Reviews

The Boys and The Bees: Book Review

By underdarkness

The Boys and the Bees is the first person retelling of a young man's journey through love, lust, confusion and growing up gay in a Catholic grade school. As the word “faggot” is newly introduced to the sixth grader’s seemingly shared vocabulary, Andy, the narrator, learns that he must separate himself from anything that may appear to be gay, including his lispy and fragile best friend James.

What happens under the covers at their sleepovers must remain a secret, so Andy sees fit to call out James on his girlishness whenever possible to reaffirm his own vague sexuality. James wants to be with Andy. Andy wants to be with Mark, the basketball team captain and most popular boy in the sixth grade. Mark, however, appears to be untouchable. He's dating the most popular girl in school. He's popular and athletic. He couldn't possibly be gay!

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Eight

Percy Bysshe Shelley - Ozymandias

One of the poems I clearly recalled by title alone, before even reading a word of it. It was intresting to hear Paglia note that the poet himself only has one line that is obstensibly in his own voice, the rest is information being relayed by the traveller, and then, ultimately, by Ozymandias's words.

I had never picked up on the slight nod to the early sculptor, who was able to ensure the megalomania of his pharoah was properly conveyed in the sculpture and, in fact, is the only thing that remains. I always focused on the bigger more obvious message of the ruler whose empty words have absolutely no weight and have become a warning sign to every ruler who believes in their own importance.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Seven

William Wordsworth - The World Is Too Much With Us

Hmm, neither of today's Wordsworth entries really did all that much for me. In this entry, Wordsworth's isolation while looking out at the sea makes him question the society in which he lives, which is common enough. But I don't know ... nothing here really moved or intrigued me. His desire to live in a pre-Christian Britian, as Paglia deciphers, is something that should interest me, since I tend to be excited by something that questions organized religion in any way, but, it just didn't happen.

Some of the wordplay revealed by Paglia, such as "spending" being a term for ejaculation is informative, but I guess having not had much of a reaction to the poem already, it's too little too late.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Six

William Blake - The Chimney Sweeper

I don't know what it is, but I've always been a sucker for this particular rhyming scheme, a simple AABB throughout. In the hands of Blake, though, it is interesting to contrast the lilt and playful way the words bounce out with what is being said, for this is a poem of young boys forced into endentured service, their small bodies able to get inside old chimneys and clear out the soot.

Paglia pointed out the narrator's lisp, which I missed, probably forgetting the time in which the poem is set and such a world where people would be out shouting about their work offerings. The doublespeak of his inability say sweep all the more tragic when his cries of weep tell society what their proper response to his condition ought to be.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Five

Andrew Marvell - To His Coy Mistress

Nothing like a good "carpe diem" booty call. Obviously the carpe diem "seize the day" stuff is well-known to anyone who, like me, fell in love with Dead Poet's Society and the like, which heaviy leaned on the carpe diem notion.

In this poem, Marvell slowly builds his case for sex. At first, he reinforces how long he would, given an unlimited amount of time, spend discovering the intricacies of his mistress. But, he is quick to point out in the second part, time is limited. Their youth will wither, and death awaits.

Finally, having set his argument up like a finely-tuned legal debate, they should embrace the quick beat of life, the forgone conclusion of time, and consummate their relationship.

Aside from a brief hint of anti-Semitism, this is a lovely poem, on a theme that I've always embraced. There is only now. Tomorrow is not a guarantee, and eventually everyone hits a point of no more tomorrows.

Good stuff, and so nice to finally hit a one-poem day.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Four

George Herbert: Church-monuments

This poem reminds me of the punk-rock band The Pixies. I was never a fan of theirs, but I was a huge fan of many bands that were huge fans of The Pixies. I listened to them, but never really got too into them. When they recently reunited, I went with some friends who were about to have a religious experience, seeing them perform these amazing songs live. I enjoyed it, but to me they sounded derivative.

As you might expect, the ardent Pixies fans were quick to point out that I had it backward. I was a fan of bands who had stolen from The Pixies, so I liked the derivative bands, the Pixies originated this stuff. I don't disagree with that statement, but I still think that whatever you hear later is going to seem derivative to what you heard earlier. So, to me, The Pixies will always sound like they're trying to be Nirvana, even though I've read quotes where Kurt said Nirvana was trying to sound like The Pixies.

So, how does George Herbert fit into all of this?

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Three

William Shakespeare: The Ghost's Speech

While undeniably poetic, with an amazing use of language, symbolism, and all, I guess this didn't have the same oomph to me as a standalone poem. It feels like part of something larger in a way the other works didn't. But I guess that could be a case of what the definition of a poem is, really.

Even in the description, Paglia refers to how certain lines fit into and fulfill ongoing themes within the play as a whole. But, moving past that point, it is very reminiscent of the last work we reviewed by Shakespeare, whereby you can read it through once and immediately understand everything being said. It's probably been so long since I've read Shakespeare, going back to my abandonment of higher education in my teens, that I've carried around ever since the false baggage of its dense wordplay and hard to decipher imagery.

Stray: Book Review

By lost_in_wonderland

Stray, by Sheri Joseph, chronicles the story of Paul Foster, a talented young acting student still in love with his older ex-boyfriend despite the man being married; Kent McKutcheon, a talented musician, who must choose between his wife Maggie and his old flame Paul; and Maggie, Kent's wife and a devoted Mennonite, who must deal with her own feelings for Paul. This occurs as an investigation of the murder of Paul's much older lover goes on.

The book, if left to its own devices, could have been a touching story of three people trying to discover what love is, and how you can love someone and not know anything about them.

This was not that book.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day Two

Had some family drama/tragedy this afternoon, so will do The Ghost's Speech as part of tomorrow's batch.

Shakespeare: Sonnet 73

Off to a good start. I'd probably read this before at some point in my life, but it's been way too long to remember when. So I read the sonnet a few times before delving into Paglia's analysis, although it seemed pretty straightforward. Three metaphors for man's life (as a year, a day, and a fire) and then a tag, basically.

Things to note, though. For as much as I recognized when the metaphors switched, as well as knowing the structure of the Shakespearean sonnet, I don't know that I specifically picked up on the "in me" that started each quatrain. Rather, I don't know that I used that phrase to signify the switch to a new metaphor, or whether I used the structure itself to trigger the beats. Something to watch in my close reading, as it is clearly evident upon re-reading.

3 Needles: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"3 Needles" tells three stories across three continents, all about HIV. The film, which comes out on DVD today, has an impressive all-star cast (Lucy Liu, Chloe Sevigny, Olympia Dukakis, Stockard Channing, Sandra Oh, and Shawn Ashmore) and a sprawling story about how HIV affects so many lives in so many different ways.

When I learned it was had three different stories, my assumption was they would be intertwined into some jigsaw that all came together toward the end. But, in large part is it just three linear stories told in sequence.

While I appreciated the message of the movie, and found each segment interesting, the movie overall didn't seem to provide me with enough of a hook to recommend it strongly to anyone. The film looks great, really taking advantage of its settings in China and Africa especially, and it is all acted well. But for whatever reason, the whole seemed less than the sum of its parts.

DRAMA! The Four Dorothys: Book Review

By dykehalo

Filled with mystery and drama, the book "DRAMA! The Four Dorothys" by Paul Rudis is a decent book.

Orion Academy, a high school for rich kids in Malibu, is putting on its annual spring play. Normally, everything goes off without a hitch but this year's spring musical is different. For starters, it's the Wizard of Oz, a play usual done in middle or grade school. Forced to perform the play for only one night and having to combine four grade levels, each with their own stars, makes for a whole lot of drama when they decided to have four Dorothys.

Strange events occur, and the Dorothys begin to drop like flies. The mystery begins after the second Dorothy drops out of the play. The question "Who or what is behind the disappearing Dorothys?" is solved and wrapped up within the last three chapters. Although the ending is pretty predictable, the plot makes for a great story that is very well written. The plot is not so off-the-wall wacky that you believe it could never happen. With references to the musical Wicked, and shows like Project Runway, Gilmore Girls and CSI, it's up to date with today's teens.

Break, Blow, Burn: Day One

I don't know if I was ever in love with poetry but, if I had been, the feeling disappeared a long time ago. I remember way back in high school or even college, that I had some slight attraction to the "Romantic" poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley. Keats being my favorite, although I'd be hard-pressed to recite a single line of "Ode on a Grecian Urn," or come up with a second title of anything he's written.

The last poem I recall reading was probably a few years back, when I was greatly interested in the life and work of Oscar Wilde, and read his Ballad of Reading Gaol.

But there has always been some spark that draws me to poetry, just to tune my nature to the power and beauty that can exist when two words combine to create resonance. I fear, as I work on my novel, that there is a feeling that if you shovel enough prose into a book, your point will definitely find its way in there. And, admittedly, there is more opportunity within the long expanse of a novel to get away with such transgressions. Although my preference is to tighten the book and trust that fewer, more carefully chosen words will always serve me better.

So, my interest in becoming a better student of poetry is to serve my desire to write novels and reinforce the notion that less is almost always better.

Dan Gillespie Sells of The Feeling: Interview

By Jeff Walsh

The Feeling are a great pop band out of the UK, who have already delivered consecutive hit singles from their brilliant debut album "Twelve Stops And Home." The album was recently released in America, and the band is currently touring the country as part of VH-1's "You Oughta Know" tour with Rocco DeLuca and The Burden, and Mat Kearney.

The album has so many amazing songs on it, and really wins you over with its amazing lyrics. The first single "Sewn" (in Entertainment Weekly's Hot List this week) is a slow ballad that builds beautifully with a great melody, although my favorite track on the CD is "Never Be Lonely," which has a lot of emotional messages going on under the hood of a fun, upbeat pop tune.

The Feeling were recently in San Francisco, and I had the chance to interview lead singer and guitarist Dan Gillespie Sells on the band's tour bus, our interview ending 20 minutes before the band would take the stage. Despite the laidback vibe of the band on their bus, they all came alive onstage, working the crowd and bringing a great energy and enthusiasm to the stage.

Boy Culture: Movie Review

By Jeff Walsh

With "Boy Culture," co-writer and director Q. Allan Brocka quickly gives a hustler-weary audience some indication that he's aware of the abundance of gay movies about hustlers. With the credits barely finished, he has lead character "X" say in voice-over narration:

"If you're smart, you guessed I'm a hustler. If you haven't, here are two clues: I'm gay and they made a movie about me."

Upon hearing that, I immediately sat up taller, thinking if you're going to be ballsy enough to address the premise of your movie as a huge cliché, you must be equally confident that you haven't made a cliché movie. That thinking, sadly, wouldn't entirely prove to be accurate.

"Boy Culture" (opening in New York, San Francisco, and West Hollywood this Friday, and soon in other urban areas, see schedule below) isn't a bad movie, it just doesn't have much new to say.

Shortbus: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"Shortbus" is a movie that I have a hard time getting my head around. On one hand, it is best known as the movie where the actors all have actual sex and orgasms, which is why it is clearly and defiantly unrated. On the other, it is about what lengths people go through to find intimacy and connection in a world that seems orchestrated against it.

So, I love the themes it explores and what it is trying to achieve, but I just didn't think the combination worked for me. The movie starts with nearly every character in the movie engaged in some form of sexual activity, so there is no crescendo where it builds up to the nudity, it all starts immediately. So, if you're not ready for a lot of gay activity and frontal male nudity, they get you out of the theater or pressing STOP on your DVD player pretty quickly.

For the people that stick around, there are a few intertwined narratives where the characters search for connectedness.

The Graffiti Artist: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"The Graffiti Artist" is a small, hypnotic gem of a movie. Nick lives a world detached from other people, just skateboarding through Seattle and Portland, spray-painting his signature tag "Rupture" everywhere he can, stealing what he needs, and crashing where he gets tired.

It's easy to dismiss this movie (in fact, someone watching it with me couldn't stand it, because they said nothing happens and the acting was so stilted), but that wasn't my take on it. I saw the tagging as his version of leaving his mark on the world, the only way he learned how to fully express himself. The constant need to tag seems to be that he has so much inside of him he wants to get out, he just doesn't know how.

At a skate park, Nick can't stop watching this one guy, following him after he leaves. He sees the other kid tag a wall, and then skate away, making eye contact right before he leaves.

Pet Shop Boys, Catalogue: Book Review

By Jeff Walsh

Unless you're a serious Pet Shop Boys fan, Catalogue is overkill. Of course, just the notion that a band would have enough material to fill 300+ pages that largely showcase how they have managed their public image over a career spanning more than two decades is really worth a visit for anyone interested in music, celebrity, or fame.

For me, they always had interesting cover art and presentation to their music, but until I saw them live very late in the game, I never knew how manicured the whole thing was. On their 'Nightlife' tour, they did a very polished set, working the crowd, but never really breaking a sweat. It was initially a bit oft putting, but then again, they were also wearing odd, spiky-headed wigs at the time, too. But the more I watched, it dawned on me that a sense of detachment was always part of their magic. This wasn't a band that would treat a concert as a jubilant experience where there was a shared magic between them and the crowd (if they do, they certainly wouldn't let on). No band-led singalongs, big cheesy smiles when a familiar intro chords progression washed over us. Nope.

Pet Shop Boys, Pop Art: The Hits: CD Review

By Jeff Walsh

The Pet Shop Boys is one of my foundation bands. There are moments where their music is clearly fixed in the events of my life. I remember when the gay bar I used to frequent played "Go West," their exuberant cover of the Village People classic, as its closing music very night. The dance floor became a celebration with everyone becoming a community, singing and smiling in a small Pennsylvania town where this wasn't a constant state. I can look back on many moments like this and find a Pet Shop Boys providing the score.

More recently, I was at a club in San Francisco, and heard only one or two chords, and knew I was in the hands of The Pet Shop Boys. Over the years, they have developed such a unique, distinctive sound that somehow immediately identifies them but never seems to restrict them. But the thing I noticed most when I heard the chord is how happy it made me. I didn't know the song, the words, the chorus, the bridge... but just it being The Pet Shop Boys was enough to make me smile and radiate happiness. I can't honestly think of another band that has that effect on me.

Boys Briefs 4: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

In "Boys Briefs 4: Six Short Films About Guys Who Hustle," the question that never gets answered for me is why this has become such a pervasive image of gay culture. For a while, it seemed impossible to go to a gay film festival without at least half of the stories being about gay hustlers. And, most of the time, they don't have all that much to say.

This DVD is certainly the rule, and not the exception, as far as that stuff goes. Here we have six films and, aside from one, they are all about hustlers who don't really like their situation.

I can't really recommend this collection, because it's all so self-hating and negative overall. The positive moments are too few and far between. In this one, our host pretends to be a hustler, but it's more of the same stereotypical street hustler talk that is pretty familiar at this point.

A Love To Hide: DVD Review

By Jeff Walsh

"A Love to Hide" takes place in 1942 Paris, as the country is under German occupation during World War II. As the movie opens, we see Sara escaping, and learn to find that she is Jewish, her family was killed, and she barely escaped alive.

She goes to see Jean, an old friend she knows from when their families used to vacation at the same place each year when they were just kids. She always had a crush on Jean, who sets her up to live with Philippe, his friend. Jean's family owns a laundry that has no choice but to deal with a lot of German military officials to stay in business, so it isn't safe to keep her with his family.

As Sara wonders whether her childhood crush on Jean will turn into something again, now that they are adults, she sees Jean saying goodbye to Philippe, and their kiss lets her know her future with him isn't likely to happen.

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