“All of Me”: Women feed migrants leaning from a train in Mexico, strictly out of faith

All of Me” (“Llevate mis amores” or “Take my Love”), by Arturo Gonzales Villasenor (Mexico, 2014, in Spanish), pretty much inverts the parable of the Rich Young Ruler.

A group of women at Patronas, Mexico, labor on homemade woodstoves to cook meals and gather water for migrants, who reach for it from the traveling freight train called “The Beast”. They’ve done it since 1995.   Most of the migrants come all the way from Central America. Some have stopped out of fear of getting in trouble with the law, but the group still goes on, 7 days a week.

Most of the film, besides showing the harrowing food pickup, comprises interviews with the women.  At the film’s midpoint, one of them relates an incident where a boy mangled his foot falling under a wheel. Although they stopped his bleeding, the women found no one would treat him until someone paid for his care. (Sound familiar?)  Eventually, the Red Cross took him to a hospital where the foot was amputated and a prosthesis provided.

The women, and a few men, describe the limited economic opportunities of agricultural and manual labor.  One of the men got a factory job, hazardous work welding inside pipes, and was still always in debt. One of the women is shown cleaning a pig sty, in front of farm animals who (like “Babe”) don’t yet know they will be eaten.

One woman’s daughter was about to go to college and wanted to become a journalist, but had to face the idea that if the local gangs didn’t like what she wrote, they would come after her and her family.

There are some night scenes, toward the end, in stark black and white, almost recalling the Holocaust.

This is a real food bank.  I’m reminded, of course, of Community Assistance (like at Mount Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA or the Arlington Food Assistance Center near Shirlington).  Volunteering in these activities is safe.  Volunteering along an illegal migrant rail route is only for men and women “of faith”, which others don’t have a right to define for them.  There is no debate.

All of this, of course, Donald Trump wants to stop.  So why can’t Mexico get its own house in order?  It’s the rich and the poor, as always.

Much of the film is within sight of Mount Popocapetel, the highest volcano in the country.  A high school friend climbed it in 1962 and almost dies on it.

Name:  “All of Me
Director, writer:  Arturo Gonzales Villasenor
Released:  2014; 2016 US theatrical; DVD pre-book 2017/3/14, DVD street date 2017/4/11
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Complimentary Vimeo Screener from Strand
Length:  90
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 10:30 PM EDT)

“Life After Death”: the geography of the Afterlife (Martin)

I received, from author Stephen Hawley Martin, a complimentary review copy of his Second Edition (2017) “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”.  I think the first edition was in 1995.

The author believes that consciousness generates the Universe and permeates it.  Consciousness exists apart from matter and energy – you could wonder if it has anything to do with dark energy, or with unused dimensions in string theory.  Consciousness tends to aggregate into concentrates that seek some sort of physical vehicle for expression.  Since ultimate conscious entities can make choices, in theory conscious entities – expressed (on this planet at least) with reproductive life forms, oppose entropy, which would cause the Universe to degrade.

Human being (and animal) individual consciousness comes about as genetics and “morphogenetic” influences cause a “soul” or conscious entity to become expressed or “received” by a physical body.  Many other sources talk about “free will” and self-awareness as connected to microtubules within neurons able to deal with quantum uncertainties.

Martin’s book, which is a bit random in its presentations style, focuses most on evidence from “near death experiences” or NDE’s, and many examples of reincarnation.  He mentions AMORC, or the Rosicrucian Order, as well as the Monroe Institute (20 miles south of Charlottesville VA) which he says the CIA has used to train agents in remote viewing. He cites cases of intelligent people with very little cerebrum matter, and notes that even plants can “behave” despite not having brains.

I think there is a logical question.  Do most newborn babies develop a “new” soul, or are most actually reincarnations?  If the universe expands infinitely and has infinitely many centers of consciousness, there could be an “infinite series” of reincarnation – but then again, some series will converge! He mentions AMORC’s (Rosicrucian) teaching that typical reincarnation cycles last about 140 years.

The author suggests that homosexuality may result when the person was of the opposite sex in the previous incarnation (although this idea runs the risk of confusing sexual orientation with gender identity or fluidity, very different concepts).  It’s all too easy to imagine the “Putin” argument that acceptance of homosexuality can lower procreation (and give returning souls another chance).

He also talks about “life between lives”, as being “what you want”.  Some souls “get stuck” as “asylum seekers” and become ghosts.  The sites “Afterlife Knowledge” and Mike Pettigrew’s give a geography of the Afterlife.  Note the “hollow heavens” available to those with strict religious beliefs;  “Focus 27” seems to be the most advanced level.   The author notes that a lot of souls got “stuck” after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but not after 9/11, because the deaths were more instantaneous. That would suggest that the way you die does affect your next course in the Afterlife.

The  soul life might be the “real life”, whereas earthly life is like a “dream” (as in the song “Row your boat”);  In a dream during sleep, you don’t remember how you got there, although you know who you are.  This is the concept of Christopher Nolan’s movie “Inception” (2010).  Other films worth mention here are “Cocoon” (Ron Howard, 1985), or even  the “Chiller”, “The Disembodied” (1957). The appropriate term for a person who has passed away is “discarnate”.  We could also ponder “Our Home: Astral City” (2011, Brazil), “What Dreams May Come” (1998, Robin Williams), and “Defending Your Life” (1991).

Martin mentions the “life review” that occurs at time of passage, that seems to give the person access to every moment in his or her life as if on a video.  The term reminds me of “content evaluation” in the POD book industry.  As evidence of his theory, Martin also notes that people with Alzheimer’s disease often become lucid and get most of their memory back just before they pass on, as if the memory came from a repository of cosmic consciousness.

Martin also talks about Grace as a cosmological concept that matches up with that in the Christian and other faiths, as organizing nature.  He explains telekinesis (or maybe self-teleportation as with young Clark Kent in “Smallville”) as instances of “mind over matter”.

He does mention angels a couple times, and I’ve wondered if these are immortal physical beings, or maybe someone like Jason Ritter’s hero character Sean Walker in NBC’s series “The Event“, someone who doesn’t know he is an alien, and almost immortal, until the end.  In my own novel manuscript “Angel’s Brother” I play with the idea that a soul could experience another (younger) person’s body through “consolidation” (through a fictitious virus) but the process backfires when one of the persons separates as piece of ball lightning and then reconnects himself.

Martin mentions the Myers-Biggs personality charts (p. 173), and considers himself “INTJ” (introverted-intuitive-thinking-judging), about 2% of the population.  I fall into that category (“feminine subjective” by Rosenfels), and can be unpopular, viewed as a spectator rather than a participant.

I think the concept of relation between soul and living person can be put into analogy with a phonograph recording of a performance of a music work.  This concept may have been more applicable in the past before the Internet and digital age with cloud storage.  But an “instance” recording of a work can wear out (bad styli in the past) and need to be replaced, but the actual work and performance still lives forever.  You could even draw a comparison to object-oriented programming, with “classes” and “instances”, where rebirth is “instantiation” (or “construction”).

I have visited the grounds of the Monroe Institute (Aug. 2014), but you have to arrive very early for a one day event.   The long sessions with Hemi-Sync require a considerable time commitment.   I visited the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose CA in 1975.

Author: Stephen Hawley Martin
Title, Subtitle: “Life After Death: Powerful Evidence You Will Never Die”
publication date 2017, 1995
ISBN 978-1543134322
Publication: Oaklea Press, Richmond Va; Paper, 13 chapters, 206 pages
Link: sales

(Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:15 PM EDT)

“Fair Haven”: an aspiring classical musician deals with ex-gay pressures at his rural family home

Fair Haven”, directed Kerstin Karlhuber, like “I Am Michael” (Jan. 28), deals with the “ex-gay” myth, but this time (I hope this is not too much of a spoiler), the plot conclusion is self-affirming.  The film presents some situations that roughly parallel some in my own coming of age. The story is by Jack Bryant.

The film’s star character, James Grant, aspires to become a concert pianist and has grown up on farm in Vermont.  The charismatic actor who plays him is the real life Michael Grant, who is a real concert pianist. So he plays The Brahms Waltz in A-fat (Op. 39, #15, with which the film score opens), the Chopin Revolutionary Etude in C Minor (Op. 10 #12), and Nocturne in B-flat minor (Op 9 #1) himself.

His dad (Tom Wopat) has become a widower with some unspecified family tragedy, and apparently mom taught piano, and the Brahms was one of her favorites.  He runs the family farm and wants to pass it on to James, who, apparently an only child, dad depends on for a family lineage.

So as the film opens, James has returned home from a Biblical conversion therapy. Dad even took some of his college money to pay for the religious experience.

The movie has flashbacks with a certain Doctor Gallagher (Gregory Harrison), and it seems to come down to an authoritarian implementation of one version of Christianity.  God’s personal plan for everyone is that everyone try to procreate.

So James attempts to court a local young lady (Lilly Anne Harrison), and it gets silted and awkward, just as it had been in my own spurt of heterosexual dating back in 1971.  Marriage and children would give him skin in someone else’s game.

He has to deal with an ex-boyfriend, Charlie Green (Josh Green) at a local store.  But when Charlie gets gay-bashed by local rednecks, there is one more reason for James to process what is happening.

James is approaching a crisis.  He could have to go to the city (Boston) and live by his wits to ever have a chance for a career in music.

I took nine years of piano myself (in the 1950s and 1960s) and was steered away (finally to computers) by family and a variety of circumstances.

As far as the religious question of “God’s plan” for biology, we can say that mammals often have other uses for sexuality besides procreation.  There is the whole idea of “polarity” and psychological growth.

I did wonder how likely Vermont sounds as a source of homophobia, even in rural areas.  It is, after all, the source of Bernie Sanders.  Back in the 1970s, one of the key people at the Ninth Street Center (as founded by Paul Rosenfels) came from Vermont.  The city of Rutland has attracted news recently because of its hospitality to Syrian refugees.

Name: “Fair Haven”
Director, writer: Kerstin Karlhuber
Released: 2017 (2015)
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: private screener Vimeo 2017/2/6; DVD available 2017/3/7
Length: 92
Rating: NA
Companies: Breaking Glass Pictures, Little Film Company, Trick Candle, Silent Giant
Link:  official site

Wikipedia picture of Killington Peak in Vermont, which I skied in 1973.

Vimeo of Michael Grant playing piano.

(Posted: Monday, February 6, 2017 at 7:30 PM EST)

 

“Transgender Teen”: lengthy but useful handbook for parents

The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens” (by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney) is a lengthy (338 pages) and practical guide for parents of (older) children and teens who say they do not have a conventional “cisgender” identity.

Indeed, a great deal of the book deals with basic terminology.  One of the most important terms is simply “non-binary”.  Two others are “assigned sex” and “assumed gender”, in light of “personal gender identity”. “Congruence” refers to the procedures (including medical and cosmetic) to make the person’s appearance more like what is expected for his or her   The modern use of the word “queer” refers to any aspects of gender (including but not limited to sexual orientation) that does not conform to what society has nominally expected for the person’s assumed birth gender. I recall that at the GOP convention in July, Donald Trump stumbled over adding the letter “Q” to LGBT.

Sexual orientation is a very different concept from gender identity.  The most common setting for gay men, especially, is for a someone who perceives his biological identity as “male”, and generally there is no aggregate difference in appearance or physical performance between gay and straight men.  “Gay” people are more common than “non-binary” or “transgender” people.

The book cover refers to a “generational divide in our understanding of gender”.  I grew up in the 1950s as a boy who fell behind in what was expected of future young men physically. Although I read women’s magazines and enjoyed watching “The Homemaker’s Exchange” cooking show, I was also interested in trains and science, and later music.  I never sensed a desire to be identified as female, but, as I have detailed elsewhere, gradually developed an awareness of my attraction to men during my teen years.  But the surrounding culture drilled into me that it was my duty to adapt to the needs of the world around me, to fit in to my community and be able to help protect it from potential outside adversaries.

The book dispels many of the myths, and notes that some teens will say “I can’t survive until age 18”.  The controversy over “bathroom bills”, such as the notorious HB2 in North Carolina, overlooks the fact that some transgender teens say they are not welcome in any bathroom.  State laws are likely to require a birth certificate change, which would normally require parental consent.

There is a disturbing report of a Cub Scout troop in New Jersey that told a transgender child that he (originally born a girl) could not continue to stay in the troop a month after the troop found out.  The BSA has been through a long process of accepting gay scouts (after winning a Supreme Court case in 2000 which took the libertarian position that it could do what it wanted).

Although the book goes into many concepts related to gender and sexuality, it doesn’t come close to Paul Rosenfels’s polarity theories (as in the 1971 book “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process“).

Authors: Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney
Title, Subtitle: The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-Binary Teens
publication date 2016 (sent to me as a complimentary copy for review)
ISBN 978-1-62778-174-9
Publication: Cleis Press, paper, 338 pages, 12 Chapters, Bibliography, Glossary
Link: publisher’s

(Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 8:30 PM EST)

“Closet Monster”: Connor Jessup plays a gay teen coming of age, with the help of a playmate hamster

Name:  “Closet Monster
Director, writer:  Stephen Dunn
Released:  2016
Format:  1.78:1
When and how viewed:  Private screener from Strand, 2016/12/24; DVD available Jan 10, 2017
Length:  89
Rating:  R
Companies:  Strand
Link:  Strand, Fortissimo

Closet Monster” (written and directed by Stephen Dunn) gives us an appealing gay teen Oscar (Connor Jessup), in a coming out story, looking back into the past through the eyes of his talking pet hamster Buffy (voice of Isabella Rossellini).

On the present day level.  The kid, growing up in Newfoundland, faces the tests of artistic, creative teens forced to focus on the practicalities of an adaptive daily world.  His boss at a hardware store (looking more or less like a Home Depot) tells him he is the least competent employee when letting him go, after earlier goading him on how to sell other people’s work.  He applies to various art schools.

And he deals with a homophobic father (Aaron Abrams), in a second marriage, a father himself drifting into abuse and probably alcohol.  And Oscar has his first trials with parties and the drug trips that follow.

But the back story shows a young boy, listening to the talking hamster (rather like Cleo, the talking dog on the 50s sitcom “The People’s Choice”), and asking his dad about a gay bashing he sees reported on the news on TV.  And his father tells him to watch growing his hair too long.

Some lonesome sequences near the end have some stunning coastal sequences, of the Labrador coast, as if as a young man he could settle into a final isolation in some mystery ashram, rather perplexing.  But earlier Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) has become an engaging companion in his coming out.

The film seems to have been shot maybe three years ago, as Connor Jessup looks a little “younger” in most scenes than he does in the ABC series “American Crime”.  His body seems to be moving into full adulthood as the film progresses.  He’s pretty handy and he bikes a lot.  Given all the popularity of trans issues in the media recently, it’s well to remember that both Oscar and Wilder are conventionally “male-identified” young adults with conventionally male ideals of individual competitiveness, even physically.

Some of the dream effects remind me of David Cronenberg’s film “Spider” (2002).

Look at the Wikipedia (attribution) link for Newfoundland picture by Auden Mulroney, CCSA 2.0.   I’ve only set foot there once (In Gander at the airport in 1970 on a refueling stop),  It’s an important setting in Anthony Hyde’s 1985 Cold War novel “The Red Fox”

“Retake”: a middle aged gay man relives an earlier relationship by getting a hooker to act the part on a road trip

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Name: Retake
Director, writer: Nick Corporon et al
Released: 2016
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed: private Vimeo screener, 2016/12/15; official VOD 2017/1/6; in L.A. Jan. 6, 2017)
Length 98
Rating NA
Companies: Breaking Glass (was at Frameline in June 2016, OutonFilm [Atlanta] and NewFest [NYC])
Link: Facebook site; Amazon link

Retake” (directed by Nick Corporon, based on his own story with two others) is another gay road mystery, with some nice meaning and good intentions but a lot less “erotic” suspense than some others in the “genre” (maybe even “Bugcrush” or “Old Joy”).

As the film opens, Jonathan (Tuc Watkins) is traveling to San Francisco and then, driving, picking up hustlers for trial runs in the Tenderloin (not the Castro). Soon he finds the right actor, Adam (Devon Graye), although we won’t know he’s Adam for most of the movie.

Jonathan hires Adam to accompany him on a car pilgrimage to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. But there are rules (just like in “Rebirth” (July 23), and I guess that includes no spectatorship. Adam will act the part of Brandon, as it is clear Jonathan wants to relive an earlier episode of his life with a former lover. And, yes, there is a sense that something bad could have happened at the end.

So Adam looks through Jonathan’s stuff and gets away with it (thinly) in the motel rooms all the time, and figures out how to act the part. Then, does he want a real relationship, or does he need a getaway?

You see too much of Adam early, so there’s not much erotic tension. In fact, keeping things interesting when one of the partner’s is middle-aged or older is a challenge, which may work best if the older person is really fit himself. (So it must be in my novel “Angel’s Brother”.).

Toward the end, there some other characters, including a cool straight interracial couple, and an elderly lady who picks up hitchhikers (maybe as a good Samaritan, but not the thing to do anymore).

(Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2016; picture is from western Nevada, mine, from a 2012 trip)

“Summertime”: filial piety challenges a lesbian relationship in 1971 France

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Name: Summertime
Director, writer:  Catherine Corsini
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Vimeo private screener 2016/11/14
Length 105
Rating NR (but would normally be NC-17; this is a legitimate, professional adult film with major social issues explored)
Companies: Strand, Pyramide (DVD available 2016/11/15)
Link: official

 

Summertime” (originally “La belle saison” or “The Beautiful Season”, 2015), directed by Catherine Corsini, gives a pretty thorough exposition of family values in France in 1971.

Georges Pompidou is talking about family values on French television as Spanish professor Carol (Cecilel de France) consorts with other radical feminists.  They hear a story about a gay man put into a mental institution for electroshock treatments (this late) but still find the comparison of a pregnant woman to a “car” carrying an unwanted baby more offensive than what can happen to gay men.  Carol meets Delphine (Izia Higelin), a twenty-something from a family farm apparently in Provence (judging from the scenery). They fall in love.

Suddenly, however (at 40 minutes into a 105-minute film) Delphine gets a call from home, as her dad has had a stroke.  She goes home, finds Dad (Jean Henri Compere) comatose, but gradually coming of it.  Delphine has no practical choice, out of filial piety, but to stay and run the family farm, and sacrifice her newfound lesbian passion.  This is about family responsibility that happens for the childless, regardless of their choices.

But Carol goes down to the farm to be with Delphine and resume the relationship. Passions resume, despite the fact that each woman has wannabe male suitors.  Eventually, Mom (Neomie Lvovsky) find out, and the results are not pleasant.  Mom may regard lesbianism as a perversion, but what’s obvious is that she feels she has lost a future lineage.

There is some suspense at a sad scene in a rural train station.  There is an epilogue, six years later, where we learn Carol is even more deeply into feminism and abortion assistance. Is this film “anti-baby?”

This is a lavish-looking, very professionally shot “patently adult” film – again, there is a need for NC-17 material in film to present some issues.

A good comparison is “One True Thing” (1998, Universal) where a college professor goads his yuppie daughter into giving up her own life and returning home to take care of mom dying of cancer.

Wikipedia attribution link for Provence photo by Civodule, CCSA 3.0.

(Posted: Monday, Nov. 14, 2016 at 8:45 PM EST)

“Lazy Eye”: two middle aged gay men reunite in CA 15 years after their pre-9/11 relationship in NYC

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Name: Lazy Eye
Director, writer:  Tim Kirkman  (art direction: Frances Lynn-Hernandez)
Released:  2016
Format:  2.39:1
When and how viewed:  Screener from distributor; available 2016/11/15 with Director’s Cut; Theatrical release is 11/11/2016
Length 88
Rating NA
Companies: Breaking Glass Pictures (distr.), T42 (production); at Outfest, Out Here Now KCMO, qPflix (Philadelphia), CinemaQ (Denver); world premier was at Provincetown 2016/6/17
Link: official


Lazy Eye” (2016), directed and written by Tim Kirkman,  and produced by Todd Shotz (“Timber Falls”), starts out with its protagonist, Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) hidden by an ophthalmologist’s machine.  Soon the doctor explains his amblyopia.  Dean sees this as a threat to his career as a successful Hollywood graphic designer.

Then, at home Los Angeles, alone because his husband is out in the field working, he gets an email from a long lost “ghost” boyfriend from New York fifteen years earlier, Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis).  Alex drives out alone to a second home in a spectacular desert area near Joshua Tree in the Mojave.  Soon Alex shows up, and they spend the weekend together, catching up, and sometimes fighting.

The analyze one of their favorite films from the past, “Harold and Maude” (1971, Hal Ashby), which I remember seeing in a dollar house near Baily’s Crossroads then. They they get into why Alex went dark on the Internet, without much explanation.

Actually, that might have happened to me around 2005 or so had I become a regular teacher (I took a stab at this whole conflict of interest problem on my legacy blog back around 2000, here  or here )   In fact, I have another friend now who prefers to remain dark, so I just wait.

Dean had moved to California just before 9/11, but after they broke up.  But Alex had also been concerned that Alex could have been in one of the WTC towers on 9/11.

.

The film has some flashbacks of how the met in New York, and at one time Alex thought he would “support” Dean working on Wall Street so Dean could focus on becoming an artist. I’ve been challenged as to whether I would be game for that (one particular time at the Ninth Street Center in the 70s).

They also have a conversation, about the idea that the only way to prove you’re a grown-up is to have and raise kids, and be ready to “step up” for someone else’s needs.  I use the word “Step Up” in my own DADT-III book epilogue.  Of course, some people feel they step up to meet a pet’s needs.

The idea of meeting someone after moderate aging is interesting.  Both men would be about 40 now, starting middle age, and just barely show it.  But the wonders of the past may have settled into reality.

The tone of the film reminds me of Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre” (1981).  The tone of the film, with the reaching into the mysteries of the past, reminds one a bit of the work of Jorge Ameer.

(Posted: Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)