Monthly Archives: December 2017

“CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE”— Loneliness

“CAUGHT IN A LANDSLIDE”

Loneliness

Amos Lassen

Most of us know what it feels like to be lonely but do we really understand the whole concept of loneliness. In my own experience, I can tell you that it is an awful feeling. In “Caught in a Landslide” we meet Jay (Wade Radford), a young man who knows true loneliness. We meet him as he reminiscing to himself (with the help of drugs and alcohol) all those memories he once shared with others. These lost memories are described poetically and as he listens to himself, we eavesdrop on what is being said. We also realize that the entire film is poetic as it looks at the reality of loss.

The film is based on Jay Proctor’s “A Vision of Life”. Jay Proctor and Wade Radford are the same person and because of this Radford totally rings true as he acts as Jay in the film. Jay is unable to close the door on his last relationship and he is filled with self-pity. He has visions of his ex (Robbie Manners) who appears to him in his dreams and even tries to come back into Jay’s life. However Jay will have nothing to do with this as he continues to nurse the pain that he sill feels as a result of this relationship not working. As much as he misses his ex, he refuses to take him back.

 For me, what makes this such a fascinating film is that it has no narrative. It is quite simply a poetic approach to emotions and feelings. The atmosphere comes from Jay Proctor/Wade Radford’s lyrical poetry. We do not get films like this often and they are so welcome when we get them.

“69 Shades of Nashville: Sociopathic Sex Southern Style” by Nicole Kelly M.D.— Meet Nashville Kitty

Kelly M.D., Nicole . “69 Shades of Nashville: Sociopathic Sex Southern Style”, JACC, LLC, 2017.

Meet Nashville Kitty

Amos Lassen

Nashville Kitty is a sociopath who loves sex. In fact, she loves sex so much that she joins a cheaters’ dating website that sends her on exotic dates. Kitty is able to get anything-and anyone-she wants. The more men (and occasional women) she has, the more she wants. We meet Kitty in this erotic psychological thriller that is written as a fictional memoir and with over 300 cartoons that take us into a “world of sex, murder, mystery, suspense, and manipulation.”

The character of Nashville Kitty was inspired by a true sociopathic sex addict who knows no bounds in causing havoc. The names, details, locations, and all identifying information have been changed resulting Nicole Kelly, M.D. began writing this as a form of therapy. This novel well written and entertaining and it is also educative taking us into the mind of a sociopath.

As far back as high school. Nashville Kitty was having sex that included “quickie adventures in dirty school bathrooms, broom closets, and trash-filled cars and beneath the bleachers. At 28, she was a happily married professional woman with a beautiful house etc. She worked in healthcare and did some insurance billing for a physicians’ group on the side. She had a great life with a great husband. That did not stop her from her extra-curricula activities.

Now I read a lot and I also read and review porn but I can honesty say that I have never read anything quite like this book. We read of the infinite possibilities of sexual variations as presented by a true sociopath. With each male cohort that Kitty shares sex, we learn more about the outer limits of acting out in a manner that is stimulating as well as very funny. Most of the topics we read about here are never discussed openly.

This is a very smart and sexually explicit novel that is surprising, suspenseful and intelligent. I keep wanting to write more about the plot but to do so would spoil the read for many. Just take my word for it and get a copy and then sit back and enjoy.

Note: the book uses the name NashvilleKitty with no space but spellcheck kept changing it on me.

“TRUMP: THE ART OF THE INSULT”— An “Unpresidental” President

“Trump: The Art Of The Insult”

An “Unpresidential” President

Amos Lassen

As I sit down to write this review, I am having trouble understanding why I would waste valuable time to write about the greatest embarrassment the American residency has ever known. It is still amazing to think that Donald Trump dominated the 2016 Presidential race with a master plan of political incorrectness and by using insults to brand political opponents and bash the media all the way to the White House. In this new film, Trump emerges as a marketing genius and performance artist who, despite being a Manhattan billionaire, captured the hearts of Middle America.

Even though critics insisted that Trump was no more than a sideshow, he dominated the 24-hour news cycle with his master plan of political incorrectness. As he threw insults around, he emerged as an “unstoppable political phenomenon that transformed the Presidential race into the greatest show on earth.” This film sows us Trump’s improbable journey to the highest office in the land. Not only did he push frontrunner Jeb Bush out of the Presidential race early on, Trump proved him wrong when Bush told him that he could not insult his way to the Presidency. In “Trump The Art of the Insult”, we see him as sophomoric and sometimes brutal but always entertaining in a Trump sort of way. We laugh with him and we laugh at him and we see that he is indeed a marketing genius and performance artist who managed to win the hearts of Middle America. Directed by Joel Gilbert, “Trump: The Art of the Insult” is “Cinéma vérité at its finest”.

On the morning of  November 9, 2016 we all wanted to know how Trump won the election. Joel Gilbert answers that by saying that Trump “stood head and shoulders above his competition.” He shows Trump to be a “master verbal swordsman”.  Throughout the film we see an actor who portrays Trump issuing tweets.  Each tweet opens a new chapter showing Trump destroying an opponent. 

Trump is a brash, unpolished, shoot-from-the-hip reality TV mogul with no political experience and was dismissed by the media and his competitors early on as a candidate who was not only not serious but a fraudulent conservative. Yet. He was able to become his party’s nominee from a field of seventeen established Republican politicians.

The film has no commentary or narration because Trump speak for himself. He has no filter and he went after his opponents as he saw fit. He threw insults relentlessly at targets unaccustomed to dealing with an opponent on that level of discourse. He went after competitors who were used to polite, orderly policy debates, and instead called them demeaning names.

Trump’s opponents had no answer to why he was succeeding except to say that it couldn’t last. But it did last, probably because Trump had struck a chord in the American right that the other candidates had no idea of how to deal with. And the other candidates fell away.

When Trump took the Republican nomination, we were shocked that a man like Donald Trump was in the running for President, and we felt especially happy that he was the one candidate Hillary could beat. What we did nit understand was that until election night is that it was precisely the opposite: Trump was the only Republican candidate who could have beaten Hillary. He was the only candidate who could say the kinds of things that he said about her. In the last half hour of the film, the focus is on focuses on Trump attacking “Crooked Hillary,” Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren, and his biggest target of all, the “fake news” media.

If you hate the Donald Trump you saw on the campaign trail and found his tactics appalling, you will feel that way all over again. If you thought that there is something inspiring about Trump, watch this movie for a laugh.

“NASSER’S REPUBLIC, THE MAKING OHF MODERN EGYPT”— The Heart of Modern Egypt

 

Nasser’s Republic, The Making of Modern Egypt”

The Heart of Modern Egypt

Amos Lassen

Gamal Abdel Nasser I considered by many to be the heart of modern Egypt and in this documentary, filmmaker Michal Goldman details Nasser’s rise to power in 1952, the Six-Day War with Israel in 1967 and his death in September of 1970 from a massive heart attack.   The legacy of these 18 years as president of Egypt are still felt today. Nasser is the person who remade a post-war Egypt into a nation that is at the center of the Middle East.

Goldman took four years to assemble, not only the history of Nasser, but to conduct numerous interviews with scholars, Islamists, secularists and the people of the street.  When we put all of this together, we get a fascinating look at modern Egypt and the man who made it what it became.

This is the first film for an American audience about one of the Arab world’s most transformative leaders. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Gamal Abdel Nasser became a symbol of Arab progress and dignity. From 1952 to 1970, he challenged Western hegemony abroad, confronted Islamism at home, and faced deep divisions among the Arabs. He also established the region’s first military authoritarian regime. Nasser was a man of enormous charisma and ambition but he Nasser had begun a revolution he could not complete. Nonetheless, his dreams, dilemmas and decisions continue to shape the current generation.

Goldman began work on this project before the January 2011 uprisings in Egypt and continued filming through General Sisi’s first year in power. During this period of turmoil, Egyptians argued with passion about their history as a way to see what course to follow in the future. It is their voices; the voices of peasants and professors, secularists and Islamists that drive this thus allowing us to see the multiculturalism that is Egypt.

In 1952, as an unknown young Egyptian colonel, Nasser led a coup that became a revolution. Over the next 18 years he challenged Western hegemony abroad, confronted Islamism at home, and faced deep divisions among the Arabs, yet he emerged as a champion of Arab progress and African liberation. However, he could not offer democracy and so instead, he established the region’s first and much emulated military authoritarian regime. But Nasser became “caught in the coils of his own power” and died at 52 with many dreams unrealized. His legacy became the Arab Spring and its aftermath are his legacy.

Between 2011 and 2015 Egypt experienced a period of turmoil, Egyptians argued about their history as a way to see what course to follow in the future. It is their voices that drive Egypt and this film.

Through rare archival material, new interviews and narration by actress Hiam Abbas, we find invaluable resources for historians, students and scholars. We see a myriad of contradictions and are left with many open-ended questions but we also clearly see that Nasser’s story remains at the heart of Egypt’s struggles.

The storyline is fresh and the archival footage is gripping as are the witnesses who drive the story. This is a “ compelling tale of shrewd political maneuverings, idealism and, at times, sadness. This regime’s echoing impacts on the Middle East will hit home for viewers.”

“Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir” by Jake Shears— “Portrait of the Artist”

Shears, Jake. “Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir”, Atria Books, 2018.

“Portrait of the Artist”

Amos Lassen

Jake Shears, the lead singer of the multiplatinum selling band Scissor Sisters and I have something in common. We both love New Orleans but while I choose to stay away, he chooses to live there. I grew up in New Orleans and while it is no longer home for me, the city remains a great place to visit.

In his new memoir, Shears looks at his life as he evolved from coming of age in the Pacific Northwest and Arizona, his entry into New York City’s electrifying, ever-changing music scene, and the Scissor Sisters’ rise as they reached international fame in the early 2000s.

He was not always Jake Shears. He had once been Jason Sellards, a teen living a double life in Arizona until he was unable to hide it any longer,. He had had to deal with a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little, if any, sympathy.

It took him years and once while on a trip to visit a childhood friend in New York City, that Jake met a musician nicknamed Babydaddy (the stage name of Scott Hoffman). Jake had found him to be a kindred spirit, a person who longed for stardom and freedom. Their instant bond led them to form Scissor Sisters. At first, they performed in the smoky gay nightclubs of New York City but then finding massive success in the United Kingdom where the Scissor Sisters became loved by the LGBTQ community and their recordings reached platinum status and they were rewarded with accolade after accolade. Shears holds nothing back in telling his story and we feel the same presence that we feel when we see him perform.

We read about his rise from a misfit boy who became a dazzling rock star and he is an inspiration.

“American Stranger” by David Plante— Coming of Age

Plante, David. “American Stranger”, Delphinium, 2018.

Coming of Age

Amos Lassen

I always look forward to a new book by David Plante who never disappoints language or plot wise and he is one of the few writers who can bring tears to my eyes by the beauty of his language. In “American Stranger” he gives us a coming of age story in which he manages to look at many aspects of American life. We meet Nancy Gold, the daughter of prosperous Jewish immigrants from Germany who left Berlin as soon as Nazism began to rise and they found a good life in New York on the Upper East Side.

Nancy is an only child and is very close to her parents. When we meets her she is working on a master’s degree in literature concentrating on Henry James at Boston University. During the course of the novel, she becomes involved with three men of different religions, Aaron, a Hasidic Jew who is converting to Catholicism, Yvon a French Canadian American who is Catholic, and Tim, an Egyptian Jewish man living London. What is interesting about this is that Nancy seems to be a passive person yet she manages to have three relationships. Yet even with these relationships, Nancy really seems to only connect with Henry James.

With the three men she is curious about each’s connection to his religion. In a sense, Nancy’s experiences in New York, Boston, and London are reminiscent of Henry James’s novels. Like much of James, pathos is the overriding image I get from Nancy’s story and it is this pathos that makes us indentify with Nancy. We want her to find the kind of love she is seeking and like the characters in Henry James’ works, Nancy deserves to be loved.

Even though her family is Jewish, Nancy’s parents were secular Jews and Nancy does not know much about their pasts. She knows they were World War II Jewish refugees who were able to escape Germany with precious family heirlooms and that these are constant reminders of a lost life and a world that Nancy knows very little about. Nancy longs for some kind of spiritual connection and this is what leads her to a Hassidic Jewish man who, unable to find meaning in his own religion, has taken vows to become a monk. Next, she becomes involved with a Catholic boy in Boston named Yvon who is trying to escape the clutches of Catholicism and his overbearing mother and he finds temporary refuge in Nancy and sees her as an escape from the insular enclave of Franco-Americans where he has spent most of his life. Their highly erotic, tempestuous relationship is fearful to both of them. Then, a tragedy in Yvon’s life eventually pulls them apart. This was devastating to Nancy and she marries a Jewish man from London, hoping to find herself with a man of her own religion. However, this new relationship was nothing compared to her relationship with Yvon and it ends very sadly and regrettably. Nancy goes back to Boston to find the man who she feels is the great love of her life.

This is the story of a Jewish graduate student who is always looking for what is not there. Nancy seems to be constantly adrift. She’s drawn to complicated men and finally after three miscarriages and then Tim’s confession of infidelity, she finally acts for herself. The novel is abstract and realistic at the same time and the read is quite cerebral and fulfilling.

“Gluck: Art and Identity” edited by Amy de la Haye and Martin Pel— Reassessing Gluck

De la Haye, Amy and Martin Pel, editors. “Gluck: Art and Identity”, Yale University Press, 2017.

Reassessing Gluck

Amos Lassen

Hannah Gluckstein (who called herself Gluck; 1895–1976) was a distinctive, original voice in the early evolution of modern art in Britain. This new volume gives us a major reassessment of Gluck’s life and work by examining the artist’s numerous personal relationships and contemporary notions of gender and social history as well as her art. Gluck’s paintings encompass the full range of artistic genres—still life, landscape, and portraiture—as well as images of popular entertainers. She was financially independent and considered herself to be freed from social convention. Gluck highlighted her sexual identity by having short hair short and dressing like a man. She is recognized as the artist who is known for a powerful series of self-portraits that played with conventions of masculinity and femininity. This volume is filled with wonderful illustrations and it provides a look at gender studies and the modern artist.

Gluck was born to a wealthy British family and as an artist, she had a string of high-profile lovers. Her paintings were emotive and humanistic. With her lesbian relationships and works taking in everything from portraiture to floral painting, Gluck was one of the most singular artists of the early 20th century. Gluck chose to become an artist. In keeping with her personality, however, she refused to identify with any particular school or painting movement. She took on the name Gluck, with ‘no prefix, suffix, or quotes’, she asserted and she resigned from a job at an art society after she was referred to as ‘Miss Gluck’. She also made floral studies, sometimes from arrangements by florist Constance Spry, who also became her lover. Spry introduced Gluck to American socialite Nesta Obermer with whom she fell in love.

Obermer didn’t divorce her wealthy husband, and while she and Gluck remained a couple, Gluck lived with another lover, journalist Edith Shackleton Heald (who had in turn been the lover of WB Yeats in his final years) 
 

In the 1950s, Gluck initiated a campaign for better quality oil paints, eventually ensuring a new standard from the British Standards Institution. However, the battle meant she did less painting until the 1960s. Gluck identified with no artistic school or movement and showed her work only in solo exhibitions, where it was displayed in a special frame Gluck invented and patented. This Gluck-frame rose from the wall in three tiers; painted or papered to match the wall on which it hung, it made the artist’s paintings look like part of the architecture of the room.

One of Gluck’s best-known paintings, “Medallion” is a portrait of Gluck and Nesta Obermer that was inspired by a night in 1936 when she attended a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”.

In her seventies, using special handmade paints supplied free by a manufacturer who had taken their exacting standards as a challenge, Gluck returned to painting and mounted another well-received solo show. This was Gluck’s first exhibition since 1937, and her last: she died in 1978.

I loved this book in that I learned so much about someone who I had really never heard of before.

“IMPERFECT SKY”— A Reunion

“Imperfect Sky”

A Reunion

Amos Lassen

Estranged brothers who were pulled apart during adolescence come together. Abel, the younger, is a 16-year old on the fast track to college with his entire life ahead of him. The older brother, Skyler (Blake Scott), is a 21-year old heroin addict and street hustler who’ seems content to settle for rock bottom. Before going to college, Abel makes an unannounced visit to Los Angles to see Skyler who is battling addiction.  What we see is the life of heroin in South Central Los Angeles.

“Imperfect Sky” is about living. As we watch, it is difficult not to think about ourselves and the fragility of human life self-contemplation and examination of human fragility. The characters are captivating, gritty, and realistic and director Graham Streeter shows the shocking truth of addiction and the gravity of the lifestyle of the addict whom is actively in his addiction.

Abel quickly sees the ugly consequences of addiction as his older brother has succumb to it and hustles to support his habits.

Visually this is a beautiful film. The acting is excellent all around and the story is well written and important.

“Queen of Spades” by Michael Shou-Yung Shum— Highs and Lows

Shum, Michael Shou-Yung. “Queen of Spades”, Forest Avenue Press, 2017.

Highs and Lows

Amos Lassen

“Queen of Spades” is a retelling and a revamping of a classic Pushkin fable of the same name. It has been transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino that is run by Mannheim, a pit boss with six months to live and Chan, a dealer who is obsessed by way an elderly customer known as the Countess manages her betting skill and Barbara, a recovering gambler who is trapped in a twelve-step program. In every aspect of a novel, this is a thriller. We see what happens when casino betting becomes a way of life rather than a pastime. Our three narrative threads come from the three aforementioned characters. Taking chances has become a way of life for these three and I found myself drawn into the story on the very first page. If you’re starting to get into the Betting marketing, you may want to have a look at casino wins, an online casino which you can download on your phone! Many prefer online casinos to the real thing because of their convenience and also due to the range of games that you can play on a mobile casino platform. Additionally, you may be getting into betting as a way to earn a side income. This can be dangerous, as betting is known as probability and chance-based. However, if you use a technique like matched betting, which allows those betting to profit successfully based on a mathematical equation, it’s likely you’ll find this more achievable. There are many sites online that offer matched betting services, but always read reviews on these sites first, such as this Oddsmonkey review.

We meet and get to know the types of people who spend their time in casinos and racetracks and are taken into their lives. We see that gambling, like drugs, can be addictive while at the same time, gambling can put one in touch with something greater than his/herself if luck plays its part. Writer Shou-Yung Shum focuses more on both the technical aspects and the “flow state” that players can sometimes enter into.

The story is set in Snoqualmie, Washington, a suburban community about ten minutes from Seattle. The big casino is at the center of the economy and also at the center of our characters’ lives.

“Queen of Spades” is something of a tribute to the thrill that comes from gambling and the risks that we take to find meaning in our lives. We enter a world where cosmic forces are at play and odd characters take their chances at tables in the casino. For a first novel, there are many surprises here but above them all is our new author Michael Shou-Yung Shum who I am quite sure that we will be hearing a great deal from and about. The novel wonderfully brings together humor and pathos and we meet unforgettable characters. We also get a look at how a casino works. For some, this may not be appealing due to the rising prevalence of online casinos instead. However, the games at Casino-Korea have a similar concept to a real-life casino layout, so this is definitely informative for anyone looking to get involved with the gambling scene. The story moves quickly and the more we read, the more we care about the characters. While the story is related from several points of views, we never get lost figuring out who is who.

“ROWAN & MARTIN’S LAUGH IN”— Season Two

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”

Season Two

Amos Lassen

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” was an American television program that ran for 140 episodes from January 22, 1968, to March 12, 1973 on the NBC television network. The hosts were comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. The title of the show was a play on the ”love-ins” and “be-ins” of the 1960s hippie culture. The humor of “Laugh In” came from vaudeville and burlesque but it also added satire and the show consisted of gags and sketches, many of which used sexual innuendos and politics.

At various times the show featured announcer Gary  Owens, Goldie Hawn, Arte Johnson, Richard Pryor, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Alan Sues, Lily Tomlin, Teresa Graves, Larry Hovis, Chelsea Brown, Sarah Kennedy, Jeremy Lloyd, Dave Madden, Pigmeat Markham, Pamela Rodgers, Jud Strunk, Richard Dawson, Moosie Drier, Barbara Sharma, and Johnny Brown.

During season two, each episode followed a somewhat similar format, often including recurring sketches. The show started with a short dialogue between Rowan and Martin. Shortly afterward, Rowan would intone: “C’mon Dick, let’s go to the party”. This was made up of all cast members and occasional surprise celebrities dancing before a 1960s party backdrop as they delivered one- and two-line jokes interspersed with a few bars of dance music. The show then proceeded through rapid-fire comedy bits, taped segments, and recurring sketches.

At the end of every show, Rowan turned to his co-host and said, “Say good night, Dick”, to which Martin replied, “Good night, Dick!”. The show then featured cast members’ opening panels in a “joke wall” and telling jokes. As the show drew to a close and the applause died, executive producer George Schlatter’s clapping alone and it continued even as the screen turned blank. The arrangement of the segments was often interchanged. The second season had a handful of new people, including Alan Sues, Dave Madden, and Chelsea Brown. “Laugh In” was once of the guilty pleasures of my youth.