“Labyrinth of Lies”: idealistic young prosecutor in 1958 brings “ordinary people” to justice in West Germany for having supported Nazis

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Name: “Labyrinth of Lies”
Director, writer:  Giulio Ricciarelli
Released:  2014
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed: Netlix DVD
Length 124
Rating R   (language: German)
Companies: Sony Pictures Classics, Universal International,
Link: official

The German drama “Labyrinth of Lies” (“Im Labyrinth des Schweigens”), directed by Giulio Ricciarelli, and written with Elisabeth Bartel, shows how the pre-unification Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) got into the game of prosecuting “ordinary people” who had turned out to be complicit Nazi War criminals, after the Nuremberg trials.

The narrative is seen through a 28-year-old prosecutor, and handsome and perfect “Aryan” Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), who has attracted attention of a reporter for prosecuting ordinary traffic and misdemeanor cases vigorously.  He has at the same time wanted go to after a teacher who had been part of the SS and isn’t supposed to be allowed to teach, but authorities look the other way.  The reporter starts educating him on Auschwitz, which in 1958 still few Germans really understood.  He tries to learn about it at a public library, and finds that it will take eight weeks to get a book on the topic.  That’s how slow information flow could be four decades before the Internet (remember interlibrary loans?)

Gradually Radmann’s boss Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss – Bauer is the subject also of “The People v. Fritz Bauer”)) becomes more supportive, and Radmann becomes involved in the search for Josef Mengele and eventually Adolf Eichmann.  Along the way, at the film’s exact middle, he gets seduced by a seamstress. Marlene (Frederike Becht).  That leads him to a personal crisis, the discovery that his own father had been active with the Nazis. The film eventually ends with start of a trial of hundreds of former Auschwitz workers.

The film waterskiis over the question of whether ordinary citizens should be prosecuted for crimes they are ordered to commit by their leadership.

My own first visit to “West Germany” happened in the summer of 1972, when I arrived in Frankfurt.  The train to Hamburg came within sight distance of the East German border.  In those days, people stayed in hostels without private bathrooms when traveling.  I revisited in 1999, and visited Berlin and Dresden.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Frankfurt skyline by Eli Beckman, CCSA International 4.0.

(Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 at 11:15 AM EDT)

“Live and Let Live” presents the case for veganism

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Name: Live and Let Live
Director, writer:  Marc Pierschel
Released:  2013
Format:  digital video
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant
Length 80
Rating NA
Companies: Blackrabbit
Link: VOD


Marc Pierschel’s “Live and Let Live” (2013) presents veganism , going back to the time of an essay promoting the dietary concept in “The Vegetarian Messenger” back in 1944.  Vegan diets do not allow any animal products at all (especially, no dairy).

The title of the movie reminds me of the appellation I gave my own proposal for eliminating the ban on gays in the military in my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book in 1997.  It also reminds us of a notorious James Bond movie and song, “Live and Let Die” (1973) complete with that Mississippi sheriff.

Perschell spends a lot of time interviewing a German farmer family, and also a competitive cyclist Jack Lindquist, who, handsome enough except for the shaved and partially tattooed arms and legs, shows how he can consume 5000 calories a day with plenty of variety of plant proteins.  Many others are interviewed, including Peter Singer (professor of Bioethics) and entrepreneur Aaron Adams, who went through his own epiphany and started the Portebello Trattoria in Portland, Oregon.

Other speakers talk about “carnalism”, how we rationalize our raising and slaughter of some animals for eating, while honoring others (dogs).  Animals do value their own lives (Singer talks about “sentience”), and pigs particularly are quite intelligent (as in the 1995 Australian film “Babe”).

But one speaker says that even vegan food can come with karma or ethical problems, if it is dependent on fruit grown or picked by migrant or essentially slave labor.

Is the vegan diet best for personal heart health?  Celebrities from Bill Clinton to Reid Ewing say so.  Here’s a con argument  or another piece by Chris Kesser.  The Wall Street Journal had a balanced article in 2012.

(Posted: Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 at 11 AM EDT)

“The Selfishness of Others” by Kristin Dombek, an “essay” on the moral aspects of narcissism

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Author: Kristin Dombek
Title, Subtitle: The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism
publication date 2016
ISBN ISBN 978-0-86547-823-7
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York; 150 pages, endnotes, seven chapters
Link: author


I saw the little book “The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism”, by Kristin Dombek, on display in bookshelves near the check-in desk at the Ace Hotel in New York City, on 29th St, ironically about six blocks where an explosion in Chelsea would happen later that day (and two blocks from where another device would be discovered).  I ordered it from Amazon.  At 138 pages, it is still just an “essay”.

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The book is quite abstract, and seems to be a philosophical discussion of narcissistic personality disorder in a year when Donald Trump is running for president. The last two pages of the book propose a new DSM clinical definition of “Narciphobia” as if it were a form of narcissism itself.

The book as seven short chapters, and starts out with a description of a young woman’s wanting to close down an entire street in Atlanta for her debutance or wedding party.  There are some references to Tara, the lost culture of the old South, as if Scarlet O’Hara had been the ultimate narcissist.

In the third chapter, “The Bad Boyfriend”, she seems to venture into philosophical homophobia.  She recounts Freud’s account of male homosexuality as a mirror (metaphor) where the man loves only what he would like to see himself as (and that fantasy has to be met perfectly, no flaws allowed).  That brings back my own days at NIH in 1962 (“How do you see yourself??”) – another way of putting George Gilder’s idea of “upward affiliation” (articulated in the 1986 book “Men and Marriage”).  Or perhaps we recall David Skinner’s 1999 essay in the Weekly Standard, “Notes on the Hairless Man” (see July 28 movie review for link).   I can recall Skinner’s getting into Marky Mark’s idea of “creativity”.  Finally, though, Dombek becomes appropriately suspicious of Freud himself. But not until (on p. 38) she proposed “When e grow up, we forfeit part of this early childhood narcissism – impoverishing our oceanic, boundless self-absorption in order to care and be cared about. Genuinely loving parents teach their children that it is safe to make this trade.”  It was Philip Longman, in the 2004 book “The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What We Can Do About It”, who wrote that a lot of people are too “self-absorbed” to beget children. Indeed. Bombek sometimes comes back with the refrain that experiencing straight love is a moral imperative.

Later, in a chapter on “The Millennial” (p. 70) she describes narcissism as an artificially “self-sufficient femininity”, and odd take on Rosenfels’s polarities.  (I also wonder about whether “acceptance” is supposed to be a sub-component of “Love” from Reid Ewing’s own Twitter feed.)  Then, she gets into a most interesting and disturbing paradox in Millennial life:  no group has been so self-absorbed, but no group is so willing to pimp out sociability and self-indulgent “go-fund-me” onto others.

“The Murderer” as a narcissist needs no explanation, but for “The Artist” she retells the Greek parable of Narcissus and Echo.   All these modern romance websites “invite you to be in the center of the world. Stuck in time, assessing the moral status of others, until love is gone.” Indeed, she notes in “The World”, a third of us freelance ourselves alone on the Internet – the “alone together” phenomenon.  Finally, on p. 135, she says “The selfishness of others is the feeling of your dependence revealed, as their gaze turns away; Your independence (is) laid bare as a myth.”

(Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016, at 2:30 PM EDT)

“The Lovers and the Despot”: How North Korea kidnapped a filmmaker and his actress wife to bolster its own propaganda machine

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Name: The Lovers and the Despot
Director, writer:  Ross Adam and Robert Cannan
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1, much archival footage
When and how viewed:  Landmark E St, 2016/9/26. afternoon, small audience
Length 98
Rating PG-13
Companies: Magnolia
Link: link


First, the threat of North Korea is dead serious.  The DPRK does seem to have built a nuclear weapon that can be put on a missile.  It probably could nuke South Korea now, and maybe Japan.  In a few years, it might reach the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the US.  Great circle maps have the longest missiles capable of reaching northern Michigan. Hopefully NORAD (“War Games”) would be ready.

And Km Song-Un has made plenty of blustery threats. At worst, he could be capable of making the moral pronouncements of the doomsday prepper crowd relevant. An attack against “just” to South could have enormous ramifications for the markets and could happen at any time.

In fact, during the 1990s, when I wrote my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, it seemed that Korea was the most serious military issue we had.  I wasn’t aware of the gravity of asymmetric terrorism yet,

So, yes, “The Lovers and the Despot”, by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan, is “another” documentary about the DPRK, a dicey thing ever since the country’s brazen bullying of Sony Pictures over “The Interview” at the end of 2014.

And the movie sets up an intriguing “story”, even if it is the politics that seems to matter now.  In early 1978 – while I was living my last year in NYC and a most interesting time for me personally – Hong Kong was still under British rule (until 1997) and did not have the glitz of today (with the Mira Hotel where Snowden stayed).   Filmmaker Shin and actress Choi have divorced, and during a stay in Hong Kong, Choi is lured to a “party” and kidnapped and taken to the DPTK.  Shin follows to Hong Kong and gets kidnapped himself, and both wind up imprisoned in North Korea   The kidnapping of Shin is not covered in as much detail.

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Soon they learn that Kim Song Il (who has taken over from his father) wants the filmmakers to buff up the film industry of North Korea, which Shin would do.  Under supervision, the couple, reunited, would be allowed to travel.

The film then moves to 1986, where, with a caper-like sequence worthy of Hitchcock, the couple, visiting Vienna, escapes to the US embassy and asks for asylum, which the Reagan administration quickly grants.

As for North Korea’s propaganda film industry, I recall seeing a horrible film “Flower Girl” at the Washington Square Methodist Church in New York City in the fall of 1974, shortly after moving into the City.  A story about a girl getting medications for her mother, it was sing-song-y and boring, preachy, and endless.

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Adam’s film mentions North Korea’s attempt to make a successor to “Titanic” long after Shin’s escape.  But DPRK’s films have never gotten distribution outside the country

Adam also shows some of the cruelty of the regime (as have many other films).  People are forced to weep in public at the passing of both leaders, in a parody of what I call “upward affiliation” (but then, again, Donald Trump provides another such parody).

But the most shocking idea is the kidnappings in a foreign, western-controlled country.  We’ve heard about China kidnapping booksellers and writers today in Hong Kong and even Thailand.  The couple in the film is from South Korea.  But could something like that happen to am “ordinary” American journalist or even blogger?  The conventional wisdom, is don’t visit authoritarian countries as a tourist unless you really know what you’re doing (the topic came up at a travel expo recently, writeup ).  But could you really be “taken” anyway?

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Pyongyang by John Pavelka under CCSA 2.0

Second picture:  about 15 homeless people camped out at McPherson Square Metro in downtown DC last night.

(Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at 11 AM EDT)

 

“Goat” dramatizes fraternity hazing on campus; does this still happen today?

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Name: Goat
Director, writer:  Andrew Neel
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Amazon Prime rental online; limited theatrical release (Angelika Pop Up in Washington DC)
Length 102
Rating R
Companies: Killer Films, Great Point Media, Paramount Vantage
Link: Facebook


The opening credit sequence of Andrew Neel’s new drama “Goat” shows repeatedly an array of shirtless college men, most with absolutely hairless chests, reeled together in some sort of ritual. It’s no secret that this is a movie about quasi-mandatory rites of passage.  I thought colleges were supposed to be doing away with fraternity hazing.  But this is only a movie, right?   James Franco produces and has a supporting role.  The film is based on a memoir by Brad Land.

At 19, Brad (Ben Schnetzer) has been robbed and rolled on a rural road after giving some “frat boys” a ride.  Still, when he goes away to college in Ohio, he wants to pledge to his older brother’s (Brett, played by Nick Jonas) fraternity

It’s no surprise that the movie piles on scatological indulgences, including beastiality with a real goat, being smeared with feces, drinking urine and vomiting.  After surviving “Hell Well”, the little freshmen are servants for the rest of the year.

The paradigm follows the military, of course, as the young men try to impose their own social pecking order, where men prove they deserve to “belong” and never “snitch”.  There are plenty of homophobic slurs, and it’s clear that the psychology behind them is not so much about the future procreation of the group, but about designating a slave underclass (“faggots”) to feel superior to.  The behavior roughly dramatizes some of the concerns about “unit cohesion” that aired during the debate on gays in the military (and “don’t ask don’t tell”) two decades ago.

One wonders why boys rush and want to belong.  The “Greek” world seeks to replace emerging individualism with a culture where men are fungible and need to prove themselves worthy by acting within and belonging to a warrior group first.  It sounds like a kind of “survival of the fittest”, to see who are unworthy of going on and providing another generation.  Even given the stated lesbians scenes, this seems to be about heterosexual futures.

When I started at William and Mary in the fall of 1961, I was harassed by football players and pledges even though I did not try to join a fraternity.  In fact, if very many geeky introverts opt out, it seems like the credibility of the whole hazing system is undermined. My father had talked about the idea that men had to prove themselves by “taking hazing” ad from my parents’ friends, I heard real horror tales of how things had been at Virginia colleges earlier in the 20th Century.

The straight men talk in one liners here, and in general that’s not how I find even the heterosexual world behaving on campus today when I have any interaction with it. The film goes way over the top.

The Greek system will be tested when Brad’s roommate collapses and dies of a heart attack on the track, as an indirect result of the hazing.  So will the whole system where no one “snitches”

The premise of the movie seems odd given today’s debate on the opposite process – media free zones and speech codes concerning micro-aggressions, and trigger warnings.

Jonas plays the stable brother.  I haven’t kept up with the Jonas Brothers as a former singing group.  Jonas was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as a teen and it seems controlled. This recent interview is very interesting.

(Published: Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 5 PM EDT)

Recital by Roman Rabinovich in Baltimore; Beethoven, Haydn, Schumann, and his own “Capriccio: A Clown on a Bicycle”

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Again, I go on the road to hear a concert.

Today, Uzbekistan (Tashkent)-born pianist Roman Rabinovich (b. 1985) gave a recital at the George Washington Carver center for Arts and Technology in Towson MD.

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The program opened with a Sonata in G Major, Hob.XVI:39, by Franz Joseph Haydn.  The Sonata sounds courtly, with the openly Allegro Con Brio almost a gavotte.  The Sonata form is monothematic.  The closing Prestissimo ends quietly.

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Next Roman played his own 4-movement sutie, “Capriccio: A Clown on the Bicycle” (sounds rather Truffaut-like).  The music tended to be mostly linear and polyphonic, and a bit Stravinsky-like. The movements include a gigue and waltz.  It was premiered at Alice Tully Hall in NYC in 2016.

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He then followed with the largest work of the concert, the Piano Sonata #28 in A Major, Op. 101, by Beethoven. His own remarks noted that Beethoven had not composed for four years, having sunk into depression.  The opening movement begins on the dominant E Major, and manages to keep a lot of quiet tension by original use of old harmonic patterns.  The second movement is a march (anticipating a similar movement in the Schumann Fantasy), with an inquisitive trio.  Then there is a shot Adagio  in A Minor that briefly recapitulates a little material from the first movement, before the joyous finale, with becomes the main event.  The development section of the Finale is a fugue that anticpates the Hammerkavier.  Sometimes, Roman’s tempos in the quieter passages do seem very deliberate.

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After the Intermission he followed with “Surfaces”, a four-movement programmatic suite by Michael Brown, based on four abstract paintings by Roman.  The music uses tone clusters, and the quiet ending is described as a send-off into outer space.  Somehow this music reminded me of Michael Crichton’s 1997 novel “Sphere” with the 1998 film by Barry Levinson, about a spaceship discovered under the ocean.  Roman has a blog posting about connecting visual art and music.

The concert concluded with “Faschingsschwank aus Wien”, (“Carnival Jest from Vienna”) Op. 26, is a suite in five movements (B-flat), somewhat like a sonata, but with the first movement very episodic. The music is supposed to be a sequel to the Carnival, Op. 9, and is another example of Schumann’s building big works out if miniatures.

As an encore, Roman played a piano transcription of the finale scene from Maurice Ravel’s ballet “Daphnis and Chloe” (sheet music).

I bought his autographed CD, which includes the Couperin “Ordre 18eme de clavecin”, a Sonata in A-flat by Haydn (who was not afraid of more black keys), and the 24 Preludes of Chopin.  The third from the last, in G Minor, is of interest to me because I was studying at the end of ninth grade in 1958, after my first piano teacher died suddenly, when something else traumatic happened that I’ve documented in Chapter 1 of my first DADT book. Roman takes the piece very fast.

Rabinovich likes to perform the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #3 (I’m not sure which first movement cadenza).  When meeting him, I forgot to ask him if he is familiar with the C#-Minor Piano Concerto if Amy Beach, or the first piano concerto (a mammoth one-movemen work) of Eugen D’Albert, whose form is inspired by the Liszt B Minor Sonata, but which adds a fugal cadenza and thrilling short finale at the end.

(Posted: Saturday, September 24, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)

“Command and Control”: our close brush with a nuclear explosion in Arkansas after an accident in 1980

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Name: Command and Control
Director, writer:  Robert Kenner
Released:  2016
Format:  HD video
When and how viewed:  Landmark E St, 2016/9/23
Length 92
Rating NA
Companies: PBS, American Experience
Link: official 

Command and Control”, directed by Robert Kenner, for PBS and American Experience, gives a riveting account of the 1980 Damascus Titan Missile Explosion, near Little Rock, AK. It’s based on the book “Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, The Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety” by Eric Schlosser.

The incident happened because the maintenance protocol changed, and a technician overlooked it and brought the wrong torque wrench, late in the day Sept. 18, 1980.  A rivet fell 80 feet to the bottom of the bay (which was not netted) and bounced against the missile, causing a fluid leak, leading to eventual explosion   The feared nuclear explosion did not happen, but the film maintains that it could have gone off.

The initial team evacuated, and another team came in but could not prevent the blast, which killed one airman and severely burned several others.

Several politicians in Little Rock, where a Democratic fundraiser was being held, were told by phone and feared nuclear explosion. Bill Clinton was the young governor at the time and acted naïve.

The Air Force tried to keep the ultimate danger quiet, and disciplined several airmen and ended the careers of a few officers.  The technician got an Article 15.

The documentary uses a lot of stock footage and some models. Many of the men are still alive today, and talk about how gung-ho they were when in their 20s.  The film recapitulates several accidents, especially the crash over Goldsboro, NC in January 1961.

The director points out that nuclear weapons technology is vulnerable to unanticipated human error that can have catastrophic results.  There have been many other near misses.  One or two of them could have started WWWIII with the Soviet Union.  It’s also appropriate to consider the dangers posed by loose nuclear waste (Yucca mountain was mentioned in the QA, but materials in former Soviet republics are a big risk, as demonstrated in the film “The Last Best Chance” (2005) produced with the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

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(Posted: Friday, September 23, 2016 at 11:50 PM EDT)

“Salam Neighbor”: the “Living on One Dollar” filmmakers now experience a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

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Name: Salam Neighbor
Director, writer:  Chris Temple, Zach Ingrasci
Released:  2015
Format:  HD video
When and how viewed:  2016/9/22, Netflix instant
Length 75
Rating NA (PG-13?)
Companies: Living on One, Ryot
Link: official 

In “Salam Neighbor” (2015, “Salam Akaykum”, or “Peace Be With You”). Filmmakers Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci follow up on work they did with “Living on One Dollar” (in Guatemala) now by spending a month in a Syrian refugee camp, Za’atari, less than ten miles from the Syrian border, in Jordan.

The young men (whose filmmaking style reminds me of Andrew Jenks) process through Jordanian authorities as if they were quasi-refugees themselves.  They set up their tent (with two or three other men).  But soon camp security advises them to spend the nights in Maifraq, where they are barely able to rent an office storage room to sleep in.

By day, the camp is one enormous, flat expanse of tents and white buildings in the desert, rather like an Army post. There’s one shot of a brief, intense haboob.

This particular camp has built up an underground “free market” economy of retail shops, so the standard of living for some people has slowly risen.  Lives are limited by the lack of more infrastructure, as with the resources of Jordan and UNHCR.

Women often work (sometimes their husbands died), which is novel for them since Syrian families had been patriarchal.  One woman makes about 200 headdresses a month, enough to make a living.

As the film progresses, the young American men start to bond with the kids, to an extent unusual in documentary film (I’m reminded of “The Mission in Belize”).  There is a complicated arrangement to provide some school, and Save the Children is active in providing support for teaching. The personal connections that the filmmakers make with the people could become significant if the US ever allows private sponsorship of refugees.

Toward the end, the film provides a retrospect of the ruins in Syria, from whom the refugees have fled. Many ruins are shown, yet some cities had been beautiful before, with canals and gardens.

Toward the end, the film provides some statistics, particularly on the volume of refugees that Jordan has absorbed.  One woman cannot support her kids and has applied for admission to the US as a refugee.  Canada has a private refugee sponsorship program but the US does not (for the most part), a subject covered in detail on my news commentary blog.

(Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)

“The List”: a “black” romantic comedy about the perils of upward affiliation in relationships

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Name: The List
Director, writer:  Brandon Sonnier
Released:  2007
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD
Length 92
Rating R
Companies: RossWWMedia, Warner Independent Pictures
Link: Black Film Festival

The List” (alternatively titled “I’m Perfect”), from 2006 and directed by Brandon Sonnier, at first sounds like genre “indie” black romantic comedy (rather like Tyler Perry), but in fact it broaches a “morally” important topic:  what happens when we approach romantic or intimate relationships expecting the other partner to be “perfect” enough?  Call this the “upward affiliation” problem (a term coined in the 1980s by conservative writer George Gilder). https://www.doaskdotellnotes.com/?p=511

The plot is heterosexual, and some reviewers have noted that this story would work regardless of the race of any character.   In more recent years, in fact, casting diversity has started to become a “political” flashpoint in Hollywood. http://billsmediareviews.com/?p=1908

The story presents a young ad executive Lewis (Wayne Brady) who has a peculiar intellectual way of processing everything.  As a manager, he makes lists of goals.  For romantic partners, he makes lists of desired attributes.   Lew proposes to the perfect lady on his own reality television show, and she says “No” to the Big Question.  In fact, the lady retaliates by showing how far Lew falls from perfection himself. But Lew will not be deterred from using his “list” technique.  He soon has his eyes on Cecile, played by Sydney Tamiia Poiter (daughter of the actor Sidney Poitier, as from “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, both 1967).  He will experience his own battle of head vs. heart.

The film gradually gets back into his ad business, which involves casting and filming commercials in Los Angeles – somewhat away from the actual entertainment film business.

The “upward affiliation” problem can drag on the resilience of a population.  If people are too picky about whom they will bond with (enough to marry and raise children), or not willing to stay in an intimate relationship during physical adversity, a people becomes more vulnerable to adverse externalitie and even enemies.

The idea of a personal “list” has another implementation: one can have a private “list” of persons he or she thinks the most of or would fantasize getting intimate with, and “to hell” with everyone else.  Although, in my own short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is,” the ocelot doesn’t have clay feet after all.

(Published: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 at 9 PM EDT)

“Best Gay Romance”: explicit fiction, but sometimes hitting issues (like jury duty sequestration)

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Author/Editor: Felice Picano
Title, Subtitle: “Best Gay Romance”
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-1-62778-092-6
Publication: Cleis, 206 pages, paper
Link: (2008 version site)

Best Gay Romance” is an anthology of 16 short stories, edited by Felice Picano, carrying on a series originally created and run by Richart Labonte.  The editor says that he sent out a call for submissions to over sixty gay writers, and he did get a lot of submissions.  The book, from Cleis Press, was available at Outwrite DC in August and I bought a copy.

The stories tend to be explicit.  They tend to see male homosexuality in terms of quickly coming to climax with genitals.  There is not usually an ambiguous buildup of tension where you don’t know where it’s going.  That’s more what I like, and I’ll come back to that.

The first story, “Transitions of Glass”, by Simon Bleaken, does remind me of a familiar setting from my own earlier coming of age.  A closeted gay man feels attracted to a charismatic coworker, and isn’t sure whether his idol might be gay.  In this case, the story comes to an explicit climax too quickly; the air is let out of the pliable balloon too suddenly.  Maybe that’s just men.

The fourth story, “Jury Duty”, is by Tom Baker, author of the novels” and “The Sound of One Horse Dancing” and “Paperwhite Narcissus”.  I met Tom at a gay book fair in New York in March 2012.  He graduated from William and Mary, but had a major incident there in 1963, two years after my own expulsion in the fall of 1961.  His first novel reflects the life of an educated man having to develop the street smarts of life as a hustler to survive.  The short story, which might be autobiographical, sets up a situation when the protagonist is sequestered early in jury duty because of the potentially controversial nature of the trial (set in New York).  Denied television, newspapers and Internet access, there is not much else to do but, well, find intimacy with another juror.  But, seriously, jury sequestration would be a serious issue for me if it ever happened, as I would lose all contact with my own “blogger journalism” operation.  Flirting during jury duty can indeed happen in real life.  I almost go into trouble over this in Dallas one time in 1986, as  explained here.   An important concept underneath all this is that jury duty, even if it can lead to an existential professional sacrifice, is a civic obligation, the way military service used to be.

My own sense of pacing in a gay-themed erotic story is expressed more in my own short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, the last item of my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, which is a little bit parallel to the 2006 film “Old Joy” (Kelly Reichardt), less so to “Bugcrush”.

(Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT)