“MY MISTRESS”— The Woman Down the Street

my mistress

“My Mistress”

The Woman Down the Street

Amos Lassen

Charlie Boyd (Harrison Gilbertson) is a sixteen-year-old boy with raging hormones who has just discovered that his mother is having an affair with his father’s best friend. The only thing that seems to take his mind off of that is the mysterious woman who lives down the street. Visitors are always coming to and going from her house. She has also just advertised for a gardener but then a tragic family event caused him to forget her and Charlie is in such pain that he does not think he will ever be the same or that anyone can help make it easier for him.

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He learned he was wrong. Maggie (Emmanuel Beart), a French singer, who is beautiful professional, and specializes in pain enter his life. Maggie knows all about giving, exploring and sharing pain and she does so for money. Charlie falls in love with her and in spite of her self so does she. She is drawn to this troubled boy who takes all the pain she can give and uses it to heal himself.

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Maggie is a beautiful dominatrix, who teaches Charlie the seductively beautiful side of pain and how it can heal his emotion wounds. What begins as a perverse game quickly turns into a taboo love affair— Charlie learns to control his pain at home and in the bedroom and now he is tempted to turn his new power back onto the mistress who taught him everything he knows.

It all began when Charlie comes home one day to find his father in the garage, hanging by a noose. He blames his dad’s suicide on his mother Kate (Rachael Blake), who has been carrying on with another guy.

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Charlie talks himself into a job as Maggie’s gardener and the two begin a relationship of sorts. How far it goes is open to each viewer’s interpretation. It all begins slowly and the wonderful camera work emphasizes that. It just happened that Charlie was in a need of an outlet for his frustrations and Maggie came along at just the right time. He met her in a park and followed her home and of course, he had no idea that she was a professional dominatrix. Charlie was not a “typical client” but once Maggie let him into her life, the two of them begin an unconventional friendship that includes aspects of parenting as well as a mistress/slave relationship.

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There are surrealistic aspects to the film yet we get a sense that we are stuck between a romance and treatment that is somewhat detached from reality. Perhaps some might see it odd that Charlie has a love interest with a woman old enough to be his mother and we cannot help wondering why some kind of girlfriend of his own age is not seen in the film. Maggie also has her own baggage—she is dealing with her own issues and with Charlie’s conflict with his mother. Maggie’s compassion for Charlie obviously comes from having had her own young son taken from her by child protection services. Charlie is grieving over the death of his father and relishes attention and Maggie just happens to be the person to mediate the mother/son relationship that is played down here. We are very aware of the fact that a confrontation with one’s dark side can be both therapeutic and necessary but it is a bit audacious to see Maggie dressed in black and treating men, and that includes Charlie, like dogs.

“Foolish Encounters” by Amy Lane, Angel Martinez, Elin Gregory, Freddy McKay, JC Wallace, Tali Spencer and Tinnean— An Anthology about Choices and Decisions

foolish encounters

Lane, Amy, Angel Martinez, Elin Gregory, Freddy McKay, JC Wallace, Tali Spencer and Tinnean. “Foolish Encounters”, Wilde City Press, 2015.

An Anthology about Choices and Decisions

Amos Lassen

We have all experienced foolish encounters in our lives and our reactions to them influence the ways we live. Here is an anthology of bad choices and foolish decisions that takes us to places where I am not sure we really want to be.

 In “A Message From the Home Office” by Angel Martinez we meet Sissal, our hero who had been banished to a backwater planet and as a semi-punishment, he runs a Class Five outpost where they have to remain undetected. His assistant Rcrred, is anal and OCD (except that there is CDO [in alphabetical order]) in addition to be aliens, they are shifters.

“Shredding the Heart “by JC Wallace is the story of a skateboarder and businessman/financier type. We see that opposites attract but businessman, Quinn, assumes too early that he is being used in this story set in today’s world.

“The Lunar Imperative” is about Sergeant Haken and a team of werewolf soldiers carrying out a covert raid to kill a politician in outer space.

Tinnean’s “Blue and Green Persuasion” is an interesting sci-fi story about scouts who genetically encoded so that they translate any language and there is a bit of romance here as well.

“Well Hello, Eight Eyes” by Tali Spencer is a shifter story about Tanner, a POV being offered a new life which gives him the best of all worlds.

“The Fenestration Penetration” by Amy Lane introduces us to a deliveryman and a home-worker. Another contemporary story, rather than an outré one. We get a different look at the word “normal” there.

Finally, there is “The Nut Job” by Freddy Mackay is about a ship developing trouble in the northwest and its crew becomes hunted.

I cannot say much about the anthology other than it is a pleasant little read.

“IT TAKEIS TWO”– George & Brad Takei Take us to their World

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“It Takeis Two”

 George & Brad Takei Take us to their World

A Web Series

 
“The first episode is here and it’s a lot of fun (and very resonant for anyone who’s active on the web) as Brad discovers there are all sorts of mean memes and images of him online. In his fury he attempts to get them taken down and to stop the web being so nasty. However it takes George to point out you can’t please all the people all the time, and that when it comes to the web someone’s always going to take things the wrong way or take random, unnecessary potshots (or at least what seem like potshots to the person they’re about)”.

Brad still thinks he can win though and heads to Google’s NYC HQ.

“BREATHE”— A Short Film

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“Breathe”  

The Traveler Community

“In the film a hardy traveler (JOHN CONNORS) becomes increasingly concerned with his seven-year-old son’s femininity and sets about toughening him up. “Breathe” questions how far a man is willing to defend his family name when the one threatening his legacy is his own son. Does he have the capacity to change and accept him?

‘Breathe is a short film exploring LGBT issues, the Traveling community, and ultimately, the idea of accepting those around us as they are, rather than trying to force change upon them.’

“Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism” by Tamar Carroll— Three Interconnected Case Studies

mobilizing NY

Carroll, Tamar. “Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism”, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Three Interconnected Case Studies

Amos Lassen

In “Mobilizing New York”, Tamar Carroll looks at three interconnected case studies and shows the ability of grassroots community activism to bring together racial and cultural differences and thereby effect social change. Using oral histories, archival records, newspapers, films, and photographs from post–World War II New York City, we see how “poor people transformed the antipoverty organization Mobilization for Youth and shaped the subsequent War on Poverty”. National Congress of Neighborhood is a little known of organization that played a significant role in this and we see that the significant participation of working-class white ethnic women and women of color affected New York City’s feminist activism. Carroll also examines the partnership between the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) and the Women’s Health Action Mobilization (WHAM!) and she shows how gay men and feminists worked together “to create a supportive community for those affected by the AIDS epidemic, to improve health care, and to oppose homophobia and misogyny during the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s”. It is Carroll’s contention that those social policies that deal with and encourage “the political mobilization of marginalized groups and foster coalitions across identity differences are the most effective means of solving social problems and realizing democracy”.

Carroll gives us quite a picture of New York by showing the creativity and emotional power that was part of the social activism in the late 60s as well as the unification that occurred without regard to gender, class or race and this is what held the working class together. By doing this we see the breakdown of stereotypes that have been held about the later feminist movement. We get a new look at history here.

“The Early Prophets” translated by Everett Fox— From Canaan to Judah

the prophets

Fox, Everett Dr. “The Early Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings: The Schocken Bible, Volume II”, Schocken, 2014.

From Canaan to Judah

Amos Lassen

Everett Fox continues his translation and commentary of Hebrew scripture with his second volume, this time concentrating on the prophets. We read of those prophets who have affected the way we see the world; these are those who have become part of the culture of the West because of the way they demonstrate the human experience. The early prophets are contained in four books of the Hebrew Bible and through them we get a look at tribal differences and rivalries, leadership and its changes, the reactions to and intrusion of neighboring empires as seen through the relationships among humans. The writings of the prophets have, over time, been seen as what happens as a result of not adhering to the will of God and what was seen in these stories is cultural assimilation and adoption of culture, destruction and the creation and reformation of identity. Many Christians have seen them as foreshadowing the coming of Jesus, his life and death as well as a way to model lives and careers.

Their importance as religious ideas cannot be overestimated but the writings of the prophets are also great literary works ands wonderful narratives of the past, especially as a reaction to catastrophe.

Fox provides us with commentary that sheds light on the past and his translation from the Hebrew successfully recreates the temper of the times. We quickly see and read “the echoes, allusions, alliterations, and wordplays that rhetorically underscore its meaning and are intrinsic to a timeless text meant to be both studied and read aloud”.

What Everett Fox has done is to make the Bible readable in English while at the same time maintaining the quality of the original Hebrew. So many have trouble with various translations and what this is , I believe, is a reclamation of the texts now made completely readable as if to say that the other translations just “do not have it”.


“Fox’s translation has the rare virtue of making constantly visible in English the Hebraic quality of the original, challenging preconceptions of what the Bible is really like. It is a bracing protest against the bland modernity of all the recent English versions of the Bible.”  He tells us this in his preface:

“Published works give an impression of finality, but in truth there is no end point for the translator, either in concept or in execution—only the ongoing attempt to draw nearer to the source. And like the experience of the performer on the stage or in the concert hall, the translator’s perception of the source alters with time. It is only natural that I have made changes in my work over the years, from certain aspects of the overall approach to the rendering of individual words and phrases. The publication of this book gives me the opportunity to briefly explain some of them.

I remain convinced that the best way to translate biblical texts is to try to reflect their aural quality. Whatever the Bible’s origins, it is clear that most writing in antiquity was read aloud, and so to experience the Bible in its spokenness is a vital way to draw nearer to it. … My translation, therefore, aims to highlight features of the Hebrew text that are not always visible or audible to Western audiences.”

Fox has said what so many think and that is that every time we read the Bible, we find something new and therefore constantly changing the way a certain text comes across to us. There is no right and there is no wrong—interpretation, translation and commentary are left to the reader yet only some of us would dare to put what we think in writing. We are very lucky that Fox is one who dares. Whether he looks at

Joshua and Jericho, Samson and Delilah, the prophet Samuel, King Saul, David and Goliath, Bathsheba and Absalom, King Solomon’s temple, Elijah and the chariot of fire, Ahab and Jezebel, we get a reading that is clear, interesting and has something important to say to us in the modern world and it is said in modern language. Reading this gives a sense of empowerment.

Fox’s commentary uses current scholarship and it is sensible and balanced. He gives us an amplified understanding that allows us to see so much more than usual. For this alone, this is a valuable resource but that is only one of its qualities.

“Lincoln and the Jews: A History” by Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell— Seeing Lincoln Differently

lincoln and the Jews

Sarna, Jonathan D. and Benjamin Shapell. “Lincoln and the Jews: A History”, Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.

Seeing Lincoln Differently

Amos Lassen

It has been 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln died and we now, for the first time, get a look at his relationship with the Jewish people. Jonathan D. Sarna and Benjamin Shapell give us a chance to read rare manuscripts and see images that show us a Lincoln that we never knew. When Lincoln was born, there were only about 3000 Jews in the United States but by the time he was assassinated in 1865, that number grew to more than 150,000. The main reason for this was large-scale immigration from Eastern Europe. For whatever reason, this alarmed members of the president’s cabinet and some of the important generals in the Union army and Jews were not treated like other American citizens but more like outsiders. We see something of a different tendency in “Lincoln and the Jews”. Lincoln was well versed in the Hebrew Bible and he borrowed from it heavily in his writings. He had always had Jewish friends and spoke for Jewish equality. Some of his advisors were Jewish, he appointed Jews to positions of public office from as early as the 1850s. He was always aware of the sensitivities of the Jews and there were several working in his presidential campaigns and it was President Lincoln who was responsible for helping Jews to become active in American life. The even changed the way Americans spoke about their country by shifting from “Christian nation” to “this nation under God” and-he embraced Jews as insiders.

In this wonderfully written text we see how Lincoln’s remarkable relationship with American Jews impacted both his presidency and his policy decisions as president. The book is, aside from a riveting narrative, a collection of handwritten letters, maps, and photographs and these allow us to see a different Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s relationship with the Jews was, until now, a neglected aspect of the biography of the man. It is loaded with wonderful illustrations (many come from the Shapell archive) and some of them are new. This, then, became in a very short time, the essential look at the president and the Jews of America.

Lincoln was the first president to interact with Jewish Americans and he welcomed them into some of the leading areas of this country. It is astonishing to see how much is here. The authors used information that while not providing historical facts but that show aspects of Lincoln’s positive attitude toward the Jews. Lincoln was strongly influenced by Abraham Jonas who was a fellow politician from Illinois and “the only man Lincoln ever directly called ‘one of my most valued friends’ and one of the first to suggest to him that he try for the Republican nomination for President in 1860. Jonas warned his friend of a plot to assassinate him before his first inauguration.

Is it not fascinating that we know a great deal about American Jewish history and so much about Abraham Lincoln, yet till now we have not known about the interactions and the connections that the two shared? It is estimated that something like 15,000 volumes have been published about Lincoln, but none have captured Lincoln’s relationships with the American Jewish community until this book saw the light of day. We see that Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson as well as many cabinet members, senators, and generals openly disliked Jews and discriminated against them. We even get a list here of the generals serving in the United States army who were anti-Semites. Lincoln, however, did not share their thoughts or the way they felt.

He was sensitive to Jews and other non-Christians and in his speeches he reflected on American values of openness and freedom. Lincoln’s connections to the Jews went a great deal further and much deeper than any of the presidents who came before him. Sarna further tells us that not only was Lincoln influenced by Jews but that they helped him move past the idea of a Christian nation and understanding of the identity of this country.

 

“Boys Don’t Knit” by T.S. Easton— Knitting to Happiness

boys don't knit

Easton, T.S. “Boys Don’t Knit”, Feiwel & Friends, 2015.

Knitting to Happiness

Amos Lassen

Seventeen-year-old Ben Fletcher has to pay for an incident by developing a sense of social conscious and he is forced to take up a hobby and do some community service to get off of probation. He decides to take up knitting and discovers that he is a natural knitter and it relieves his stress. The problem is that he cannot share this with his father or his friends because as we all know, “boys don’t knit). He took knitting because it was supposed to be taught by his “hot” English teacher but it wasn’t. It seems that Ben has “knitted” himself into quite a web. But, he learns a valuable lesson about gender stereotypes, relationships, and self-worth. Author T.S. Easton has created a humorous story told through Ben’s journal entries.

Ben is the kind of guy that marches to his own music and he learns quickly. When he won a place in a knitting championship, his cover is blown but he also learns that he has strengths and gains more confidence.

The book is funny and perceptive. Ben’s conflict about discovering his “feminine” side is particularly well done.

“GERONTOPHILIA”— Opens May 1 in New York City

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presents

“GERONTOPHILIA”

gA NEW FILM BY BRUCE LABRUCE

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Starring Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Borden, Katie Boland, Marie-Hélène Thibault

Opens in New York on May 1, 2015 at the Village East 7

 Director Bruce LaBruce’s retrospective at Museum of Modern Art in New York starts April 23rd and GERONTOPHILIA is the opening night selection

Official Selection:
Toronto International Film Festival 2013
Venice International Film Festival 2013
Montreal Festival of New Cinema 2013

In this wry “reverse Lolita” tale, 18-year-old Lake discovers he has an unusual attraction for the elderly. Fate lands him a job at an assisted-living facility where he develops an intimate relationship with Mr. Peabody. Upon discovering that the clients are being over-medicated to make them more manageable, Lake weans Mr. Peabody off his medication and helps him escape, resulting in a road trip that deepens their bond. The always-provocative Bruce LaBruce returns with a delicately perverse romantic comedy that is both darkly humorous and emotionally heartfelt.

OPENS IN NEW YORK ON MAY 1 @ VILLAGE EAST 7

“I’m the Guy You Hate” by Isa K— Are We Moving Backwards in Time?

i'm the guy

K, Isa. “I’m the Guy You Hate”, Wilde City Press, 2015.

Are We Moving Backwards in Time?

Amos Lassen

Jonny Ordell is 38 years old and in love with Mark Dorsett, his friend. However, (there is usually a “however”), Mark is mentally ill. (The author, Isa K uses the word “insane”). Mark’s illness is the kind that makes good people evil and Mark really has no control over his illness. (I am not sure that this is true—rather, it seems that mark wants no control over it and is very happy being the miserable person that he is). The real problem is that he wants no help to make himself better and he destroys all that comes his way and this includes Jonny. This forces Jonny to make a decision—does he stay with Mark in the hope that he will change or does he walk away and let Mark succumb to his own anger. Either way, Jonny loses but as the two continue to see each other, Jonny begins to realize that he is not helping Mark and, in effect, he is damaging himself and perhaps making Mark worse.

The book deals with the idea of one reaching his full potential but I felt that the author did not reach her full potential in writing it. Depression and mental illness are very difficult to write about unless someone has actually been there and that was what was missing here. All of us can imagine insanity but none of us want to experience it and I find it very difficult for someone to be able to put those feelings into words. It is obvious that author, Isa K, tried very hard but something just did not ring true and I am not really sure what that was. I also do not think that any of us want to be reminded of that time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and we were looked at as being mentally ill. Those days are gone and over and that is one part of our history that we can do without remembering.

I am well aware that depression is a part of life but I am not sure that there is a big enough audience for depressing literature these days. I was totally frustrated by what I read and I do not think that this is the kind of book I would recommend to others. We cannot miss the fact that Jonny and Mark were not good for each other and that was established early on yet for some reason the author felt she had to prove that again and again. From the descriptions that we get of Mark, I cannot understand why anyone would want to be with him. As if it was not enough for him to be unstable mentally, he was self-centered, egotistical, rude and selfish. Why anyone would want anything to do with him is beyond me and we never really learn what the attraction was for Jonny. We saw no affection and no romance. I just cannot understand why anyone would even want to write a book like this or what are we supposed to take away from it. There is nothing-new here and nothing that we do not already know. Mark does not have one redeeming characteristic and I lost patience with Jonny’s defense of him because it was dishonest. I fail to see what attracted Jonny to Mark anyway. I just wonder if he is also mentally deficient.

Granted, the author told us that this was a book about illness and not romance but does that make it any way acceptable? As gay people have we not gone through enough that we do not have to read about something like this? I do realize that I am being cruel in my remarks but this book just set me going and I see no reason to go backwards in time to when this kind of behavior was used to characterize our community.

Perhaps if the book had been well written, I could find something good to say about it but it just made me angry to see something like this in print. I know nothing about the writer and therefore will say nothing other than perhaps a new profession might not be a bad idea.

Let me just add that this was a painful review to write. I usually am able to find something good to say about a book. That just did not happen here.