Monthly Archives: October 2013

“King Mai” by Edmond Manning— Catching a Break

king mai

Manning, Edmond. “King Mai”, (The Lost and Founds #2), Pickwick Ink Press, 2013.

Catching a Break

Amos Lassen

Mai Keans just does fit in anywhere. He has a rough time even before he acknowledged his homosexuality and now he still cannot find acceptance or to get ahead. Things are rough financially and his parents are about to lose their farm.

As I read “King Mai” I began to wonder which genre it fits in. It has humor, erotica, mystery, adventure, characters and so on—something for everyone. Then I decided to forget that and just read to enjoy and enjoy I did. I think what really kept me reading was not knowing what would happen next. Mai has a lot of moxie and even though he was hurting inside, he stayed strong. I was at a bit of a disadvantage in that I did not read the first book in the Lost and Founds series, “King Perry” where the character of Vin Vably, the narrator of “King Mai” was introduced. Mai was from Thailand but he was adopted and living in DeKalb, Illinois. He is a loner and helps his family working on the farm that they are about to lose. However, Mai does not fit into the farming community but he loves farming. He is alone since his first love left him and he just does not enjoy life. He has been having a “chat affair” for the last six months with Vin Vably who he met online. Vin invites Kai for a weekend and he gladly accepts and the weekend they spent together mixed lies and laughs, manipulation and love. There is a love subplot here but this not a love story or even a romance. Instead it is a story of finding oneself and it is an emotional story. Vin narrates and while I did not find him a likeable character at first but he grew on me and I believe that is because he made Mai happy. After all, Mai is the first character we meet and because he is lonely, we identify with him. He has that farm boy innocence and he is both admirable and vulnerable. Vin, on the other hand, is worldly and complicated and when I was made aware of the pain that he has suffered, my opinion of him changed. While the book is named for Mai, this is really Vin’s story, the mystery of someone who was lost as a child and who makes his way by using people. The relationship between Vin and Mai is short but deep and while there is a happy ending, it is not a traditional one just as their romance was not traditional. Vin really tries to change Mai’s life for the better.

This is a difficult book to review because to summarize the plot does not really tell us what the book is about. Vin focuses on Mai who is a total outsider where he lives. We get to know Mai slowly and the more we know about him the more we love him. He is stubbornly analytic and he both charms and frustrates us.

There is also another major character in the film and that is the setting and through the use of metaphors, we get to know it. You will undoubtedly notice that I have avoided any mention of the word “king” that is so prominent in the title and that is because I did not understand how it was used and there are enough other interesting aspects to look at. For me, it was interesting to look at the magic that Vin and Mai shared. They are not always of one mind but they love each other in their own ways. Not everyone finds his way early on and we constantly try to find where we are going and know who we are. There is allegory in the journey that Vin and Mai take which ultimately ends in rebirth.

Let me say a few words about the quality of the prose. Edmond Manning writes beautifully. He has the ability to create a painting in words. In fact, each word seems especially chosen to fit in a sentence. Sometimes, like Mai, we need to work at becoming who we are. Only then, as we see here, can we truly be at peace.


Silver Creek Short Film – Sweet flick helps raise money for LGBT youth charities

Silver Creek Short Film – Sweet flick helps raise money for LGBT youth charities

‘Silver Creek tells the tale of a young band of outsiders, isolated and teased in their community, who one day discover the magic of their own creativity and imagination. The kids find solace and support in their celebration, though the moment is short-lived, and others try to break them apart.

‘If viewers are moved by this short film’s message, they are encouraged to click the “TIP THIS VIDEO” button right below this text. The funds raised from this are not only a “tip” – they are the necessary resources that make the work done by the beneficiary charities, the Trevor Project and Rainbow Resource Centre possible. Both organizations do exceptional work with LGBTQ youth in crisis and offer supportive services that make a vital difference in young people’s lives.

‘In 2012 Salazar set out across Canada driving over 2600 Kilometers from Vancouver, British Columbia to the village of Angusville, Manitoba to create Silver Creek. Over the course of 2 weeks the people of Angusville embraced our little band and our project, letting us shut down main street for days on end, invade their backyards, and throw confetti literally everywhere.

‘We cast local actors and kids from around the region and many residents came out to be background actors. Every night our crew and the community broke bread together in the town hall. It was a profoundly unique experience for all involved. For two weeks a band of 50 odd people came together as a family, we lived together, and got to play together at making a film. This tight knit togetherness fit with the spirit of what our film was trying to convey.


“ Beards – An Unshaved History”— Beards from the Gay Perspective

beards cover

Clark, Kevin. “ Beards – An Unshaved History”, Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh , 2013.

Beards from the Gay Perspective

Amos Lassen

Did you ever wonder about how our community feels about beards? Kevin Clark answers that question and many others in “Beards—An Unshaved History”. He also looks at the clones of the 1970s and how clones reappear in the gay community of today. This beautiful coffee table book is loaded with beautiful photographs, interviews and facts about beards. There is a lot of history here and if you know the Bruno Gmunder publishing house, you know the level of quality that is synonymous with what they publish.

In the introduction by Giles Constable we get a history of beards and facial hair throughout history. I had never thought of it before so it was fascinating for me to learn that at different times, facial hair has had different meanings. I like that there are timelines in the book throughout and along with them are comments. We see photographs that show the eroticism of beards.

What really makes this book different is its historical approach. The text is lively and the read is pure pleasure. Add to that beautiful photography and it all comes together. You can always expect high quality gay themed books from Bruno Gmunder but they are expensive.


“THE DECEPTION”— Now and Before

the deception poster

“The Deception”

Now and Before

Amos Lassen

“The Deception” is composed of two stories that are intertwined—one is a coming-of-age story of a gay teen named Chip (Garrett Wade) and his first love, Devon (Garnett Jarett); the second is Chip some twenty years later when he is known as Christopher (now David Busse) and living in the closet. He is then involved in politics and is preparing to run for the Maryland Senate and his fiancée’s family that is very politically connected is helping him. However, Devon (now Jerry G. Angelo) appears suddenly and reminds him of the passion that they once shared and Chris’ world that he has worked so hard to build begins to fall apart.

I would say that the theme of the film is how denial can create the worst people and situations. It all began when two high school seniors fell in love one summer but one was filled with guilt and ended it. Some twenty years later when he runs for political office, he meets his ex-boyfriend who is living an entirely different kind of life. Their romance begins again and we watch it at the same time that we see flashbacks of how it was when they were teens.

the deception

Director Jay Durrwatcher brings us a story of young love and adult compromise and how people can become very messed up because they are given the wrong guidance. The parents we see here are terrible people. The story of the teens is beautifully filmed and the camera catches the beauty of young love. The film of the present is not as successful but that is minor when we look at the film as a whole. We see that Christopher is still gay but has decided to live in the closet. He deceives his fiancée although she seems to know about him.

There are some really lovely moments here and the way the past and the present are juxtaposed is a new way to tell the story. On a sad note, Durrwatcher died suddenly when the film was going through its final editing.


“AFTER THE SKY TURNED BLACK”— The Ravages of Terrorism

after the sky turned black

“After the Sky Turned Black”

The Ravages of Terrorism

Amos Lassen

A fascinating new short film, “After the Sky Turned Black” is about, Frankie, a photojournalist who was blinded in a terrorist attack and who picks up a guy in a bar and takes him home. During that night, secrets are exposed. We see here the physical and mental results of a terrorist bomb. Frankie had once been an extrovert and now he is blindly suffering. Most tend to close themselves off from the rest of the world. For Frank who was recording what happens when inhumanity reigns. While this is a gay themed film, it also says a lot about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and how that can change life forever. You must see this incredibly powerful short film. Ellis Watamanuk gives us an unforgettable film.


“SOLO”— Love and Deception



Love and Deception

Amos Lassen

First time director, Marcelo Briem Stamm, brings us a romantic and chilling drama of love and deception. Manuel (Patrico Ramos) is a handsome guy who has been hurt by his previous relationship and he is bored and tired of being alone. In a chat room, he meets Julio (Mario Veron), a lonely unemployed guy. The two guys are interested in each other and when they meet face to face. A sexual spark is lit. Sex is good and often but the problems that both guys have with intimacy and trust make them apprehensive about committing to a relationship. As the two spend more time together, secrets are revealed and while these might be real revelations, they might also be imaginary or even lies. We are not sure who is honest, who is real and who really loves the other.

Basically this is a film about two men who are trying to find a connection with each other. When they are not having passionate sex, they play a cat and mouse game. One behaves strangely while the other tries to calm him down. Both men claim to be honest but there are ways o telling and not telling the truth. Sometime in this game, a secret comes out but not before the guys plan to run away together.


The film kept me on the edge of my seat and the actors turn in riveting performances. I can’t say much more except to add that it is not always safe to meet men after talking to them in internet chat rooms.

Most of us have had dates or meetings that get out of hand and that is basically what the film is about. We see what can happen when two people meet up and do not understand what is going on. There is a lot to think about when meeting a stranger for sex. We see various possibilities as to what is really going on.


“METH HEAD”— Becoming a Man

meth head

“Meth Head”

Becoming a Man

Amos Lassen

Kyle Peoples (Lukas Haas) does not like who he is—a 30 year old accountant in a dead end job. He has a lover who is more successful than he is and a family that does not understand him. At a party one night he gets the opportunity to change. He has become friendly with Maia and Dusty and is introduced to crystal meth and this cost him his job, his lover, his home and his family. He is trapped in the escape that he wanted so badly but he realizes that it is all an illusion and the drug is killing him both physically and psychologically. When he hits bottom he really hits and he must decide whether he wants life or meth.

meth head 1

Kyle had been a loving partner, brother and son. He has had dreams of having his old company and to marry Julian, his partner. But all this stops with crystal met and his life goes out of control. Kyle has issues—he desperately wants approval from his father, a politician who does not like his son’s lifestyle. The way the character is played by Lukas Haas, we see him as both vulnerable and sympathetic even with the mistakes he has made. It is hard to watch him as a meth addict because he still shows some humanity. When he begins to spiral downward, he breaks our hearts.

Luke or Dusty (Blake Berris) is the dealer who introduces Kyle to crystal. He radiates a youthful innocence but he is an addict who loves his drug. We do not see him spiraling out of control. His relationship with Kyle shows us that he is co-dependent and his addiction takes him to a terrible place. Maia (Necar Zadegan) is also an addict who has already lost her daughter to social services because of it.

Julian (Wilson Cruz) is both patient and frustrated with Kyle. He wants the best for him and he really tries to help but when Kyle is down and out of control, he steps back. He knows if he pushes too hard, nothing will come of it. He takes Kyle’s addiction very hard.

Director Jane Clark gives us a powerful message yet also shows us the emotions of her characters. This is not easy to watch—the journey through addiction is powerful and it makes this a very dark film. This is a very sad film and that is because Clark has chosen to tell the story with grit. I understand that this is based on a true story. What Clark does here is to rely on deep and emotional character studies to present her film and it works beautifully.



“Capital Games”— Competing

capital games

“Capital Games”


Amos Lassen

Steve Miller (Eric Presnall) is a tough ex-Los Angeles cop who quit the force so that he could find a nice quiet office job. Mark Richfield (Gregor Cosgrove) is the new kid at work who has found favor with the boss and his co-workers. Both men work at the same advertising agency. Steve is jealous of Mark who is new at work and it looks like he is going to steal a campaign from Steve.


Ilo Orleans directed this film about two men competing against each other. Then while on a work retreat, the jealousy turns to carnality and animosity is lost when the two men have sex. How this happened is a mystery since both men claim that they have never had sex with a man. The day after their liaison, Steve learns that Mark is engaged to a woman. Steve then begins his own campaign to win Mark over. We feel the tension between the two men yet there is also a tenderness that is intense. We see the conflicting feelings and we understand them. The two actors are totally believable in their roles. What is interesting is that Steve does not believe that Mark is straight and is determined to have him. He cannot help remembering that weekend retreat and how he felt. To say anymore about the film would destroy the surprise so I will simply recommend it.


“Nets of Wonder” by Robert Heylmun— Hard Lessons

nets of wonder

Heylmun. Robert. “Nets of Wonder”, Create Space , 2013

Hard Lessons

Amos Lassen

Will has split from his wife; he has been left by the first man that he thought he loved and spends his time trying to find what he needs in New Orleans. He finally meets David who is quite the good-looker and they are soon life partners and move to California but that puts a strain on their relationship and Will soon realizes that he needs to get away. He continues to look for companionship and love and this takes him away.

I was really interested in reading because I was born and raised in New Orleans. I was so reminded of the town I once knew but chose to leave. I was immediately drawn into the story not only because of New Orleans but also because of the prose. The fact that the story is fascinating was yet another reason. Will came across to me as a composite character who was made up of traits that will remind you of men you know. He is a man looking for love and goes through all the usual steps and making the usual mistakes. Reality and despair go hand in hand here. Having lived as a gay man in the 1960s, so much of this was recognizable. It is the story of so many of us. The way the characters in the book talk is the way it was.

Roberyt Heylmun writes of gay life as it was and I found it important to remember that the story takes place before Stonewall. For those of you who are coming-out now, you should know that it was nothing like what we have today.

The big differences I believe are firstly that the local or neighborhood gay bar was the center of gay life and secondly, sexual promiscuity was rampant and the concept of safer sex was almost twenty years away. I could not help thinking how much easier it is to be gay. Even though this is not a history book, there is history here. Will has, for me, at least, come to represent the gay man of the time. There are also depictions of sex at that time and will it is the same as today, the buildup to it is different. But all was not physical—there was also intellectual intimacy and while dating was fast, there were also wonderful conversations.

This is an emotional read because it is about a period in LGBT history that is gone forever, a time when the gay community was unique. There was no gay marriage and the “gayborhood” still existed. It is candid and descriptive and for me, it is a terrific reminder of a period of time I know so well.


“Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975” by Daniel L. Chapman with Douglas Brown, Phd.— Muscles Around the World

universal hunks

Chapman, Daniel L. (with Douglas Brown). “Universal Hunks: A Pictorial History of Muscular Men around the World, 1895-1975” Arsenal Pulp, 2013.

Muscles Around the World

Amos Lassen

I am sure that you have noticed the importance of muscles in the world today. Body building and gym activity seem to have become part of gay life today. In fact, for the last hundred years, we have seen the trend toward body sculpting and the body has become an object of envy, desire and admiration. The body has come to depict good health and fitness and it is used in advertising. It has also come to represent physical prowess and power as well as military might.

This is a follow up to David Chapman’s “American Hunks” but this is more universal. The photographs here begin in the 19th century and goes up until the 1970’s. The photos are from advertisements, magazines, book covers and other places. What they all share is the beautiful male body. There is almost no full frontal nudity and it is not necessary when we see the photos. We can break the men into three groups—the eroticized, the politicized and the commercialized. These three categories can take us through history. I understand that many of the photos come from Chapman’s private collection and some of these have never been published before.

The book has a forward by Douglas Brown in which we get an overview of what is in the volume and why. It is here that we learn that the men who appear in photograph here all wanted to be photographed. He covers topics such as “Where do these bodies belong in history?”, “Modern bodies: strong men and physical culturalists”, “Muscle and art” and “Postcolonial muscle” among others.

Then there are the following sections: Europe which contains Great Britain, France, Italy and Greece, Switzerland, Germany and Austria, Low Countries, Scandinavia, Russia and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia: The Far East, India and the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific and finally North and South America. The book is simply a pleasure to look at but it also teaches and that makes it doubly good.