“STAND”— A Film for Our Time

stand

“Stand”

A Film for Our Time

Amos Lassen

With the recent worldwide condemnation of Russia’s rash of anti-gay violence Jonathan Taieb’s film is very timely. The film is not just about the problems in Russia but it also an interesting story. We meet Anton (Renat Shuteev), who faces a moral dilemma when he witnesses a fatal homophobic attack in Moscow— Does he investigate the brutal act (the police surely won’t) and put himself in danger, or does he set aside his outrage and play it safe (or at least as safe as one can be in dangerous Russia)? His boyfriend is afraid for him to act but Anton continues on searching for the perpetrators of murder and as he does the suspense of the film continues.

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The film not only captures not just the situation regarding LGBTQ issues in Russia but also the Russian mentality. This is not an easy film to watch but it is an important film. Because so much of it is about life in Russia, Americans might have a bit of trouble understanding all of it but it more than worth seeing. It is a complex, heart-breaking, and thought-provoking film. Renat Shuteev’s Anton and Andrew Kurganov as his partner, Vlad, turn in excellent performances. They represent two different perspectives and have different ways of dealing with the issues but we are able to empathize with both of them.

“A LAST FAREWELL”— Saying the Final Goodbye

a last farewell

“A Last Farewell” ( “Ett sista farväl”)

Saying the Final Goodbye

Amos Lassen

 “A Last Farewell” is a look at an elder author and the sadness he feels over the death of his long-time partner. He is haunted by visions of the now dead love of his life and is, at the same time, dealing with his daughter who tries to have a relationship with him. He knows he must move on and find peace someway despite his devastating loss as well as a way to make peace with the family that he has always felt betrayed him.

As an older gay man myself, I could not help but find this movie to be upsetting (but that does not detract from the beauty of the film). While the pain felt both by the actor and myself were dignified and subtle, it is impossible not to watch this movie and be unmoved by it. Director Casper Andreas has made this as a labor of love and with extreme care.

I have long been a fan of Andreas and he does not disappoint here. From the moment that the film begins we are aware of the images, the music, the sincere acting and brilliant directing. We are incorporated into the action in this beautiful short film. We sit and wait for events to unfold and as we do we see the sincerity of the cast who succeed in creating likeable characters. When it is over we are stuck with a silence within us even though we have shed tears.

Matt McClowry “Uncomfortable”— A Very Funny Album

uncomfortableMatt McClowry “Uncomfortable”

A Very Funny Album

Amos Lassen

I must admit that I had heard of Matt McClowry until I listened to this album. I also do not think I have laughed so hard before. Here is a comedian who combines logic with humor and does with wonderful delivery. I can only imagine what it would be like to sit in the audience during one of his gigs. It is as if he dares us not to laugh at what he says to say yet we cannot help from doing so. Smart humor is very difficult to present and McClowry does so with style and ease. His comedy is sharp, brutal and caustic and these are probably the reasons that he is funny. Seinfeld taught us to laugh at ourselves and McClowry forces us to do so. There are no surprises in his routine and we sense his feeling of comfort as he delivers his jokes. Some of his humor is adult and ribald but never offensive in terms of language. I have head him describes as “an awkward, gentle soul trapped in a hulking physique” whose physical appearance is intimidating but that falls away once he opens his mouth. Now all of us can enjoy him with the release of his comedy CD, “Uncomfortable” available from Music Video Distributers.

His jokes are new and fresh and he even makes fun of having Asperger’s.  He also  takes on Kmart, the deceptive nature of condoms, giving a child a last name for a first name and other subjects we all speak of amongst ourselves. Most important is that he makes us laugh.

 

“The Glow of Paris: The Bridges of Paris at Night” by Gary Zuercher— A Visual Feast

the glow of Paris

Zuercher, Gary. “The Glow of Paris: The Bridges of Paris at Night”, Marcorp Inc., 2015.

A Visual Feast

Amos Lassen

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Paris might be the City of Lights and the destination of young lovers but it is also a city of great beauty and Gary Zuercher shows us just that. The collection of photographs of the bridges of Paris at night is the culmination of five years of work. We get the gorgeous result of seeing the bridges over the Seine at night. The photos are in black and white and they are rich in detail. Zuercher is the first to photograph all of the bridges at night—there are no crowds of people and no traffic—just the bridges in singular beauty. There is nothing in the photos to obscure the beauty and the strength of the structures. The architectural beauty is clear and lovely and along with the bridges we see the buildings near them, the foliage on the riverbanks and the beautiful effects that lights cast.

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There are 35 bridges in Paris and the photos come with their history. Zuercher’s camera is a continuation of his arm and he knows how to capture the shadows and the light so that these symbols of Parisian architecture become more than just ways to cross the river. The book is a visual feast that dazzles. The photos become character studies and along with the text they also seem to gain human attributes. I would love to hear them speak. The photos are so real that I was taken back to my college days in Paris when I would just venture out to enjoy the beauty of the city. My study skills suffered a bit but my mind was aglow with the beauty of what I saw. These photos speak but they keep some of their secrets and this makes them even more glorious. If you have ever been to Paris or want to go to Paris, this book is a must-see.

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“Choose Your Own Autobiography” by Neil Patrick Harris— A New Kind of Memoir

choose your own autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris. “Choose Your Own Autobiography”, Crown, 2014.

A New Kind of Memoir

Amos Lassen

In his new book, Neil Patrick Harris lets you, the reader, live his life. Unlike other memoirs and autobiographies, Harris allows us to camp it up as we read and it is great fun. You see what Neil Patrick Harris does is let you, the reader, live his life. You will be born to New Mexico. You will get your big break at an acting camp and then you make the decisions. At each critical juncture of your life you will choose how to proceed. For example, “You will decide whether to try out for “Doogie Howser, M.D” and you will decide whether to spend years struggling with your sexuality.” Some of the choices are simple and some will take a lot of thought. For example you decide what kind of caviar to eat on Elton John’s yacht and if you choose the right answers you will what NPH has found—“fame, fortune, and true love.” However if you choose incorrectly and “you’ll find misery, heartbreak, and a hideous death by piranhas.” And that’s not the book has—there are magic tricks, recipes for cocktails, this, plus magic tricks, cocktail recipes, embarrassing pictures as a child actor, and even a closing song. If he had written this three years ago, it would have never been published but the last few years have been good for him and he is, once again, one of America’s darlings.

If we look at the book on the whole, we see that this is indeed some kind of autobiography— his sense of style is here as are the big moments in his life. Harris is irreverent and very funny.

We are used to autobiographies that are written in the first person and this is not—it is written in the second person thereby having us exchange places with NPH. There are laughs all the way through as well as enjoying his charm and wit (not to mention his sexiness).

Some of you have watched Harris mature—from Doogie to Hedwig, from teen to adult, from child to gay icon. I missed those years because I was living in Europe when his star began to rise. We not only get to see his scrapbook of photos but we also get a look into his mind. He tells a lot about himself but in a way that makes it relatable. He ends his book with becoming a father and tells us how he and his husband, David decided to have kids, the process, and of course the birth and new life as a Dad. When I read that he is now 41 years old, I thought to myself that I am really old.

“Queer Beirut” by Sofian Merabet— Gender and Queer Identity in the Middle East

queer beirut

Merabet, Sofian. “Queer Beirut”, University of Texas Press, 2014.

Gender and Queer Identity in the Middle East

Amos Lassen

 “Queer Beirut” is an interesting and fascinating anthropological look at gender and queer identities in two fields—urban studies and Middle Eastern studies. The study of gay and lesbian identity is just beginning to surface and “Queer Beirut” is the first ethnographic study of queer lives in the Arab Middle East. Israel has been the focus of several books but the Muslim countries are just at the beginning of such research. The book by author Sofian Merabet uses anthropology, urban studies, gender studies, queer studies, and socio-cultural theory and what we get suggests a critical theory of gender and religious identity that will unquestionably challenge conventional anthropological premises about the role that society and certain urban spaces have in helping and allowing for the emergence of various subcultures within the city.

In order to write this, Merabet made a series of ethnographic journeys to Lebanon, during which he interviewed numerous gay men in Beirut from 1995 to 2014. It is through the life stories that he heard that made it able for him to present sensitive and moving ethnographic narratives that explore how Lebanese gays inhabit and perform their gender as they formulate their sense of identity. Further he examines the notion of “queer space” in Beirut and “the role that this city, its class and sectarian structure, its colonial history, and religion have played in these people’s discovery and exploration of their sexualities”. He uses Beirut as a microcosm for the complexities of homosexual relationships in contemporary Lebanon and the book gives us a critical standpoint from which to deepen understandings of gender rights and citizenship in the structuring of social inequality within the larger context of the Middle East.

The book immediately draws the reader in for two main reasons—it is well written and fascinating and the fact that it is truly the first of its kind. We read of happiness and violence and learn of Beirut’s (once regarded as the Paris of the Middle East) coming to life. The book looks essentially at the lives of gay males in Beirut and because it is the first of its kind, it demands readership.

Below is the table of contents:

 

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Prologue. Itinerant Journeys

Introduction

  1. Producing Queer Space in Beirut: Zones of Encounter in Post-Civil-War Lebanon
  2. Producing Prestige in and around Beirut: The Indiscreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and the Assertion of a Queer Presence
  3. Walking through the Concrete Jungle: The Queer Urban Stroller Traveling amid de Certeau, Benjamin, and Bourdieu
  4. Queer Performances and the Politics of Place: The Art of Drag and the Routine of Sectarianism
  5. The Homosexual Sphere between Spatial Appropriation and Contestation: Collective Activism and the Many Lives of Young Gay Men in Beirut
  6. The Queering of Closed and Open Spaces: Spatial Practices and the Dialectics of External and Internal Homophobia
  7. The Gay Gaze on the Corniche and the Politics of Memory: A Stroll on the Corniche and a Walk through Zoqāq al-Blāṭ
  8. “Seeing Oneself” and the Mirror Stage: The Ḥammām and the Gay Icon Fairuz
  9. Phenomenology and the Spatial Assertion of Queerness: Spatial Alienation, Anthropology, and Urban Studies
  10. Raising the Rainbow Flag between City and Country: Dancing, Protesting, and the Mimetics of Everyday Life

Conclusion. Struggling for Difference

Notes

Glossary of Transliterated Arabic Terms

Bibliography

Index 

“The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty” by Alexander Lee— The Sordid Truth about a Time of Beauty

the ugly renaissance

Lee, Alexander. “The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty”, Doubleday, 2014.

The Sordid Truth About a Time of Beauty

Amos Lassen

The Renaissance was renowned and famed as a period of cultural rebirth and artistic innovation, but it is also a time filled with as many sordid and ugly secrets as there was beauty and brilliance. When we hear the word “renaissance” we usually think of wonderful art and high ideals but behind it all was a “seamy, vicious world of power politics, perversity, and corruption that seems more like the present day than a period of high art.

Renaissance scholar, Alexander Lee, has researched period and with the publication of “The Ugly Renaissance” share his findings with us. He shows us the dark contradictions that were hidden within the wonderful art of the time. We read stories about “scheming bankers, greedy politicians, sex-crazed priests, bloody rivalries, vicious intolerance, rampant disease, and lives of extravagance and excess”. We realize that the art that was produced was no where near the high ideals and the work that emerged from the Renaissance and the artists that produced it were “flawed, tormented” people whose lives took place in a world of “inequality, dark sexuality, bigotry, and hatred”. This book shows us the debauchery and degradation that was the background or some of the greatest masterpieces of the world.

Reading this book makes us aware of the ”base tendencies and avariciousness that was beneath the splendor of the Renaissance. The focus here is on the live experiences of the artists, the desires and designs of their patrons and the politics of the time. While this is a serious study, it is fun to read about the excesses of the period.

 Author Lee has done fine research and his style of writing is easily readable while scholarly at the same time. His thesis is that art of the Renaissance can only be understood (and appreciated!) when we set it in its social context. Doing this we find that the most beautiful and glorious works of art then take on a different appearance. This is where deconstruction is necessary and he uses it to look at three different areas of artistic activity.

First, Lee looks at the social environment of the Renaissance artist and we see that there were artists who led somewhat unpleasant lives in the poorer, cramped parts of the city and used their conditions in their paintings. The second area is that of the patrons of art— those who paid for art to be made. The patrons were three specific groups—bankers, mercenaries and popes.

We see here how art was used to legitimatize the power, wealth, and authority of each of these groups (that were morally questionable), and Lee presents not only the propagandistic value of art, but also the contrast between image and reality. Then Lee looks at how Renaissance attitudes to the wider world can be found in the art of the period. This is where the surprises come. We learn that Mary’s earrings in Lorenzotti’s painting “The Presentation at the Temple” show the artist’s admiration and respect for the Biblical heritage shared by both Jews and Christina even while anti-Semitism existed throughout Renaissance society. In another painting we become aware of pseudo-Arabic script in another painting and this shows that artists found Islam to be both horrifying and fascinating. Regarding the discovery of what is now the Americas, Lee says that the New World did not influence Renaissance art at all and the artists seemed to have cared less about it.

Lee writes in a way that brings history to life as well as provides anecdotes that help to further illustrate the period. His character studies are also brilliant. The rivalry between Michelangelo and Pietro is explained as they compete against each other to be the best of the time. Then there was the Black Death that killed between 45% and 75%of those living in Italy during a three-year period. These facts alone could cause the title “The Ugly Renaissance” to fit and the paintings inspired by the Black Death

depicted events and demeanor of the people who lived during that time. I doubt many of us considered Ethiopians during this period but it is interesting to note that Italians considered them to be directed descended from Noah’s son Ham and while they were considered to be Christian, they became slaves. Then there is Michelangelo and the story of his lust and craving for another male.

It has never been a secret that the Renaissance was depraved—we saw with the Borgia pope who was one of the most evil in history. Books have written about murder and adultery during the period but here the author believes that modern admirers of the art and literature of the Renaissance tend to romanticize the era, seeing only the beautiful altarpieces and statues like Michelangelo’s David in isolation from the horrific society that produced them. His argument is that the modern world believes that people who paid for and produced art and poetry that was so beautiful could not have been bigots, murderers and rapists. Therefore his book is an attempt to tear down the sanitized picture of the Renaissance as a wonderful time of intellectual discovery and instead show us the steaminess of the period. Lee describes “how many of the altarpieces, with pictures of the art patrons painted into them, were given to churches to alleviate the guilt that the wealthy merchants, violent soldiers and corrupt church officials felt about their sin-stained lives. Huge libraries were built by merchants fearing that they would spend eternity in purgatory or hell for ruthless acts of usury”.

 The Renaissance was driven by vice of every description. Florence was “the loom on which the fabric of the Renaissance was woven” but it was also the home of much seedy activity. “Florence was a teeming mass of humanity, the wealthy, the poor and indigent, whores and merchants selling their wares at the top of their voices, parades of often hypocritical sex-crazed ecclesiastics, shrieking children, everybody trying to elude the mounds of human waste dumped in the ill-paved streets, rubbed cheek by jowl. Pickpockets did a lively trade, murders were endemic, the smells horrendous. Michelangelo’s magnificent David at the Piazza della Signoria looked down upon a city of sinners, a city of vice and corruption. With David Michelangelo’s genius was fully recognized. However, like all artists of the period he was dependent upon patrons for his livelihood”.

Disease was everywhere and we learn that Michelangelo who lived to the age of 88 suffered from health issues his entire life. There was no privacy whatever and citizens became thoroughly jaundiced by sex, leaving no room for romance but nevertheless they fornicated as vigorously as ever. It was said no woman in Florence remained a virgin after the age of twenty and both men and women were serial adulterers.

At the time of the Renaissance, Italy was made up of some thirty independent states such as Florence and Milan, each with its own government, laws and mercenaries- and vices. Rome, incredibly, was a backwater until a series of churchmen and several popes determined to make it Christianity’s crown jewel not really as a glorification of Christ but a glorification of themselves. Somehow Jesus the son of a carpenter, was lost. The Sistine Chapel (named after Sixtus IV), the Borgia Apartments and even Saint Peter’s Basilica were monuments not to Christianity but symbols of wealth annexed to the families of Popes and cardinals. The great beauties of the Renaissance were obtained at a price. Artists had to have patrons and the patrons had to have power. Politicians as they were, churchmen schemed, and eliminated those who stood in their way.

The book is as lascivious as many current affairs, but describes people, places and art that will continue to live on much longer and it is from a background like this that great art was created.

THE KINSEY SICKS—-“OY VEY in a Manger”

0y vey

“OY VEY IN A MANGER”
IN SF, NYC, GREATER PHILLY, CHICAGO, KANSAS CITY, PUERTO VALLARTA
AND MORE!

BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW!
ESPECI​ALLY IN SF – PRICES GO UP
THIS FRIDAY AT MIDNIGHT!
(YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY PERSON WITH NO STANDARDS YOU KNOW)

Oy Vey! “Oy Vey in a Manger” is touring 10 cities this December! As a subscriber to The Kinsey Sicks list, you’ve waived your right to claim good taste – so you’ve no excuse to miss the gals in…

NEW HOPE, PA (Thursday-Saturday, Dec 4-6)
An entire month of “Oy Vey in a Manger” kicks off with a return to The Rrazz Room.

NEW YORK CITY (Dec 7, 9, 10)
3 nights of “Oy Vey” (Sun, Tues, and Wed) at The Metropolitan Room, one of the most critically acclaimed venues in the Big Apple, Voted #1 Jazz Cabaret Club by New York Magazine.

SANTA CRUZ, CA (Thursday, Dec 11)
“Oy Vey in a Manger” crosses the country to play at the Rio Theater with a performance that benefits Chadeish Yameinu.

WINTHROP, WA (Friday, Dec 12)
Okay, we’re not doing “Oy Vey”! It’s our one December performance of “America’s Next Bachelor Housewife Celebrity Hoarder Makeover Star Gone Wild!” at Methow Arts.

SAN FRANCISCO (Saturday, Dec 13)
Last chance before we flip the early bird special! PRICES GO UP THIS FRIDAY AT MIDNIGHT! ALSO, note that VIP TICKETS WILL SOON SELL OUT! Don’t wait til the last minute to buy your tickets. Last year we sold out the 1400 seat Castro Theater and people got turned away. (We know, we don’t get it either.)

ROHNERT PARK, CA (Sunday, Dec 14)
The girls return to the Person Theater with a performance that benefits Congregation Ner Shalom.

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (Friday, Dec 19)
“Oy Vey in a Manger” continues its onlaught across America with a return to one of the girls’ favorite stops in Iowa, Legion Arts!

CHICAGO (Saturday, Dec 20)
The girls return to their favorite Chicago hotspot with two helpings of “Oy Vey”: 7pm and 9:30pm.

KANSAS CITY (Sunday, Dec 21)
“Oy Vey in a Manger” returns to the fabulous Folly Theatre (in Trampolina’s hometown!).

PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO (Dec 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, Jan 1, 2)
At last, The Kinsey Sicks are reunited with The Palm, as they finish off their run of “Oy Vey in a Manger” with 2 weeks of shows! Order early for VIP seats!

BUCERIAS, MEXICO (Thursday, Dec 25)
The girls give a special Christmas performance of “Oy Vey” at the gorgeous Luna Lounge.
“BUT WHY AREN’T YOU COMING TO MY HOMETOWN?”

Because you didn’t get us a gig. Yes, that’s right, it’s your fault! If you want us to come to your town, then find some schmuck there who’s crazy enough to book us! It’s not like we don’t want to come to [YOUR HOMETOWN.] In fact, [YOUR HOMETOWN] is one of our favorite places!

Contact us at info@kinseysicks.com to inquire about bookings. We have many available openings next year. (Also, we have several available performance dates.)

Get all your holiday shopping done now with tix for the Sicks – then sit back to see what equally thoughtless gifts people dump on you!

Know well – No well:

“33 TEETH”— A Short Film by Evan Roberts

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“33 Teeth” 

A Short Film by Evan Roberts

Amos Lassen

Eddie (Spencer Siegel) is a hormonal 14-year-old boy living alone with his mother in the suburbs. He is fascinated with the comb of his attractive older neighbour, Chad (James Ratliff). This is the story of adolescent yearnings. This is also a look at a gay teen’s blossoming sexuality as he falls in lust with his older neighbor and he becomes very excited when he spies Chad measuring himself in the bathroom.  Chad is very good looking and he provides quite the surprise for Eddie at the end of the film.

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“Nicely shot and staged, works of this nature showcase the beauty of the short film medium, both as a filmmaking learning curve and here cue the ever present limited budget / shooting time and fading light stress that go hand-in-hand with the industry, pressures that are rewarded with the pure joy of a self-contained story. Little else remains to be said, other than and as ever, see what you think”.

“Queer Theory, Gender Theory” by Riki Wilchins—An Introduction

queer theory

Wilchins, Riki. “Queer Theory, Gender Theory”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2014.

An Introduction

Amos Lassen

Here is a wonderful and clear introduction to postmodern theory and its impact on queer and gender studies. Riki Wilchins is a noted gender activist and uses straightforward language and examples from both LGBT and feminist politics and her own life experiences to takes us through the new ideas that are prevalent today and changed the way that we understand who we are, our bodies, sex and desire.

This is an introduction to queer/gender/postmodern theory that is situated within contexts of social and political movements. It is extremely accessible, and readers are guided through difficult concepts that are often complicated and dense in their original works (e.g., Foucault, Derrida, Butler). For those who want to sample some of the central theoretical concepts related to gender and sexuality, this is a great resource.

Author Wilchins seeks to take theory out of its current limited circulation among “academics and graduate students” and add the political and make it easily accessible for activists. It opens with brief histories of the civil rights movements and then moves onto discussions of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. It then gives contemporary examples of uses of postmodern theory and moves on to look at the weaknesses of postmodern theory

Especially the lack of “any vision of constructive social engagement and political action” and its tendency not to account for the varying perspectives that might be met because of dimensions of difference, specifically race. There is also focus on limitations and weaknesses. Wilchins looks to the work of Judith Butler and the assertion that identity-based politics, while in some ways facilitate political organizing and movement, inevitably and undesirably create margins and practice exclusion. The last chapter is about the founding of GenderPAC’s and continued development and growth. This is an s an example of theory being put into action.

 Wilchins bridges queer theory and human rights activism and thereby instills in academics the necessity of putting theory into action, and to offer those unfamiliar with queer theory access to the possibilities that this kind of theorizing has opened up. However, those who do not care for Wilchins’ promotion of GenderPAC (and she does this in everything that she writes) will also find that with this book.