Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Literary Voices: an appreciation of Mark Merlis and William M Hoffman


Have you ever read a novel only to have the effect of it come back to you like a boomerang that knocks you in the back of the head until the tears spring out?

Such is the case with Mark Merlis' An Arrow's Flight. When I read it almost 20 years ago, I thought it was smart and brilliant. Since the author's death on August 15, I decided to reread it and find copies of his other three novels.

William Johnson wrote this remembrance for Lambda Literary Review. "Merlis’ writing cannily explored the emotional and sexual lives of gay men, in all of their messy, nuanced, and wondrous splendor."

In writing for The Advocate, author Christopher Bram wrote, "His books share a family resemblance: fine literary texture, a keen sense of gay history, a moral complexity worthy of Henry James, and strong sexuality."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Meeting Sam Shepard in a Dream; lofty ambitions and gutted fish


   I met Sam Shepard in a dream last night, my last one before waking, on an open cement flat construction site with poles sticking up. It had been turned into a movie set where I was working on as Assistant to Something. 
   A crew man drilled a hinge on a doorway and it fell over.
   ‘One door, two people,” I muttered as if it were a common safety saying. 
   Oddly, actors rehearsed while hammers were banged on set pieces. 
    The director, finished arguing with someone, huffed off the construction site. Someone called ‘Break,’ and people sat where they were, took food out of lunch boxes.
   One man at the edge of the site/set seemed sad, without a lunch, in a red flannel shirt, rumpled jeans and boots, his craggy face looking disappointed, sitting with his back against a scaffold. I recognized him.
   “Hey, Sam,” I said, “Can I have a hug?”
   “Not a good idea,” he scowled, looked away.
   I knew he was dead, but figured he’d be bothered by my reminding him.
   “You know, thirty years ago, I directed a few of your plays.”
   He didn’t seem to care which ones.
   "I liked the monologues in ‘Action,’ I said. “They worked real good. Once the actor muffed his lines, but got around to it, made the point.”
   “I hate when that happens,” he muttered, looking around, realizing it wasn’t his set, his movie or his play. He didn't seem hungry, but glanced at someone else eating.
   “Hey, can I ask you–“
   Another crew man got up, tripping over Sam’s legs.
   “What was that?” he looked back.
   “That’s Sam. He’s dead.”
   “Right.” 
   The crew man seemed like he was trying to laugh, couldn’t see what he tripped on.
   “Well, better get,” Sam said, and leaped off the edge of the cement flooring, which had become a few floors higher above ground. He just stepped off and disappeared into the wind.
   The other crew man stopped, about the walk away, wavered. “But what did he–”
   “You saw him?” I asked.
   “Saw what?” he seemed confused by himself.
   “Never mind.”

     * * *

I think Sam would have appreciated that dream, since it felt like a scene from one of his plays. People feeling out of place, confused, stunned by the loss of their purpose, or knowing a dark secret, were part of his artistic style. 

Shepard's death has been well documented, and one of his first collaborators, Patti Smith, had some touching remembrances of the Pultizer Prize-winning playwright and understated film actor. Author Don Shewey wrote about being Shepard's biographer years ago, and how the playwright was in a way his alter-ego.

Actually, those plays I mentioned in my dream to dead Sam were preceded by my small production of poems and prose pieces from his first collection, Hawk Moon.  As a sophomore at Kent State University's Theatre Department, I enlisted some actors and musicians to join me in performing most of the collection, with live musical interludes of Rolling Stones songs and other music.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pride People in the Press: my interviews with singers, actors, dancers and artists of note: 2015-2017

Cazwell and his dog Elvis
Although late in Pride month, I've long wanted to pen a blog post with mention of all -or most- of the talented LGBT artists and straight allies I've had a chance to interview.  

But I've been so busy doing the work, and editing others' interviews, that I didn't have the time. And now that the Bay Area Reporter's annual Pride issue is out, I'll get this underway.

Yes, it's a bit of fame-chasing, but since it's part of my job, I feel justified to reshare these favorite interviews.

I've got about 30 years of interviews to go through. But I'm going backward from this year, since it'll take me longer to find the older ones, many of which are not available online. So, here goes!

June 2017
Most recent: my second interview with the funny, sexy adorable Cazwell, who basically introduced openly gay male hip hop to the music scene a dozen years ago. His new video "Loose Wrists" features the quickly trending men's pastel lace outfits. Too cute.  (Also, here's my 2014 interview with Cazwell.)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cassandra Complexities: Why the death of OutGames should come as no surprise

Gay Games V figure skating: photo Jim Provenzano
Although I predicted it more than a decade ago, the abrupt cancellation of this year's OutGames –and most likely all future ones– does not induce a feeling of schadenfreude... okay, maybe a little shade.

Coverage from various media outlets (CBC News) uses the word "shock" over the abrupt cancellation of the Miami event this week. But it shouldn't be shocking to anyone who's paid attention.

Miami New Times had this to say:

"... the games had been struggling for the better part of a year to meet the basic financial benchmarks the city had set for the 10-day event. The games were supposed to take place all across Miami-Dade County, including in Lummus Park, Soundscape Park, Flamingo Park, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, the Colony Theater, the Fillmore Miami Beach, and the National Hotel. But there were warning signs for quite a while that the OutGames, which has been staged three previous times in other countries since 2006, was having trouble raising basic levels of money."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Readings by Rob Rosen, Baruch Porras-Hernandez and Jim Provenzano

I haven't blogged in more than a month - oh my! - but I did do a reading on Facebook Live on April 20 hosted by prolific author and editor Rob Rosen, and with Bay Area poet, author and amiable event host Baruch Porras-Hernandez. 

You can see it on Rob's page HERE.

My reading was as excerpt from the title tale in my short story collection, Forty Wild Crushes. It's available in print and Kindle editions.

I hauled out an old oversize construction paper picture book that I used for the first reading of this childhood tale (with pop culture footnotes, visualized in the picture book) way back in 1994 at the old A Different Light bookstore on Castro Street. 

After being the site of several other clothing stores and businesses, that location now the new Dog Eared Books' second store, where I've already enjoyed reading a few times and attending more events.

My voice in the video was a bit nasal, since I was getting over a cold. But hey, it's there, so enjoy. And check out Rob's books HERE.

Baruch's website is HERE.

More about Forty Wild Crushes HERE and HERE. Oh, and HERE.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Flirting With History, Browsers and Other Kinds

What is the legacy you want to leave behind? As a person, you can hope your family will remember you. As an artist, you usually hope for a little more. If you're ambitious, you crave a lot more.

I began to reconsider this question as I walked from The Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco this week. I was among several hundred lucky people who got to see the first open dress rehearsal of the mega-hit musical Hamilton. We didn't have to pay, because the production wanted an audience to warm them up for their extensive run.

Before the show began, Director Thomas Kail introduced himself, and asked us not to Tweet or Facebook or Instagram our experiences. Because offering opinions about a show before it opens is just bad form.

But Kail also expressed that the experience of seeing this live production (a beautiful one, by the way, but don't mistake that for a review) was a shared experience that cannot be recreated through social media.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Parks & Wreck: Trump edicts defy logic, GOP intent on destroying planet

You can tell a lot about a person by what they try to destroy.
That is what they fear.

Women. Children. Veterans. Artists. Muslims. Mexicans. Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gypsies, Trans people, Syrians. Park Rangers, astronauts, First Nations, and the very air we breathe.

Where did it start, the unraveling of Drumpfiana? When they tried to shut up park rangers, after the wall, before the wall, the animated gif of him scowling at Melania.
What will stop him? RogueNASA, Sanctuary Cities,  altEverythingNotTrump?

Grants cut. Climate change silenced, yet sprouted up again in a thousand tweets by Badass Park Rangers.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Call and Irresponsibility: Online Censorship and Attacks on Gay Authors

As we dive butt-first into a new year, I was going to repost one of the lovely retro New Year's Eve scenes from my past two books, Every Time I Think of You and Message of Love

But you'll have to check my older posts, or read the books themselves, to enjoy those. It's not that I'm being cautious, but more justifiably outraged by the level of Orwellian idiocy now taking place when authors dare to share their political views.

The simple act of publishing one's thoughts and opinions these days has taken on an absurd level of what I term 'call and irresponsibility.'

Author Kevin Sessums achieved headline news when his post critiquing Trump supporters was only hours later deleted, and his use of Facebook withheld by the bot-like underlings of the social media behemoth.

An excerpt of Sessums comments:
“Matthew Dowd who holds Trump and his followers to the standards of any other politician and hers. But as those who do hold Trump to the standards of any other person have found out on Twitter and other social media outlets these Trump followers are a nasty fascistic lot. Dowd is lucky he didn’t get death threats like Kurt Eichenwald. Or maybe he did and refuses to acknowledge them. If you voted for Trump and continue to support him and you think you are better than these bigoted virulent trolls, you’re not. Your silence enables them just as it did in the racist campaign that Trump and Bannon ran. In fact, hiding behind a civilized veneer in your support of fascism I consider more dangerous. We’re past describing you as collaborators at this point. That lets you off the hook. You’re Russo-American oligarchical theocratic fascists.”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Know Where I've Been: Finding Inspiration in Difficult Times

How do we find inspiration to make art in difficult times? What kind of art should we make when our lives are being disrupted by the most absurd and clearly corrupt election in decades? What should be our response?

It's been raining nearly every day and night here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've not gone out as much as I usually do, and turning it all off to watch a movie or read a book has become a sort of conscious avoidance.

Usually, rainy days and nights are a great inspiration to stay in and be creative. I did some of that; sorted, filed and photographed all of my visual art (yes, I do that, too), refiled manuscripts and research files, and even converted a few old VHS tapes of my dance and performance works to DVDs.

But doing administrative work is not creating work. And as the rain continues, despite the ecologic good it's doing for our drought-ridden state, the rain feeds my sense of dread.