two islands in the Seine and the Chatelet but we see it through the eyes and words of people that live there. This Paris is one of diversity, a world of enchantment and variety whose residents include the literati, couturiers, art dealers, prostitutes past their prime and shopkeepers. They lead lives of eccentricity and “outrageousness” at time and they have found ways to respect each other.

White and Sorin were lovers and this is their Paris. Because it is theirs, it is lively and active and we see it as homage to the life they shared and loved. The book is a series of vignettes of the areas where they lived, loved and played. Sorin’s illustrations bring Paris to life while White welds past and present together as he gives us little insights to Parisians. I welcomed the memories of the Paris I knew as a graduate student—not the Paris that tourists see. Just as this book is about the City of Light, it is also about Sorin and his slow death and while there is travelogue here, there are also White’s experiences as he lost the man he loved. We sense what the two men went through as AIDS closed in on Sorin’s life yet they tried to keep death away for as long as possible. While the stories of Paris provide lightness to the read, the devastation of AIDS slaps the reader across the face as if to say, “I’m still here”. We enter the lives of the two men and we become friends and this intimacy that is created causes us to feel White’s pain as he loses Sorin. Knowing how much I love Edmund White and what he has brought our community, I also quickly fell in love with Sorin.

Sorin’s illustrations are magic and his style is unique as are the characters we meet here and I quote from another reviewer:”the concierge, Madame Denise, and the coiffeuse who tries out all the latest hairstyles on her. Father Pierre Riches, the “kind and elegant” Catholic priest whose hair had been stroked by Cavafy and whose photograph had been taken by Mapplethorpe. Billy Boy, the jewelry designer with 16,000 Barbies (who, tiring of them, invents a doll called Mdvany, a trendy Parisienne who “will not have unlined skirts like certain dolls we could name . . .”. Pierre Guyotat, who wrote in a “strange sub vocal language of his own devising, one that omitted vowels among other unnecessary luxuries.”

This is a book you will not soon forget and neither will I forget that White had this to say:
“Despite the catty sound of this book, its name-dropping and archness, I hope at least a few readers will recognize that its subtext is love. Hubert loved me with unwavering devotion . . . I loved him, too, in my cold, stinting, confused way. I wanted to keep him alive as long as possible. This book gave us something to do while waiting for the end.”

 

“Arts and Letters” by Edmund White— Profiles and Interviews

art and letters

White, Edmund. “Arts and Letters”, Cleis Press, 2006.

Profiles and Interviews

Amos Lassen

Edmund White is considered by many to be one of the major cultural essayists of our time and if you have any doubts about that, have a look at his “Arts and Letters”. White gives thirty-nine essays and profiles of some of the most influential writers, artists and cultural icons and includes Marcel Proust, Catherine Deneuve, George Eliot, Andy Warhol, André Gide, David Geffen, and Robert Mapplethorpe. What I love about his writing here is that White is observant, entertaining and very, very smart. He has the knack to bring biography and his own brand of criticism together. Something else that I find totally amazing here is the variety and diversity of the subjects. Grace Paley is as Yves San Laurent, Jasper Johns is here and so are Vladimir Nabokov, Paul Bowles and Djuana Barnes.

I know that when I see the name Edmund White on a book cover that I am in for a reading experience and White is a man who has not let fame go to his head—he even once wrote me and thanked me for a review I wrote of one of his books. That note sits proudly framed on my desk. White celebrates the Eros of life and is able to bring biography, fiction and sensuousness together.

When he writes about our community, he shows how it has changed since Stonewall and how those changes have affected arts and letters and how discovering identity became a major field for exploration. It seems like Stonewall was actually responsible for the entire LGBT community to discover who each is.

The one essay that particularly interested me is the one on Michel Foucault who I was fortunate to send some time with when I was a graduate student in Israel and researching him for a project I was writing on the rise of gay consciousness and the search for gay identity. Foucault was, for me, the ultimate intellectual who always had time to share his knowledge if he felt that someone was really interested and he never tried to get someone to think the way that he did. He was a brilliant mind and a gentleman and my memories of our meetings is something I will never forget.

I found that in reading the essays collected here that I would then get the push to know more and would spend time reading how others wrote about the same personages. For me, that is the true sign that someone has written something of significance as Edmund White has done here.

If one takes the entire book as one unit, he sees why White has come to be regarded as an inventive writer and we get a peek at his personality as well. He seems to not know fear and dares to ask what others shy away from.

I read a great deal and I can only wish that everyone I read would be like Edmund White. His prose is gorgeous and there are no tricks—he writes in a straightforward manner and takes the reader to new levels of understanding as he opens his mind. No matter what he writes, reading White is like reconnecting with a friend.

 

Scissor Sisters: Live in Victoria Park – London 2011— The First Time Ever on DVD!

scissors

Scissor Sisters: Live in Victoria Park – London 2011

The First Time Ever on DVD!

Amos Lassen

The Scissor Sisters became a sensation the moment they appeared on the scene. Everyone seemed to automatically know who they are and they have turned the world and collaborated with artists such as Elton John and Kylie Minogue. U2s Bono describes them as “the best pop group in the world.” Their albums—all four of them—have shot to the top of the charts as have their 18 singles.

This DVD is a recording of the Scissor Sisters in concert at Victoria Park in London on July 17, 2001 and is being released for the first time ever. We see and the feel the flamboyance, the color and the glitz that is always part of the band. The members of the Scissor Sisters are:

Jake Shears: vocals, piano, guitar, Babydaddy: bass guitar, keyboards, vocals, rhythm guitar, Ana Matronic: vocals, percussion, keyboards, Del Marquis: lead guitar, bass guitar and Randy Real: drums, electronic drums, percussion. The tracks are:

Night Work

Any Which Way

Laura

Take Your Mama

Kiss You Off

Fire with Fire

Comfortably Numb

Paul McCartney

Filthy / Gorgeous

I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’

Invisible Light

Bonus Tracks:

Harder You Get

Running Out

There is another bonus as well:a superb 4 page pull-out color booklet, complete with photos of the concert and the story of the band so far.

“Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota” by Stewart Van Cleve— Looking Gaily at Minnesota

land of 10000 loves

Van Cleve, Stewart. “Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota”, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Looking Gaily at Minnesota

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I have never thought about the state of Minnesota as a place where we would a large LGBT(Q) community but I was wrong. Places like Minnesota are like everywhere else—as long as there are people somewhere, anywhere, there will be members of our community. We do not get many gay stories from Minnesota but with the reading of Steward Van Cleve’s book, I discovered that the stories exist just as do everywhere else.

As he researched, Van Cleve discovered the Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota—a huge collection of books, photographs, films and other representations of history and this became the basis of his study. I do not know if you have noticed but we have been getting several new histories of gay communities of late—Brad Thompson’s “The Unnatural State” about Arkansas, Tracie Baim’s work in Chicago, the new anthology about New York and the various studies of gay New Orleans and we see a preservation of our history has begun to take place. Therefore I am pleased to welcome Minnesota into the mix.

Van Cleve combines oral history, archival narrative, newspaper accounts, and fascinating illustrations to give us a complete look at Minnesota’s queer history. We have over 120 historical essays from the early shreds of gay life in Minnesota before the Second World War and we read of “pride guides, archival photographs, and advertisements from local queer bars among other extraordinary pieces of ephemera and artifacts. Many of

the stories and images are well known, while others have been all but forgotten, until now”.

There have been two other studies of gay Minnesota and Van Cleve uses these are a jumping off point and I was totally surprised at the extent of gay life there. Van Cleve says that Minnesota has been “queer, to a certain extent, since the very beginning.” His book is homage to the rich and diverse legacy of the state. There have been scandals, sacrifices and victories and these have affected and continue to affect the gay citizens of the state. The history presented here is comprehensive and totally entertaining especially when we understand that some of the people that are included here had to live their lives in hiding and happens many times, the history that emerges is like the history of a family. It is one thing to document history and another to do so with love which we feel throughout this wonderfully readable book. So much of our history can disappear simply because those involved could be out at that time and whatever might have happened did so in secret. Here is a reflection of the way it once was and we are so lucky to have it. I only hope that more will take the opportunity to bring our local and regional histories out of the closet. We cannot ever forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we owe them their due.

 I must add a remark that I just learned and that is that Steward Van Cleve is only 24 years old. What this says to us is that with the desire can document our past. Van Cleve also happens to be a wonderful writer and I am sure that he has made a name for himself with this book.