“DIVING NORMAL”— An Unlikely Love Triangle

diving normal

“Diving Normal”

An Unlikely Love Triangle

Amos Lassen

In “Diving Normal”, Fulton (Philipp Karner), a graphic novelist and Gordon (Scotty Crowe), a library worker are neighbors in Brooklyn. They both fall for the same beautiful girl who is a bit broken. The film is based on a play by Ashlin Halfnight, who adapted the script for the screen with the actor-producers Scotty Crowe and Philipp Karner. The two men were neighbors when one of Fulton’s old high school classmates, Dana (Susie Abromeit), a model-beautiful health worker who’s in recovery for drug and alcoholic abuse, appears. The three of them combat abandonment, addiction and the struggle with conforming to traditional relationships.

Dana carries emotional scars with her and they are deep. Nonetheless and against the advice of her addiction counselor (Tonye Patano), she falls for Fulton and they begin a romance. Just about the same time she becomes friendly with Gordon and she cheers for him while he practices diving at the “Y”. Neither she nor Fulton realize that Gordon has developed feelings for Dana that are stronger than friendship. This could certainly cause things to become uncomfortable.

This is Kristijan Thor’s feature directorial debut and the acting is fine while the plot is a humanistic exploration of the unexpected ways in which relationships come into being, exist and fall apart but even more than that it is a look at the meaning of “normal”. The film is intense and thought provoking. As we watch, we think we know what is going to happen next only to discover that the lives of the characters propel the story forward and we can never really know what they think. We see the complexities of lives that have crossed and intermeshed with each other and that will forever and that each character will be changed forever by what they experience here. I learned that it is really impossible to define the word “normal” because those with whom we come into contact are those that make us who we are.

“THIRTEEN OR SO MINUTES”— Talking It Over

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“Thirteen to So Minutes”

Talking It Over

Amos Lassen

Two straight men have sex with each other and then talk about it afterwards. One of them likes it better than the other and each man speaks about his feelings for the other and they also try to convince each other that they are correct. We do not see them have sex (damn!!) and it is really interesting to hear what they have to say about their first sexual liaison with another guy.

They tentatively agree that this was something that should not have happened but each man was taken in by the beauty of the other man and as this happened they discovered a emotion that they were not aware of having. There is also a message here – “a true humanitarian value” means remaining open to something new. Life happens by chance and nothing is certain. This is a very brave take on how we live.

“UTOPIA”— A Decaying Utopia and Two Boys in Love

utopia

“Utopia” (“Utopies”)

A Decaying Utopia and Two Boys in Love

Amos Lassen

Because Thomas (Pierre Elliott) is thought to be gay, the kids in his poor neighborhood will not leave him alone. Via the Internet he meets Julien who comes from a different neighborhood and social class. It seems that Julien (Romain Poli) is looking for a different kind of experience than those that he usually has. Together the two boys find the suburbs of Paris and they discover utopian architecture that date back to times when people lived in hope of a better future. Seeing this, the boys begin to think about their own utopia—the one that they wish they could have.

Director Manfred Rott uses the device of taking his characters to those kind of places, which while they may look strange today, were built, with the hopes of better tomorrows. Today the buildings look old and decaying yet there is still some hope left in t.

As Julien and Thomas explore the suburbs around Paris and visit vacated utopian architectural projects, they become inspired and boy hopes for his own personal utopia where they are free to love each other. There is something very innocent and sweet in this short film as it deals with the idea of a utopia (or utopias) of the past in contrast too the modern practices of hooking up online.

“Studio 54″ by Hasse Persson— The Legend Continues

Studio 54

Persson, Hans. “Studio 54”, Max Ström, 2015.

The Legend Continues

Amos Lassen

stu1

We have grown up with the legend that was Studio 54. It opened in1977, at the height of the disco craze, at 254 West 54th Street in New York City. Studio 54 was and still is the world’s most famous disco. Those who frequented the club included Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Calvin Klein, Elton John, John Travolta, Brooke Shields and Tina Turner. Once inside there was atmosphere of “unadulterated hedonism” and everyone who was who, who is who and who was going to be who were there. Hasse Persson captured it in photographs. He had been a frequent guest at the club and his photos have become their own legends. He captured the club’s famed revelers, dancers in costume and general, drunken exhilaration by many of these photos have gone unseen— until now, some thirty-five years after it was suddenly closed. Now you can see it all yourself in this wonderful book that documents the craziness.

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“Hasse Persson has had a long career as a photojournalist. Though Swedish born, he spent nearly a quarter century, from 1967 to 1990, working in New York. He has published five books on America and his photographs have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Time, Newsweek and Life. He worked as the artistic director of the Hasselblad Center in Gothenburg and today he is the artistic director of Strandverket Konsthall in Marstrand, Sweden.”

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“Best Gay Romance 2015″ edited by Felice Picano— Men in Love

best gay romance

Picano, Felice (editor). “Best Gay Romance 2015”, Cleis Press, 2015.

Men In Love

Amos Lassen

The world has changed a lot for the American LGBT community and now that we are allowed to marry in many states, men are finally speaking about being in love with another man and it is glorious. Those who were either content or were forced to remain silent for many years have begun to not only speak out but also to write about same-sex love and publishers are mot only ready to print these stories but they are also eager to. Cleis Press has had a long tradition of printing best gay romance stories and this year, the editorship has gone to writer Felice Picano, a member of the original Violet Quill and a very accomplished writer in his own right and I can hardly think of anyone more qualified than him to do so.

This diverse anthology is made up of 16 stories by such authors Erin McRae, Racheline Maltese, Simon Bleaken, Jay Mandal, Jerry Wheeler, Tom Baker, Guillermo Lune, Michael Thomas Ford, Craig Cotter, Eric Andrews-Katz, Dale Chase, Raymond Luczak, Daniel M. Jaffe, Shane Allison, Michael Bracken, Kevin Killian and Thom Nickels.

I have been a fan of the Cleis series since it first began and it just gets better and better and that is because we are now ready to put our words and thought down on paper. The stories run from lusty and sexy to sweet and romantic and there is something for everyone here. Picano says in his introduction that once the word was out about this year’s anthology the stories came pouring in and I can just imagine how much fun and how difficult it was to chose those that are included. (I need such a job). It is really good to see some of our stalwarts included—-Tom Baker, Michael Thomas Ford, Daniel M. Jaffe and Raymond Luczak, among others and there also some writers that I have never read before— Racheline Maltese, Erin McRae and Guillermo Luna to name just a few.

“The Manservant” by Michael Harwood— Life Among the Wealthy

the manservant

Harwood, Michael. “The Manservant: A Novel”, Kensington, 2015.

Life Among the Wealthy

Amos Lassen

Did you ever really wonder what goes on in the modern British aristocracy? Here is a book that tells is what goes on “upstairs, downstairs, and occasionally, behind stairs…” and does so with biting wit. Anthony Gowers helps guests at a high-end London hotel with the kind of requests that are not the usual and which cannot be found on the menu for room service. that can’t be filled from a room service. In return he receives great tips and lots of cashmere. He has dealt with a tabloid scandal that cost his him his job. He soon became known as the best-dressed unemployed person in London.

Because he was so desperate for work, Anthony took a job as personal butler to Lord Shanderson. He had once been a footman so he understands the upper class and their odd ways but the place where he is, Castle Beadale, is filled with intrigue behinds its closed and stately doors conceals an abundance of intrigue behind its stately doors. On the outside, Lord Shanderson is a model English gentleman but he has a few personal interests that Anthony is sure the absent Lady Shanderson does not know about. When the lady returns, however, secrets will come out in the open and Anthony and Anthony will have to decide if the extras he got with this job are worth staying for or whether the time has come, once again, to move on. Some of those perks have to do with homosexuality and sadomasochism. I found it to be exceptionally well written and fun to read. This is the author’s first book and that also makes it kind of special. While it is not great literature, it is a relaxing way to enjoy a book.

“The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” by William Klaber— Demanding Her Worth

the rebellion

Klaber, William. “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell”, St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Demanding Her Worth

Amos Lassen

There was a time when women lived very differently from both men and the way they do today. They did not travel alone or unescorted, they did not carry firearms, sit in bars alone, or have romantic affairs with other women. (They may have done any of these but not openly at any rate). Lucy Lobdell was not about to heed these practices and she set out to earn the same wages as men did. She was on a personal quest to work as she wanted, to wear what she wanted and to love whoever she wanted to love. However, to do these things she had to tolerate public disapproval and scorn and deal with a sexual identity that was not yet invented. She was a woman way ahead of herself and she saw even further into the future.

This is a fictionalized look at Lobdell and how she dared to enter a world that was virtually unknown. She dared to enter the world of man and at the same time, she took on a new sexual and gender identity. Her story was not written down until a century after it took place by William Klaber who did incredible research and then told Lobdell’s story with compassion, humor and wit.

 

 

 

“Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages” by Robert Mills— Sodomy, Vision and Visibility

seeing sodomy

Mills, Robert. “Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages”, University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Sodomy, Vision and Visibility

Amos Lassen

How many of us have ever considered the meaning of the word “sodomy”? I have always found it interesting that gay men have been labeled sodomites when the sin of Sodom had nothing to do with sex and was all about the lack of hospitality. Robert Mills tells us in “Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages” that during that time in Europe, some sexual and gendered behaviors were labeled “sodomitical” or brought about the use of ambiguous phrases such as the “unmentionable vice” or the “sin against nature.” How and from where did these categories enter the field of vision and how does one know that a person is a “sodomite” just by looking at him?? In Robert Mills explores the relationship between sodomy and themes of vision and visibility in medieval culture and shows that on one hand, there are those categories we today call gender and sexuality. On the other hand, there was the view that ideas about sexual and gender dissidence were too confused to congeal into a coherent form in the Middle Ages. Mills shows that sodomy had a rich, multimedia presence in the period—and that if we take a flexible approach to questions of terminology, then new light will be shown on what it is. Mills looks at depictions of the “practices of sodomites in illuminated Bibles; motifs of gender transformation and sex change as envisioned by medieval artists and commentators on Ovid; sexual relations in religious houses and other enclosed spaces; and the applicability of modern categories such as “transgender,” “butch” and “femme,” or “sexual orientation” to medieval culture.”

I do not think that this is a book for everyone—it is written academically and is basically for scholars and academics working in the field. That does not mean that laymen cannot appreciate it or learn something from the book and its author. Mills has left no stone unturned and his research is amazing as or his findings. He has worked with a huge amount of date, genres, languages and literature. With this volume we get a look at the Middle Ages through the eyes of twenty-first century thinking. One critic has said that

 “This extremely stimulating meditation on the role of the visual in meditating about sodomy as a set of acts, ideas, and emotions overflows with productive rethinking; further, it models and encourages what has been too often lacking in this field, subtlety of thought and tolerance of ambiguity. Mills addresses directly and thoughtfully the challenges of working in a discourse the very terms of which are unstable in the present and makes his own brilliant and significant contribution. Mills’ study makes an extremely substantive and highly timely contribution to a major field within both medieval studies and contemporary discourse.”

“In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself” by John Marsh— How Whitman Can Save American Life

in walt we trust

Marsh, John. “In Walt We Trust: How a Queer Socialist Poet Can Save America from Itself”, Monthly Review Press, 2015.

How Whitman Can Save American Life

Amos Lassen

We all live lives of uncertainty as none of us know what the future holds for us. How we cope with this has become a question many of us ask and we really hear no answers. John Marsh has a new approach—he tells us to have a look at the poetry of Walt Whitman just as he did when he was depressed both personally and politically. He says Whitman saved his life and he can save ours as well.

According to Marsh there are four sources that cause the way we feel today— death, money, sex, democracy. Marsh looks to a particular poem for relief. and then looks to a particular Whitman poem for relief. Marsh explains what Whitman wrote and what he believed by showing his poetry was a product of Whitman’s life and times. By recreating the site and the incidents that inspired the poet, we can also become inspired. He cites examples such as crossing Brooklyn ferry and visiting wounded soldiers in hospitals Whitman’s inspiration can become our inspiration. Whitman can show us “how to die how to accept and even celebrate our (relatively speaking) imminent death.” He can also teach us “how to live: how to have better sex, what to do about money, and, best of all, how to survive our fetid democracy without coming away stinking ourselves.” The book contains biography, literary criticism, manifesto, and a kind of self-help that I doubt can be found anywhere aside from Whitman.

If you have not noticed, Whitman has never gone out of style and each generation discovers him anew. Many consider Walt Whitman to be our national poet and I cannot help but wonder how right wing Christians deal with America’s permanent poet laureate is a gay male. By using Whitman as a way to see our country is comforting and even if you do not think that Whitman can save everyone, you will find a beautiful reading experience by returning to his gift of literature.

 

Drugs, Food, Sex and God: An Addicted Drug Dealer Goes from Convict to Doctor through the Power of Intention” by Dr. George Baxter-Holder— Rebuilding a Life

drugs food and sex

Baxter-Holder, Dr. George. “Drugs, Food, Sex and God: An Addicted Drug Dealer Goes from Convict to Doctor through the Power of Intention”, Influence Publishing Inc., 2015.

Rebuilding a Life

Amos Lassen

When he lived on the street, George ran a prostitution and drug-dealing ring to pay for his sex and drug addictions. It did not take long for him to lose control of his life and he was caught and sent to prison. When he was released on probation, he took a chance and risked everything on a drug blow out and this was when his life changed and he decided the time had come to regain freedom from those things that had held him back. This is his story and it is personal yet he has chosen to share it with us.

Of course, a memoir like this is not something new; we have had many. I thought to myself as I began to read that I have really read too many books like this and what could this book possibly tell me that I Had not heard before? Well, let me tell you that it was not what this book had to say that captured me but it was the way it was said. We are supplied with just enough detail to keep us interested and to think about. I found myself inspired by what is written here and George (or Doctor George, if you prefer) is quite a person. Whenever I read a story like this, I wonder what were these people thinking that led them to sink so low but then this is not my story and we never know what someone else’s past is like. This is quite a well written and rewarding read that I totally recommend.