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Rufus Rediscovers Pop
4 Out Of 5 Stars

This is near as perfect a match between artist and producer as 2012 has seen. Mark Ronson nudges Rufus Wainwright into Ronson's retro-world just as Rufus writes his most melodic material since his wonderful "Want One." The end result, "Back In The Game," is just as it's title states; Rufus has reined in his last couple CD's worth of extravagance into a listenable and highly enjoyable album.

He's also as unconventional as ever. "Look at you, suckers," he snorts at the newly out character on the title track, with soul-backing singers. It sounds like conventional pop-soul, but that dark streak subverts the meaning. Same with songs that are self referential ("Rashida," "Barbara"), yet the swirling ABBA synths of "Montauk" change the game completely. Rufus sings to his new daughter about her two dads, in a sly and somber hopeful song about her future, along with a bittersweet, heartfelt verse about his late mother and growing older without her. It's easily the best and most reflective song he's written since "Poses," and made me a fan of Rufus once again.

I have to admit, his last few albums had left me cold; the redo of Judy Garland, the overt arty "All Nights are Days" and I was feeling "Release The Stars" was the artist reaching past his grasp. "Back In The Game" proves me wrong. Despite all the diversions - and the way he now draws upon them for this album - Wainwright has kept his touch as a masterful singer-songwriter. That's something I wasn't expecting to say, but I'm more than happy to eat my words this time around.


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"The Rise of the Protocoholics, or Your Protocols are Getting in my Peanut Butter"
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This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
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Puppy Love
5 Out of 5 Stars

Denis is having a rotten week. He just lost his job of 11 years. His relationship is gone stale, and rocky. His Mother, a sweet and overbearing woman, is seriously ill. With all the turmoil going on around him, what does Mom suggest? "Get a dog." But when Dennis goes to the pound and can't decide which dog he wants, the one he finally chooses is gone when he goes back. When he finds out why, Dennis decides exactly what his modern mid-life crisis needs.

He makes his "Abrupt Decision" (the fifth feature from filmmaker Paul Bright) when he realizes that his creative collapse mirrors that of the dogs' dangerous lives. With some inspiration from his Mom (Cynthia Schiebel) and the reluctant support of his partner, Milosz (David LaDuca), Denis (Steve Callahan) decides that saving the lives of animals and educating people on their care is his way into a meaningful second act. You know how the saying goes, if you don't want to be upstaged in a movie, stay away from children and dogs? Despite the superb job by Steve and David, the pups are "Abrupt Decision's" scene stealers. But beware. Even with the cute pooches running amuck, this is a very emotionally striking movie.

In the new economy, where men like Denis can find their lives upended and discover that your expertise vaporized after 50 (along with a funny montage of a degenerating series of interviews -  featuring me), there are many among us who will relate to the impact of "Abrupt Decision's" story. As Denis struggles to find the right decisions in matters of utmost importance, you may put down the doggy treats and reach for the hankies. I'll certainly say that the film is a must-see for pet-lovers, but it also carries an intimate, personal life story.


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Abrupt Decision: A Film by Paul Bright
(Featuring me as "Dr Pyramid"

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Sample all the Entrees
4 Out Of 5 Stars

Brett Every is a roughhewn, last call at the bar singer songwriter, and I've been a fan since I first heard "Camping Out" a few years ago. Possessed of a moaning, hopeless voice, he seems crossed with Mark Weitzel and a gay Tom Waits. Every's deep, shaky voice drips pathos and emotionalism, with frequent guest Estelle Noonan adding a similar female foil to add to the bluesy burn of his writing. "Menu," his third album, continues this course in a solid fashion, offering few changes from his first two distinctive albums.

On his previous album, Brett pulled Bette Midler's "Come Back Jimmy Dean" and wrapped his smokey longing around it to perfection. On "Menu," he takes an even bigger risk by hauling out Concrete Blonde's new wave one-hit "Joey" out and turning it on its head. On the original, singer Johnette Napolitano was confronting a junkie boyfriend, trying to pull him out of a destructive relationship. Here, Every is locked into a tense battle with Joey, trying to convince him that his desperate love is worth kicking the habit over, even if you know that Joey has no intentions of being the better man. Brett's version tugs harder at the heart that CB's ever did.

There are also some stunning original compositions, including "Man Walks Into a Bar," where the 40 year old Brett discovers his 20 year old self, and tries to convince him that being careful will avert future heartaches. You know full well that the 20 year old Brett is blowing the old geezer off, and the elder Brett aches to know that his youthful self needs to make his own coming out path, pains and all. Just as delightful is when he tackles this in first person fashion during "Rough Road," hoping his life is restaurants and country clubs, where 'all they have are chili dogs." There's a romantic streak here just struggling to get out from the back of the bar, and Brett's "Menu" is another fine album from this out Aussie performer.

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House of Numbers DVDUtter Bunk
One Out of Five Stars

"House of Numbers" is a horrible, angering mess. That is the kindest thing to say about it. Basically a rundown of every anti-AIDS conspiracy theory since the crisis began, it repeatedly asks the question over and over; Why Have We not Found The Cure For AIDS? Simple question, sure. But the answers are more complex that this movie wants to address.

For starters, AIDS is a relatively young disease. The main outbreak and plague broke thorough in the late 70's and swelled through the 80's and 90's. While research suggests that there may have been cases far earlier, it wasn't until this period that the Scientific and Medical communities began taking serious research into the illness. In the USA, that research was near nil, thanks to the likes of Jesse Helms and the despicable policies of Ronald Reagan. So asking why we have not found a cure is foolish. Cancer and even the common cold are far older and more researched diseases, yet we still have nothing to cure either. Health Research is not a toaster; things do not just pop out after four minutes.

Then they try and look at the disease itself. They roll out the same tired tropes, like poppers gave you AIDS, the drugs were what caused AIDS deaths (partially true, the misunderstanding of the EARLY drugs - like AZT - harmed people), and the usual crap that gay men having sex were doing it to themselves. The modern 'drug cocktail' has been refined over the course of near 20 years to have balanced the side effects since then, but there's still plenty of conspiracy theorists who will try and convince you that "Big Pharma" is just trying to get your money.

Then they find the Doctors who are happy to tell you their theories why HIV and AIDS are right and the rest are bogus. However, the overwhelming preponderance of the Medical/Scientific have no doubts that HIV and AIDS exist and can kill you if not properly treated. The question raised in "House of Numbers" that HIV may not even be communicable is not just ignorant, it is dangerous. People are exposed to different infections every day (and I'll jump back to that common cold analogy again), but you don't have an illness every day. Illnesses break through in a variety of ways, and sometimes the factors involves vary from moment to moment, even in the same person.

"House of Numbers" raises question and offers no answers. It throws theories out but offers few facts. It questions the deaths of hundreds of thousands, but offers little insight into what killed them. It's easy to cast aspersions on things you do not want to believe. "House of Numbers" drags out stupidity and wild-eyed fear and then tries to offer it as controversy. Like Climate Change or Intelligent Design deniers, there can always be found a small group of true believers willing to argue that there is dissent over 'the facts.' But opinions are not facts and "House Of Numbers" does not offer much of factual info, and that makes it dangerous.

 And the Band Played On Philadelphia Frontline: The Age of AIDS Silverlake Life - The View from Here Angels in America
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"How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?" Steve Simon
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Saturday saw me at New York City's Rainbow Book Fair, sharing a table with fellow author David Stein. The event is billed as the country's only gay and lesbian book event, and there was a strong crowd going the the Gay and Lesbian Center for the event's six hours. I did not sell too many books (and David sold a few more than I did, I think), I was happy to be there.

My reading went well, with about 20 folks in the room to listen. I decided, that since it was NYC, to read from the interview with James Bond that appears in the book "Skin Tight." It's always nice to do a solid reading, and I managed to wade through my allotted 4 minutes without flubbing. It was also nice to see the fun duo of Thor and Patrick, who dropped in on their way to a steak dinner.

David and I will be on an author's panel at CLAW in Ohio come the end of April. I hope some of you manage to get there to see us.
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David Stein and I will be sharing a book table at the event. Come on out!
First Hand: An Erotic Guide to Fisting (A Boner Book)  Sgt. Vlengles' Revenge (A Boner Book) Carried Away: An S/M Romance Ask the Man Who Owns Him: The real lives of gay Masters and slaves
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David Stein and I will be sharing a book table at the event. Come on out!
First Hand: An Erotic Guide to Fisting (A Boner Book)  Sgt. Vlengles' Revenge (A Boner Book) Carried Away: An S/M Romance Ask the Man Who Owns Him: The real lives of gay Masters and slaves
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The complete set can be found through the clickie.

Many awesome folks and LJ types to be seen!
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With all the hooey about Reagen's 100th birthday and the pig vomit being espoused about his greatness, one needs to be reminded not just of Iran-Contra, the destruction of the middle class, his lust for deregulation and union-busting, but most of all for his political homophobia and the ignorance that led to so many of my friends dying tragic, unnecessary deaths,

Aids Activist Larry Kramer wrote The following piece, which was published in The Advocate issue dated July 6th, 2004

Our murderer is dead. The man who murdered more gay people than anyone in the entire history of the world, is dead. More people than Hitler even. In all the tributes to his passing, as I write this two days after his death, not one that I have seen has mentioned this. The hateful New York Times (“all the news that’s fit to print”) of course said nothing about this. We still are not fit to write about with total honesty in their pages. Not really. Just as we were not fit for Ronald Reagan to talk about us. What kind of president is that?

I have been writing a long work of history which I call The American People. I chose this title because in every speech he ever made Reagan went on and on about “the American People.” We of course were never a part of his American People. And we knew it. Year after year of his hateful and endless reign we knew we were not a part of the American People he was President of. He would never talk about us, of course, or do anything for us except murder us. There were no social services for us. There was no research into our health. Even as we were dying like flies. How could he not have seen us dying? The answer is he did see us dying and he chose to do nothing. There was no representation in his government of us. There was never anything for us but his ignoble dismissal of us. All of Washington, indeed the world, knew that Reagan hated us. How could they not? Most of them did, too. And when Daddy doesn’t love you, who is there who will stand up to Daddy? This is a trick that Hitler used and which I believe the young Reagan learned from him. He never had to say much out loud himself about his hatreds; but everyone knew what they were. Gays were as hated under Reagan as Jews were under Hitler. It is a trick that both George Bushes have carbon-copied. We have not been included among their American people either.

I could never understand why Reagan’s hatred of us was so intense and manifest and never-ending. Some of Nancy Reagan’s best friends were gay, the self-loathing Jerry Zipkin, at one time her principle “walker,” chief among them. It is said he taught her how to dress. In my play, Just Say No, I dramatized my own theory of why she and her husband kept gays off their agenda as if we were the plague, which of course, as in some hideous self-fulfilling prophecy, we became. Ron Reagan, Jr. That is why. It was no secret in an ever-widening circle that Ron Reagan, Jr. was suspected of being gay. In his freshman year at Yale (I believe this was his only year there; perhaps there were two) I have been told he had numerous gay experiences. I am well known at Yale. Indeed, I have established the Larry Kramer Initiative for Lesbian and Gay Studies at Yale to document the evil acts that American “history” has performed on us.

And just as damning of the son’s reputation of course, because it could not be hidden, was that Ron Reagan, Jr. was a ballet dancer. This did not look good and was obviously exceedingly embarrassing to a father who rode so many horses. So off with the tutu and on with a wedding ring. Junior was married off and sent to far-off places in positions of low visibility. I have gay friends in Hollywood, equally closeted, who knew him and know him and protect him. To know him is to be sworn to some sort of pact of secrecy. What a hideous life Ron, Jr. must have led all these years. To be denied a life and to have been so utterly gutless about fighting back. (Well, we know all about that.) While his own mother was gallivanting around with some of the biggest fairies in the world. What hateful parents to have had in the prime of your life, “the great communicator” of a father out there communicating how much he hated you and his wife out there going along with this. I suspect by now Ron Reagan, Jr. actually believes he is straight. By now he may very well be. He may well have been all along. He just looked so suspicious, and of course it was this perceived suspicion that, one way or the other, is what caused his father to murder so many of us. Why does history not recognize this monstrous and never-ending history of hatred and the inestimable number of deaths it continues to cause?

People magazine called me for a quote Reagan’s death. “I wish he had died before he was elected” is what I told them. I wonder what they will run.

It is remarkable that two of the so-called “greatest presidents” have also allowed the greatest perpetrations and perpetuations of mass murder. Franklin D. Roosevelt was shamefully inept in dealing with “the Jewish question,” (see my play The Normal Heart), most ironically since so many Jews were his most loyal supporters, the Jerry Zipkins of their day. No one really writes about this. Roosevelt is one of history’s great gods. Just as no one really writes about Reagan and “the gay question.” These two major murderers so far have got away with helping to cause the two major holocausts of modern history. Just as Jews are asked to never forget their Holocaust I implore all gay people never to forget our holocaust and who caused it and why. Ronald Reagan did not even say the word “AIDS” out loud for the first seven years of his reign. Because of this some 70 million people, so far, have become infected with HIV/AIDS. I wonder what it feels like to be the son and the wife of a man responsible for over 70 million people so far becoming infected with a virus that has killed over half of us so far. I wonder what it felt like while he was alive to ponder this. For surely he must have thought about it. How could he not? He has been called the consummate actor who came to believe all his lines. Does this not make his legacy even more grotesque? It should.

Hitler knew what he was doing. How could Ronald Reagan not have known what he was doing?

But of course no one is writing about this. Reagan too is one of history's gods.

So far he has got away with murder.
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Men for SaleThe Lost Boys of Montreal
3 Out Of 5 Stars

"Men For Sale" is a harrowing look at about a dozen hustlers over a year's time in Montreal as they come into a clinic known as Sero-Zero. It's a place where they can get health checks and information about AIDS prevention. It's also where documentarian Rodrigue Jean set up his cameras for month-by-month interviews. The over two hour running time adds to the nightmarish aspect of the men's existences.

They live in a constant parade of drugs (Crack, mainly), sex, hustling, fights, and dreams that even they know won't come true. One by one, these young men talk about being in a life that seems like a death wish (some of them repeatedly say they want to commit suicide) or a never ending lurch from score to score. There's scenes of deep denial about their lives, like the one man who is the father to a baby that he thinks he could be a good father for, even as he talks about buying more crack. Some of these men think it's a major achievement in detoxing if they stay off the rock for more than 10 hours.

But then it's right back to the viscous cycle. After awhile, the film becomes almost numbing in it's predictability, repetitive nature, and a serious lack of editing. (Did there really need to be shots of the men getting microphones taped on their chests? Or the transitional shots of Montreal in the dark?) The film is also in French, so you're reading subtitles throughout. With the exception of "Willy," whose face is never fully shown, most of these men are inarticulate, which renders the subtitles into something resembling a news-channel's repetitious lower screen ticker bar.

The story never seems to change. It makes "Men For Sale" a depressing portrait of prostitution and drug use. To the movie's credit, there's no glamorization or teary fake redemption scenes, and plenty of close ups of men beaten both mentally and physically. "I'm 23 and I'm losing my teeth," one of the men grouses. They may be "Men For Sale," but ultimately, they give up whatever value they could have and the DVD refuses to flinch at that fact.


All Boys The Adonis Factor Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives 
BearCity Altitude Falling 

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Pornography: A ThrillerThriller, A Buzzkill
3 Out Of 5 Stars

An interesting, well acted art film that trips over itself too often. "Pornography, A Thriller" is basically three short films that overlap
each other in bizarre and David Lynch-ian fashion. You start with the
mysterious demise of one Mark Anton, an 80's porn star who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The rumor is that he got tricked into a snuff movie. That sets up the next two acts.

Journalist Michael (Matthew Montgomery) is researching a book about the cultural significance of Gay adult movies and soon discovers he is being sucked into the odd story of Mark Anton. His lover, William (Walter Delmar), is soon acting weird when the Anton story begins consuming Michael. And they discover their neat new apartment may have been a porn studio. Even THE porn studio where Anton met his fate. After all these years, those involved with Anton aren't happy to find out someone is digging into this old urban legend, and soon Michael finds he has a bigger story on his hands than he thought.

That story also jarringly transitions to Los Angeles, where aging pornstar Matt Stevens (Pete Scherer) decides he will document Anton's dissapearance in his directorial debut., Again, dark forces begin to swirl around. And HIS boyfriend, also played by Delmar, soon tries to warn him away. Since this is allegedly a thriller, nobody listens to any warnings. Bad things are supposed to happen. And they will...or are they?

That is "Pornography's" major flaw. After awhile, the juxtapositions just become to circumstantial and awkward, and the thrills just aren't there. Suspense, yes, but not much by way of shockers. What could have been a compelling story flops around into artiness without resolving anything, and if you're going to put the word "Thriller" in your title, you need more than what is in the screen here to make your bones.

Socket  Altitude Falling Hollywoodland (Widescreen Edition) On the Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery
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The Adonis Factor Body, Want to Feel My Body, Body
4 Out of 5 Stars

Beefcake everywhere you look, and why? "The Adonis Factor" takes to three cities to investigate (primarily Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta, with a side trip to Palm Springs). Director and narrator Christopher Hines is on his second tour of this turf after his "The Butch Factor" in 2009, which was broader in focus. In "Adonis," he asks why big beefy men are the template for 'beauty' and talks to a bunch of them.

He also sidelines with talks with Titan Films, a plastic surgeon, a nude yoga instructor and a bunch of WeHo Twinks (who are all about ten years away from serious therapy). While the Adonises in the film fall into the spectrum of kind of sweet to genuinely annoying, it's the other interviews that shed light on the subject. The Goth Model Chris Catalyst is the most intriguing as a man who discovered his alternative nature and used it to his advantage. The trip to Lazy Bear is almost as interesting. One point I really wish Hines had spent more time on is the aging Colt Model as he muses on becoming the invisible former star. Which is amazing enough in the fact that he still looks like a million beefy bucks.

There are enough beefy men here of various ages (and several of them nekkid) to intrigue the voyeur viewers, but the underlying message is that the subset of A-Listers who cluster with fellow A-Listers aren't always as beautiful as you think. A trip into some smaller cities might have given the film more depth, then again, once goes where the pickings are best. Granted that finding poorly adjusted muscleheads in LA is like shooting sharks in a barrel, "The Adonis Factor" does a pretty good job at balancing the sexy and the smart.

The Butch Factor  Men for Sale  BearCity
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The Slave Journals and Other Tales of the Old Guard Tales and Time Capsules
5 Out of 5 Stars

There was a time when there was no Facebook, AOL or even Drummer Classified. You couldn't pop on your I-Phone and do a locater for the closest hook-up, soul mate, or buddy. Not even a hankie-code. You had to depend on your instincts. The tell-tale clues. The direct questions posed to you by men who had learned through experience what to look for in you as you prowled the bars and streets, looking for something you just couldn't quite define, but felt burning in your heart.

"Sir, why was I brought here?
"You Willed it. It was yourself who brought you here, we merely took you in."

"The Slave Journals: And Other Tales of The Old Guard" is Thom Magistar's terrific collection of stories about The Centurions, a mythical leather club that has existed since the late 40's and continues recruitment into the present day. While the stories are fiction, it is easy to feel the heat of each coal of truth that the stories themselves contain. The seventeen Masters who recount their lives and times show how The Old Guard, as it were, began as men in need of a safe place to bond and be themselves. No pretense, no sense that they were doing something that would eventually become embellished legend. Just being the men they knew they were.

Self-awareness is key in many of these stories, even if The Centurions continuously emphasize honor, trust, dignity, loyalty and discipline. The integrity never changes, even as the years roll by and the world changes. The men, the club, they all change as well, but not that set of key elements. The stories are hot in the hard-handed reading division, yet a message that kinship can be a virtue that overrides lust is the message brought home throughout Magistar's writing. Seekers will always seek, it is what they find and ultimately keep - and then give back - that makes a club, group, tribe or family worth belonging to.

 Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice  Ask the Man Who Owns Him: The real lives of gay Masters and slaves First Hand: An Erotic Guide to Fisting (A Boner Book) (Volume 0) Some Dance To Remember: A Memoir-novel Of San Francisco, 1970-1982 (Southern Tier Editions) Tales of the City: A Novel (P.S.)


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