“LOVE ME”— The Kindness of Strangers

love me

“Love Me” (“Sev beni”)

The Kindness of Strangers

Amos Lassen

Have you ever tried to define the word, “love”? The meaning of love has been pondered since the beginning of time and it has always been a good idea for the world of movies. In “Love Me” we get a whole new take on looking for love and it deals with what are referred to as mail-order brides. We have all heard of mail-order brides but I am fairly that most of us have never had contact with one or have any idea of how to go about getting one. Of course now with the Internet taking over for the mail, I am not sure the term “mail-order” has any real meaning anymore. Director Jonathon Narducci explores the mail-order bride industry by introducing us to two websites, A Foreign Affair and Elena’s Models, and a group of men (and their Ukrainian female counterparts) who are willing to drop thousands of dollars to make it all work.

The men we meet here are interesting—there are those that have been in loving relationships, those who have never been in love and those who are tired of American women. It costs nothing to join the websites and men get a chance to browse thousands of women. Most of the women are Ukrainian and if one wants to send a message to one of the gals, it costs just $10 to do so and the cost includes the translation fee.

The men take a trip to the Ukraine and once there, they visit three different cities and have the chance to mingle with single women at social events. Some fall instantly in love while others feel uneasy about the entire affair.

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“Love Me” is an examination of what people do to find love. We basically get two different looks about what happened to the men who went to the Ukraine hoping to find a mate. Then are those that found what they think to be love and there are those who feel the entire business is a rip-off and a moneymaking scam. Then there are the women and what they think and by hearing what they have to say gives the film more leverage as not just a look at the male idea of love. There are scenes that are lovely to watch but they are often juxtaposed with scenes of sorrow and loneliness that others feel. Watching the film more or less makes us look at the way we define love.

At the center of the film are Cemal (Ushan Cakir) and Sasha (Viktoria Spesivtseva). Cemal is about to marry a girl chosen for him by his mother. This takes place in rural Turkey chose for him where arranged marriages are still common. At the henna ceremony (traditionally part of the fertility ritual that take places on the eve of a wedding usually at the bridal home) his friend asks Cemal which football team his fiancée supports but Cemal wonders why he should talk to a girl about football in the first place. He is actually on the brink of marrying somebody whom he has barely talked to. He has probably never had any long-term relationships and he is sexually inexperienced. This is not uncommon in that p[art of the world and in the culture of the people. Cemal’s uncle suggests that he should accompany his friends to Ukraine on a business trip. Cemal is quite reluctant to join the team at first but he ultimately he gives in to his uncle. For Cemal’s uncle and his friends, the Ukraine is a place to let off steam with beautiful Slavic sex workers who are nicknamed “Natashas”. Cemal meets Sasha at a strip club in Kiev. She is the mistress of a wealthy man and wants to have a baby so that she can secure her future. Sasha takes Cemal home but nothing worked out as anticipated. Sasha learns that her grandmother ran away from the nursing home where she has been living and this spoils the evening but that it not the only reason. There are also cultural clashes and differences between Sasha and Cemal.

The movie presents us with ethnic and racial stereotypes. The Turkish men that we see come across as lecherous and are looking for sex away from “ugly Turkish wives”. All of the Turkish guys except Cemal are just lecherous people who want to have the time of their lives away from their ‘ugly’ Turkish wives. The Slavic women appear sensual to the eyes of Turkish men but it is not really how they look. They are really uninhibited in both their dress and behavior.

They make the women of Turkey seem inhibited physically and this is due to the patriarchal structure of their religion and the various ways that have lived. Turkish men are actually the victims of a system that they’ve built up themselves. This is why they might sound horny, uncouth and inconsiderate to us in the West. Slavic women behave the way they do because they think that this is how they are seen by society. One thing that he film does not deal with is that women are forced into prostitution. I am not going to disclose anything about how this film ends so as not to spoil the viewing experience for anyone else. This is an interesting take on love and dating even though it is foreign to many of us.

“Mea Culpa: Lessons on Law and Regret from U.S. History” by Steven W. Bender— Shame and the Evolution of Law

mea culpa

Bender, Steven W. “Mea Culpa: Lessons on Law and Regret from U.S. History”, NYU Press, 2015.

Shame and the Evolution of Law

Amos Lassen

I do not believe many of us think about the shame that this country has felt about slavery and segregationist Jim Crow laws and that our legislation has been a response to that regret. In “Mea Culpa”, Author Steven W. Bender shows us how this came to be and its results. He examines both

policies and practices that affected the lives of groups that have been historically marginalized and oppressed and in doing so he “is able to draw persuasive connections between shame and its eventual legal manifestations.” Bender goes on to analyze the historical response to the atrocities that as a country she is responsible for and in doing so he shows how morality actually takes us away from those policies and practices that come back at us with a sense of moral regret.

Bender forces us to take a good look at ourselves and consider the way we have traditionally considered who we are—as exceptional and enlightened people. However, had the times been different, we certainly might have been slave owners and/or participated in racial segregation. Looking at immorality historically is one thing but what about current practices that later generations will regret?

While at first it may appear that we are reading a historical survey, we later realize that Bender gives us a framework “for resolving some of the most contentious social problems of our time.” He examines the issues of immigration, the death penalty, the war on terror, reproductive rights, welfare, wage inequity, homelessness, mass incarceration, and same sex marriage. He then says that it is ultimately “the dehumanization of human beings that allows for practices to occur that will later be marked as regrettable.” Each and everyone have “a stake in standing on the side of history that resists dehumanization.” There is not just an accidental relationship between law, jurisprudence, and morals. He shows that we have accepted policies because of sorrow and regret. Bender says that we can move forward when dealing with laws that have been the result of compassion. In doing so we reassert our commitment to define the word community and also avoid personal feelings that lead to national regret. The examples Bender provides are upsetting and they have hurt those who are marginalized for whatever reason in this country and its politics.

“THE KING OF ESCAPE”— “Raising Cocks in Rural France”

King-of-Escape

“The King of Escape” (“Le roi de l’évasion” )

“Raising Cocks in Rural France”

Amos Lassen

Armand is a gay, middle-aged tractor salesman who is looking for a change in his life. He surprisingly fell in love with Curly, his biggest competitor’s daughter and they run away together. Directed by Alain Guiradie who became famous with “Stranger by the Lake”, this is a French farce that shows signs of the boldness that we see in the latter film. The town where Armand lives is known for cruising and it is part of the daily life of most of the citizens of the town where the film is set. The nearby woods are the place where both gay and straight men go to relieve sexual tension by engaging in circle jerks.

Armand (Ludovic Berthillot) is a not-so-bright heavy regular kind of guy who actually prefers men but we meet hi when he has fallen in love with Curly (Hafsia Herzi), and the two become sexual which incites the town, especially Curly’s father. In fact, he was arrested for doing and was forced to wear a sex offender bracelet but he is quick to saw it off of his wrist. For Armand, the relationship is only sexual but for Curly, it a sexual fantasy come true. The film brings together cynicism and self-assurance in Guiraudie’s voice in both films. Those who are horny here are the kind of people that most of us would consider to be both no—sexy and non-sexual. The horny bodies in the film are the kind that many of us would classify as un-sexy and non-sexual. I got the impression that what the film is really about is who fits inside of whom and derives pleasure from it.

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The attitude toward sex in the film is that is nothing shocking about having it and “the more the merrier”. Impromptu sex, like when Armand orally satisfies his boss is part of the human experience, like having a coffee or a beer. No one pays attention to restrictions that many place on sexual orientation sexual gender roles and thoughts about masculinity.

Here is cruising for sex among those who are chubby, bald, gray-haired, and slacker-looking regular people who live life as it comes and find pleasure where they can. It is because Armand is facing a mid-life crisis that tries sex with women. It happened one night that he rescued Curly from a bunch of bullies by paying them off. He was surprised that all that was said to him by Curly’s father (who works with Armand at the same company) was thanks.

Curly, who is only 16-years-old, falls for Armand, who is already becoming bored with rural gay sex and he returns her feelings in kind and the two set off running away from the town. Curly’s father has other ideas only because he thinks Curly is too young and Armand is a slob so he files a complaint against him and this is what causes them to run away. They are followed by the local cops, Curly’s father and some of his friends.

Granted the plot sounds simple and it is but it seems that because of that the director is able to give us a look at a rich selection of character types who are not hung-up about sex. It is these characters that give the film its special comic sense. There are a lot of sex scenes and they staged with a good deal of wit and realism but the most surprising aspect of the film is that it makes the characters of Armand and Curly seem real and their unlikely relationship seem sincere.

“THE EICHMANN SHOW”— Filming the Trial

the eichmann show 1

“The Eichmann Show”

Filming the Trial

Amos Lassen

A fascinating new film from the BBC, “The Eichmann Show”,  is a dramatization of the team hoping to televise the trial of Adolf Eichmann (in case you are not familiar with him, Eichmann was an infamous Nazi who responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews).

The focus of the film is on Leo Hurwitz (Martin Freeman), a documentary filmmaker and Milton Fruchtman (Anthony LaPaglia), a producer. The Eichmann trial was described back then (1961) as the ‘trial of the century’ and was broadcast on TV in 37 countries and was the first time the horror of the death camps had been heard live directly from its victims. It was the very first global TV event. We hear and see with this new film the story of the production team that overcame enormous obstacles to capture the testimony of one of the war’s most notorious Nazis.

Hurwitz was a critically acclaimed filmmaker who had pioneered multi-camera studio broadcasting. He had also been blacklisted under McCarthy for more than a decade. To film the trial was a momentous job and together he and Fruchtman had to quickly train an inexperienced camera team and as well as persuade the judges to change their minds and let them film the trial. The team had to work under intense pressure and finally it was able to win permission to film by rebuilding the courtroom with specially concealed cameras. During a four month period, highlights of the trial were cut together quickly at the end of each day and then beamed all around the world. The effect of this was sensational and profound as we watched a man accused of being responsible for the genocide of sex million Jews face his charges as well as families of those who lives were ended by his policy of ridding the world of the Jewish people. Day after day during the trial, Holocaust survivors shared their testimony with audiences around the world while at the same time Eichmann stunned the world with his lack of contrition. Eighty percent of the German population watched at least one hour a week. It went out on all three US networks with daily news bulletins in the United Kingdom and the result were that people fainted when they saw it on TV, and for many, it was the first time many of the victims that survived openly shared their experiences of the Holocaust. The extraordinary story of how the trial came to be televised and the team that made it happen has never been told until now. On a more personal level, I remember sitting glued to the television as the trial progressed. Making up this new film is extensive archive footage from the trial and it is this footage that the realities of this pivotal event were seen by a new audience from a new generation. Let me recap what happened before the trial. In 1961 former Nazi Adolf Eichmann was captured by Israeli agents and put on trial. American television producer Milton Fructhman believed that the trial with its witness accounts of Nazi atrocities should be televised to show the world the evils of the Holocaust and to combat any resurgence of Nazism so he joined forces with blacklisted director Leo Hurwitz. Despite death threats, reluctance to cooperate from several networks and even resistance from the Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who was a bit afraid of a ‘show trial’, Hurwitz and Fructhman persisted and moved their cameras into the courtroom.

After the war, Eichmann made his way to Argentina. During the war, he had been responsible for facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.



The cast is uniformly excellent.  Aside from parts of the trial itself, we see the logistics involved in bringing the trial to television screens all over the world as well as the problems the production team face along the way. Outweighing everything, of course, is the horror of the holocaust, and how a man can be responsible for such evil.

In no way is this easy viewing but it is necessary viewing so that nothing like Nazi Germany will ever happen again. It is difficult to watch without tearing up and it shows how incomprehensible it is to see such evil yet it is also inspiring to hear from those who lived during this period. If Eichmann was capable of bring such a monster, can we then assume that this could the case for each and every one of us. One way to make sure that this will never recur is to see this film. Fortunately the shots of Auschwitz are short but their effects are not. We look because we want to understand but even then we cannot do so. The film ends with an accusation to those who judge people by their race, their religion, and their ethnicity—on anything but their character could end up like this mass murderer did.

At the trial, it was perhaps the first time that the witnesses who were there described the horror to a large audience. The judges were not comfortable with the cameras but they also realized that this trial was historical and of great importance. Eichmann remained impassive throughout the trial, even as the footage was shown and witnesses’ testimony was given. I, on the other hand, could not hold back my feelings.

More than almost any other single event, it was the trial of Adolf Eichmann that, in 1961 that brought the Holocaust into the public consciousness of the world. In both Europe and Israel, the trial marked the beginning of the end of a period, immediately after the Second World War, when the Holocaust was deliberately ignored and forgotten but it was because of television that this changed. The film emphasizes the witnesses of the crimes of Eichmann and while hearing his testimony is important, it is more important to hear from those from whom he had taken everything. There was great excitement when the trial began but soon after the media seemed to lose interest. Then there were other big stories—the Cuban missile crisis for one and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin for another. This was of great concern of Israeli authorities that really wanted the world to see the trial.

There were 112 survivors of the Holocaust who spoke at witnesses and for many of them this was the first time that they spoke out publicly and were seen as survivors. With them the trial took a new direction and an even greater importance. It was at this point that the world knew that silence about the Holocaust was dead and the Holocaust moved into center ring and was never to be silenced again. As the trial moved forward, people all over the world, especially in Germany and Israel, listened and listened with their ears and their hearts. There was a new awareness among the young and as time went on, the Holocaust became one of the main focuses of discourse in Israel. The trial changed how Israelis saw themselves and the native born Israeli, the Sabra, was no longer the sole definition of Israeli identity.

“Play It Forward” by Frederick Smith— Secrets

play it forward

Smith, Frederick. “Play It Forward”, Bold Strokes Books, 2015.

Secrets

Amos Lassen

Michael Campbell runs an organization in Los Angeles that works with gay youth and now his nephew, Blake, is coming to visit him for the summer. He has been one of the pillars of the community and a role model in his family but everything gets a bit crazy when a secret about himself that he is not aware of turns up on the Internet.

Tommie Jordan is a singer and Tyrell Kincaid is a professional basketball player and the two men have a private relationship while at the same time they are public heroes in African American life. However, they have been a little too lackadaisical in terms of their relationship and soon there are questions about them and what they share becomes a news item when both the paparazzi and the famous gossip reporter Livonia Birmingham feed the rumors. Jordan, Kincaid and Campbell are suddenly thrown into the spotlight and suddenly everything they have done is put at risk and they are forced into finding ways to protect who they are, what they love and the future of their careers.

Many of us do not realize the power of the Internet and that once something is posted there, not only can the entire world read it but it does not disappear. With Campbell who had always been a model citizen and an inspiration to both boys and their parents, it was especially dangerous. He worked hard to make the world better for young gays but with the reproduction of some unflattering videos of him with his ex-boyfriend show up on the internet, he realizes that everything he has ever done is in a precarious situation and this remained true even after the videos were removed. The videos also affect the life of Kincaid who Campbell once met at one of the events that his organization sponsored. The videos show a wisp of something going on between the two men and Kincaid was already the object of speculation regarding his private life. He has had a rough time fighting the rumors about his relationship with Jordan. Let’s face it, we all know how devastating rumors can be and when those rumors are accompanied by photos, it is hard to deny them.

I have said many times that we need more writing that explores the African American gay community and author Frederick Smith does a wonderful job of filling that gap by giving us a story that can certainly happen in the world today and we really see here the power of both secrets and rumors. The main emphasis here is on how Malcolm copes with all of this and we get an interesting look at the world of the celebrity, living in the closet and the nature of being a role model and we see that one must be honest not only with the world but with himself.

“A Healing Man” (“Men of Manhattan 5″) by Sandrine Gasq-Dion— Facing the Biggest Battle

a healing man

Gasq-Dion, Sandrine. “A Healing Man”, (“Men of Manhattan Book 5”), Wilde City Press, 2015.

Facing the Biggest Battle

Amos Lassen

The war has been rough and Dario Ramos thought he had left it behind when he was sent home with a life-threatening injury. He soon learned that his biggest battle was yet to come and that was in the form of an Irishman, Tiernan Callahan, who seemed to be everywhere Dario went. Dario knew about pain and he also knew that anger was a great release. However, he soon realized that there are other ways to release what he felt.

Tiernan is one of New York City’s finest and he still mourns his lost younger brother, Mason. Mason was gay but knew this was something he could not tell his family even though he was engaged to the man he loved. Tiernan is filled with anger and guilt and seeing Dario made him very angry until he understood that it was not only anger that he felt. Here we have two men each dealing with healing and if they would only look at each other, they might be able to help each other heal. Granted this sounds like a story full of guilt and anger and it is not that at all. It is a comedy and a romance that seldom rises about fluff fiction but I mean in a positive way. It is well written and cute; it has something to say but it requires little if any thought. For me this is a release from some of the heavier fiction that I read and I thoroughly enjoyed both the book and the break. It is always great fun to watch former enemies discover love in each other.

We get the story from each of the major characters first-person perspective and we read as anger turns to lust and lust becomes love. The two men are opposites in many ways but above all we are aware of their differences in terms of who they are. Dario is who he is and does not care who knows while Tiernan is a man with secrets. I am fairly sure that there will be those readers who will feel that the change in Tiernan came too quickly to believable but this is fiction any anything goes—I loved that is happened as quickly as it did. He had to deal with the fact that his own brother did not trust him enough to confide in him about his sexuality and this could be the reason that he was quick to fall for another man.

While this book can stand alone, it is also a part of a series and by reading the other books, I have learned that it might be easier to understand what happened here but it is not a necessity to do so. There is sex and there is sensitivity and all in all, this is a terrific read.

“Creature Comfort” by Rob Rosen— After the Apocalypse

creature comfort

Rosen, Rob. “Creature Comfort”, Fierce Publishing 2015

After the Apocalypse

Amos Lassen

Satire is very difficult to write and unless it catches you right away, it falls flat. Rob Rosen combines satire with speculative fiction to give us a very funny story in “ Creature Comfort”. Set some three hundred years into the apocalypse, Creature Comfort, the zombie queen, and her lover, Dara Licked have left Utah and the salt factory they run together and come to New York where drag has totally take over, so much so, that even the Statue of Liberty is dressed up and stands tall while a bevy of drag queens surround her base. The world is in serious trouble and threatened by unseen forces. Beneath this outlandish plot is a true adventure; one that involves friends and the meanings of love and being alive. Keeping that in mind, be prepared for one of the craziest and funniest books you may ever read with a cast of characters that is absolutely amazing.

This is one of the most difficult books to describe because there is so much going on (but it not a difficult read at all—in fact, it is great fun). It is also the first drag queen/zombie novel I have read which makes it very special. It is a comedy and it is a romance along with being speculative fiction and it has something for everyone. We are not sure what is going on below the lady in the harbor but whatever it is, Creature and Dara are out to save the world. Their army consists of Ginger St. James, Va Va Voom, Aflo Shee, Ricky Shea and his wife, Lola Fontaine. Now we add mystery to the zaniness and get a book that creates its own genre.

In Creature, Rosen gives us an unforgettable character that is determined to find out why and what is happening to the drag queens on Lady Liberty’s island and in doing so important themes are brought up. Mayhem rules here and if you are like me, you will laughing so hard that you will it difficult to turn the pages fast enough.

Simply put, there is a group of drag queens living in New York City in the harbor and there is some kind of mystery about them (I am trying to avoid giving a spoiler) and then there two straight lovers who are in trouble. It takes Creature and Dara to try to save them. As I said before we are taken on a crazy adventure but it is important to note that there is a method and a message to the madness. What I really like is that the book requires no thought, just the ability to sit back and read and laugh. What a great for a cold winter night.

“Best Gay Erotica” edited by Rob Rosen— Literary Smut and That’s a Good Thing

best gay erotica 2015

Rosen, Rob (editor). “Best Gay Erotica 2015”, Cleis Press, 2015.

Literary Erotica and That’s a Good Thing

Amos Lassen

Every year I look forward to Cleis Press’s “best books” especially the best of gay erotica. This year we have a new editor, one of my favorite gay writers, Rob Rosen and I can just imagine the job he had selecting these very hot stories. In fact, this year’s anthology is so good that I am going to break one of my own rules—instead of just looking at the book as a whole I am going to tell about the stories as well.

The first thing I noticed about the collection this year that aside from having a new editor is that the stories are not only erotic—they are literary and fit into the category of “literary smut”, a term I coined when I first began reviewing several years ago. As you read this review and the stories you will understand what I mean. Something else that I noticed in this anthology is the diversity—they all share erotica in common but who knew that there are so many different kinds? First I want to share the blurb for the book because it is such a good summary of what we find once we begin to start reading.

On a more personal note, I have been reviewing Rob Rosen for a long time. In fact, his novel “Sparkle” so resonated with me that I read it over and over and even thought I have never met Rosen I feel as if I know him and if we ever do meet, I am sure we will be friends. His sarcasm and his irony so match mine that a conversation between the two of his will undoubtedly end up with his laughing so hard that we cannot speak. I love a man who can laugh at himself and at his community—read “Sparkle” and you will quickly see what I mean.

One of the difficulties of writing erotica is making it ring true. Writing dirty stories does not take a lot of talent but writing erotica does—the author has to know when to stop and let the reader’s mind take over. This anthology includes a bit of every kind of literature and hence the term anthology really fits here.

Richard Michaels brings us “Different Strokes” which is very funny and to give away any of the plot would not be fair because you have to read and experience this story yourself. What I can say is that I cannot recall have laughed so hard over erotica before. It’s a real treat and I am not saying any more than that.

When I was a young kid there was an unmarried male member of my synagogue that the woman referred as a “feygele”, a Yiddish word for little bird, it came to be slang for a gay man (“because everyone knows that gay men flit around like little birds or fairies”). I have never flitted but I hated that word until I made it my own when I bought a t-shirt that has the word emblazoned on the front in rainbow colors. That was how I was going to prove my mother wrong—she would call her own son a fairy but alas she did but in an endearing way. This takes us to the story “Feygele” by Alex Stitt. This feygele is a travel writer as well as an epicure of men. He sees men as birds (go figure) and since there are so many different kinds of birds, it naturally follows that there are different kinds of men. Our Feygele remembers all of the men he has been with but thinking about the birds he equated them to. Then there was that one night with the firebird and he continues to search for him for a rematch or several. Aside from the bird references, the story is sexy in the way it is set. It is a lyrical story that a smile on the face and an erection in the pants.

Two contractors manage to get a priest to join in a threesome in “Choice” by Rhidian Brenig Jones and this is story that is so realistically written that you feel as if it is happening right before your eyes. The way the two drifters get the priest to come along is through their charms and this is not the kind of story we get to read everyday—I actually felt it as I read it and in fact, I am still not over it.

What happens when three different repairman come to the same place; the home of a Mr. March who did not call for even one. Nonetheless, March invited each of them in and for him it was a fantasy that came to life. What happens however is left for the reader to dream up and I imagine that each of us who has a fantasy involving a repairman or two or three will understand the story in relation to how he wants it to play out. This is “Super Service” by Michael Richards.

Another fantasy that is popular in our community is about bikes. In “Hot Man Boulevard” by Jacqueline Brocker, we meet Chris, an Aussie who has been in Paris for six months. He finds Paris to be much more formal than Australia or so he thought until a Harley found its way into a café where Chris was eating. On the bike was one gorgeous hunk of masculinity and Chris is taken in by him immediately. When the biker offers him a ride, Chris quickly accepts and we find ourselves in the middle of a very hot story.

Salome Wilde’s “Like Magic” is set at a carnival where we meet David now an adult who is looking back at his youth when he had lusted after a magician. As he revisits the magician now, the look in his eyes was caught by the man he yearned for and this got him an invitation backstage. Backstage is where real magic happens…for both men.

 Gregory Norris’s “The Man in Black” is science fiction story about abduction in space. There is an alien who has the ability to be every man’s lust object… so we learn from our abductee. In other words, the alien was able to change at will and thereby enhance any fantasy. I love the way the reader moves back and forth between fear and joy and the eroticism is of the finest kind.

I have often wondered what ever happened to Xavier Axelson who would contact me regularly when he had a new book out and it has been about two or three years since I have heard from him. I was really glad to see him included here with his short story,

“From Here to There”. I remember that Axelson had written some really fine erotica and he once again comes through with this story about a road racer. While on his way to a friend’s wedding, Duncan sees a guy on a motorcycle with the most perfect and beautiful pair of legs he has ever seen. When the cyclist sees him looking at his legs so intently, Duncan becomes embarrassed and focuses on the road ahead. He was on his way to a winery where the wedding was to take place and suddenly the cycle pulled out from behind him and the two men begin to play a game which totally fires Duncan up. But then he lost city of the bike and pulling off the road to compose himself and get a bite to eat, he finds the cycler who suggests something better than food and I am sure you can guess what that is.

Pride takes center stage in “Rookie Glitch” by Martha Davis. Mike comes from a family of policeman; in fact, he is a fourth generation cop. He is proud of his profession and wants to make really good at it so when he sees mistakes, he overlooks them. He also lusts after his superior office, Jason. As we all know, it is against all rules on the police force to fall for someone else on the job but he cannot help himself and even when Jason makes the first move, Mike stands back. Here is a story about knowing how far you can go even when the feeling is mutual and this makes it all the more exciting.

From Kenzie Matthews we get something of a paranormal study in “Outlaws and Bad Men”. Hoping to get a ride and a good meal, Lochlan tries hitchhiking. He figures his body is the key to financial success and he has a plan. Chase stops and offers him a ride and even though he is not the kind of guy that Lochlan is interested in, he is hungry so he gets in the car. The conversation between the two is very sexually arousing and before he realizes Lochlan is totally in tune with Chase. He realizes that, this time, he is not the hustler and when Chase goes off on his own, Lochlan decides to catch up with him and show him who is really calling the shots. However, it doesn’t work out that way and he understands that Chase could be a great mate as the two men try to catch each other.

Editor Rosen also has a story here, “No Ifs, Ands or Butts” about what happens when what was a fantasy really happens. It is all about staring at a guy in the shower in the next stall. Todd cannot help but admire Dan’s beautiful behind and deliberately makes sure that his visits to the gym coincide with when Dan is there. He also makes sure that they both hit the showers at the same time and as they shower Todd shares, drops his soap and does whatever it takes to get a better look at Dan’s fabulous ass cheeks. This usually ends with Todd running into the stalls in the bathroom and finishing himself off but then, one day, Dan follows him… I love the way Rosen evoke the smell of a locker room and the testosterone that is contained within.

 ”Nothing to Lose” by Dale Chase brings us Alex who is on a downward spiral after his partner dumps him and moves on. Chase deals with the feelings we have when things do not go right for us and writes about bravado, anger and sadness. As we read we share these emotions along with Alex. As he argues with himself and faces his life head-on, we cannot help but commiserate with him. He is determined to prove to everyone and himself that he is wanted and that he really is not letting the breakup ruin his life. The wedding is to be his arena and he uses it well. He is able to have sex with the groom, with a married man and with one of the waiters. However, he cannot keep the fact that he is hurting because of the doomed relationship and he begins to drink heavily and ultimately finds himself in bed with an older man at which point he realizes that being good looking on the outside has nothing to do with what one is on the inside.

I did not expect this review to be this long so I my looks at the other stories will be shorter than those about the other stories. Please understand that this is just because of time constraints and has nothing to do with the quality of the stories.

Spencer is the main character in “Payment in Full” by T. R. Verten. He is a single parent and he is well aware of the problems of getting a sitter and having time to find romance. He learns about a service that provides both. This is a really funny that is erotic at the same time. You probably will never forget what happens in the kitchen. 


 Off to the rodeo we go with Logan Zachary and the story, “Bullheaded”. For many gay men the rodeo hold great allure. However at this rodeo the characters awkward and you may look at rodeos in the same way again.

Nordus is a dwarf and the main character in “Freyr’s Toothache” by Mark Wildyr. He is getting older and Freyr, a god grants him both good looks and makes him mortal. Now he can flirt with those who shunned him as a dwarf and he is being lusted after by another god. This, of course, causes Nordus to try to find a way to get rid of the pain and his tooth. All he really knows about his toothache is that it can be transferred. He hopes that the son of the blacksmith might be the one to help him.

This is quite a fun read so try to treat yourself to a copy.

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kinsey1

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The Kinsey Sicks have finally abandoned our status as the only people in the in the world not to release a parody of the song, “Let it Go”. And this parody – “Let it Grow” – is worth waiting for!
Check out our celebration of women with body hair and share with all your friends! (Warning: once viewed, this video cannot be unseen, and may prove painfully impossible to forget.)

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The Kinsey Sicks

“I Carry My Mother” by Leslea Newman— Leslea’s Back

I Carry My Mother FRONT

Newman, Leslea, “I Carry My Mother”, Headmistress Press, 2015.

Leslea’s Back

Amos Lassen

Leslea Newman has always been one of my guilty pleasures and I anxiously look forward to each new book she writes. I was just beginning to worry because I had not seen anything new from her when, sure enough, she wrote me to ask me to review her new collection of poetry that explores her journey through her mother’s illness and death. I can only imagine how painful it must have been for her to write these poems that pay homage to her mother and the result is a gorgeous collection. She writes about her mother from the time she was diagnosed with cancer through the mourning period, the yahrtzeit, and I was constantly reminded of my own mother who died while I was living in Israel. We all know and understand how painful losing a mother can be. I was lucky enough not to see my mother suffer—she was diagnosed with emphysema and died while I was away. It was not so easy for Leslea who was with her mother as she went through the process of dying.

 From diagnosis through yahrtzeit (one-year anniversary of death), the poet shares with us what it is to lose a mother and she does so in a variety of poetic forms—- sonnet, pantoum, villanelle, sestina, terza rima, haiku, etc). Newman is a poet even when she writes in prose and we really see that here. Because the poems are so personal, they are emotional and they are beautifully written. For any of us who have lost someone that we loved, there is a poem here.

 It is difficult to write about relationships between parents and adult children. Most of us are quick to criticize our parents for whatever reason and vow that “when we grow up”, we will do things differently. Often we find ourselves becoming the same kind of people as our parents were. On a recent trip to New Orleans to visit my sister, I was surprised to hear her say that she had become just like our mother and we see with this statement just how much influence our mothers have on our lives. Newman went through a lot with her mother’s health and we feel the love and the pain that exist side by side. We are all familiar with, “you don’t know what you have until you no longer have it”. The situations might be different but the feeling of loss and pain are the same. I immediately recognized why she chose to write poems in different poetic styles—-emotions change and when they do the ways of expressing them change as well. A poem about the way one feels after losing a parent certainly cannot be the same as a poem about being alone together. We become accustomed to caring for someone who is ill and when we lose them we do not lose what we did for them—it stays with us. It is similar to hearing a song with your mother and then after she is gone, you never forget that you heard that song with her.

It is important to remember that poems about someone who has died are not necessarily sad even if they evoke a feeling of sadness. What these poems do is cause us to remember and memories are not always sad. Yes I shed tears as I read and this is because I am human like everyone else. I barely remember my mother now but Newman’s poems reminded me of things I had forgotten. So often our memory plays tricks on us and as I read Leslea’s poems I was reminded of so much about my own mother and how I still regret to this day that I could not get back to the States for her funeral. The Jewish religion is quite strict about burial and mourning and funerals are to held within 24 hours of death. Living in Israel at the time did not permit me to get to New Orleans and even if I had left the moment I got the news, I would have missed the interment. The last time I saw my mother was 1975 when she came to visit me in Israel and somehow I knew that that was going to be the last time we would be together. Reading Leslea’s poems reminded me of so much I had forgotten and as I read them I felt my mother was right there beside me.

I also love that the poet brings her father into the picture by writing about what she sees when her mother and father were together. You sense the love they shared and you know that neither parent wanted their love to end this way. The most important thing I learned from these poems is that we never forget our mothers. They are always a part of us and it is because of them, in many cases, that we are who we are today. Yet not all of us have the tools or the emotions to write about our mothers. I feel very lucky that Leslea Newman could do that for me. Yes, she was specifically writing about her mother and had no idea she was writing my mother or yours. To me, that is a beautiful thought.

I cannot leave this review without giving a sample of the poems herein and it is so hard to choose so I just opened the book and where that was is this poem.

 “So Long”

 “So long

between the day

she took her final breath

and the day we laid her to rest

So long.”

 

Lesléa Newman is the author of 65 books for readers of all ages including the poetry collections, Still Life with Buddy, Nobody’s Mother, and Signs of Love, and the novel-in-verse, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. Ms. Newman has received many literary awards including poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and a Stonewall Honor from the American Library Association. Her poetry has been published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, Evergreen Chronicles, Harvard Gay and Lesbian Review, Lilith Magazine, Kalliope, The Sun, Bark Magazine, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Seventeen Magazine and others. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists. From 2008-2010 she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently she is a faculty member of Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.