Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Revisting the Eternal Question: How Much is Too Much?

In a past piece, I talked about using as many words as one needs. I still get comments and questions about that question. I thought I'd try to give a little more perspective on it.  I once got an email from a new writer, who said this:

I notice I sometimes have trouble knowing when to quit. Like, when writing certain scenes, I fret about whether or not I'm saying too much, or not enough. Sometimes I'll write it real tight, but it will seem sort of truncated when read back. So, I'll add more, but find I'm meandering.
For example, let's say I wanted to describe a character's "wardrobe malfunction"...I could use this approach...
"When Bethany leaned forward, her generous bosom strained against the front of her imported Chinese silk dress. The dress, breathtakingly low-cut, was made from the same bolt of silk that her grandfather, an ex-British naval officer, had brought home with him after the war as a gift to the wife who, unbeknownst to him, had left him month's earlier to pursue a short-lived but torrid affair with the ne'er do well son of a disgraced Count who had lost his family's fortune to the Machiavellian scheming of a Viennese banker who just so happened to be seated right next to her this very evening, eyeing her dressfront and praying silently that it was made of one of the poorer quality silks that were often being imported today."
. . .  blah, blah, blah, you get the picture. Or I could say it like this:
"When Bethany leaned forward, her breasts fell out of the top of her dress and hung there like a pair of fried eggs."
Now, I'm just using Bethany and her dangling bosoms as an example, I'd never actually WRITE anything like that...It's just that it is often hard for me to figure out when to say less, and when to say more. I have a natural tendency to become long-winded in writing, and try to avoid too much of that. But I also don't want it to sound like a Twitter feed.

I guess I'll just keep working on it.

My reply to her was this:

Linda, I work as an editor besides writing myself, so I get a question similar to yours a lot. This is what I tell people: your narrative needs to advance the story. It might either advance the plot, or contribute to characterization/atmosphere. So in your first example, the story is not advanced by veering off the path into another story about her grandfather. I would say to an author "lose that!" - unless the entire plot needs to involved her grandfather and his history, in which case i would be justified. Does that make sense? So in summary: you never have too many words, IF they advance the plot, contribute to characterization, or contribute to atmosphere. I hope that helps. :) 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Moving in a New Direction

I am sitting here with pen in hand, a writer who has built a fairly respectable reputation as someone rational, and I am struggling to write something better than a mere fan article, but I'm finding it hard. Truth is, I'm tottering on the precipice of becoming .... the horror! ...God ... ahem! ... a Directioner.

But don't get me wrong. It isn't about how cute they are - I am of an age where I look at them and think children. It isn't necessarily even about their slightly-higher-than-usual-quality formulaic music - although I have to admit it is better than I ever expected it to be despite the often inane lyrics (thank God for electronic overproduction and autotune!). It's about something that has taken me by surprise: the sense of daring these five very young men convey, the fearless projection of the new values of a new generation. Values that may change the world for the better.

From the beginning, One Direction has - if not in their music, then in their music videos and stage appearances - played with gender stereotypes and with sexual stereotypes. The humor with which these very young people tease our perceptions is endearing and mesmerizing. The confidence with which they do it is the mark of an upcoming generation of youth that refuses to be boxed in.

In GLBT literature we are beginning to see the trend emerging as well. Perhaps more than any other creative medium, written literature demands the open display of ideas - words may be vague, or cloaked in multiple meaning, but at their core they are more naked than say, paint on a canvas. Words can hide behind simplistic rhymes, commercialism, and the overshadowing of a heavy pop rhythm that a song offers.  But words in a book most often address the realities of social psyche of a given era. Today, we see literature written by individuals who are now enjoying the latter decades of life, and this literature often speaks of past realities such as the horrible isolation of gay individuals even a few decades ago, consequences of coming out in a largely hostile family environment or greater society, of AIDS and homophobia-bred violence.  These elements are still there in the upcoming literature of a new generation of GLBT literature, but to a much lesser extent. Now we see new trends in conversation emerge:  thoughts about the nature of gender, the oppression of traditional roles, of carving an identity as a GLBT community.

This trend toward new questions being asked through art is evident across mediums. Take a look at the world of fashion and the current embracing of androgyny-inspired designs.  Take a look at music, where more lyrics lend themselves to various interpretations across gender lines - it's no accident that "I Kissed a Girl" launched singer Katy Perry into the stratosphere with her first album: it spoke to a generation that is tired of boxes and labels. Take a close analytic look at the art of the music video - my own favorite growing art form - where increasingly we see experimentation toward challenging the presumptions of viewers. Nowhere is this trend more obvious, perhaps, than in one of the videos by the Ukranian pop music act, Kazaky (below).  Here, images stretch gender and sexuality perceptions to the limit and challenge the viewer to a new way of thinking.

One need only glance briefly at YouTube videos posted by teens, or take a look at teens on the street, to see this trend.  But it goes further than appearance. Teens and young adults, feeling the first pangs that something is truly different about their own sexuality, are less and less willing to hide from the larger heterosexual community as every decade passes. But more than this, they are less willing to allow the larger GLBT community to force them into a box. These are kids who refuse a label, who experiment with sexual and gender ideas without apology - and increasingly without shame.

In Gentlemen's Game, I stretched some of the assumptions about sexuality. Although response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive - something for which I have been rather surprised and always grateful - it was sometimes met with some hostility. This came from both the straight community, where a true depiction of the variety and nuances of male sexuality was perceived as threatening, and the gay community, where a character refusing to accept a "gay" label was seen as an unacceptable betrayal of an ideology that has long struggled with legitimacy.

But I feel a certain spirit in today's upcoming generation - an exhilarated freedom and embracing of one's true self in all its shades of colors, that is for me exciting and so long overdue. And so I have to smile when I see that figurative open, unapologetic wink in a One Direction video as they tease their audience's perceptions. It's a myth that their core following is made up of only twelve-year-old girls; I see older teens, moms and dads, and young people of both genders openly enjoying their music (let's not forget those male fans in the gay community!).  I have a feeling that many more are in the closet with their favorite One Directon CDs. Below is the video from "Kiss You" - watch closely for the surprising gender/sexuality-challenging gags.

The five young men of One Direction enjoy the game and the tease, and do it with a lot of humor. These aren't young people who take themselves too seriously, and that betrays an unusual streak of maturity. The very fact that they insist upon these delightful antics despite their handlers - whom I would guess at the first were less than enthusiastic about it until they saw that audiences loved it - speaks to their confidence.  And it also speaks to their membership in a generation that is destined to finally turn a corner for society that has needed turning for some time.  It's a new destination in which all of us - in both the straight and the gay communities - are challenged to look beyond the safety and the inevitable oppression of the labels in which we have in the past found solace, and stretch our minds into a new direction.  Kudos to young people like the guys in One Direction, who are leading the way.

Watch some more serious gender-bending by One Direction below:

And here, a blog illustrating exactly what I just said : http://www.buzzfeed.com/lilyhiottmillis/one-direction-is-really-good-at-playing-gay

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I Love This Idea!

I don't post advertisements, unless I'm talking about a book or film. But I have to talk about this. I recently got a prepaid debit card with Pride colors.  How fun is that?  Plus, it makes a statement when I use it. Interesting how many people comment about it and don't get the meaning, so I get a chance to do my soapbox a little bit. 

If you have never had a prepaid debit card, they are very cool. The idea is that you load it with funds you already have. You can have your employer put your paycheck on it, you can transfer funds from another account, or load it with Paypal.  There is no application or denial.  It's like carrying around a portable savings account. I add a little to mine every month for an emergency pet fund - that way when one of my dogs gets injured at 11 p.m. or on a Sunday, and I end up in animal emergency, I don't have to panic about what's in my account. 

For more info about this card, go to Gay Pride Visas

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fame: The Good, The Bad, The Character-Builder

I want to talk a little about celebrity - various types of it, in all its color and excitement and vulgarity. I find it a fascinating phenomenon. I want to talk about it because I have now - at this point in my rather advanced years (okay I'm not that old - but old enough to have seen more of life than most others I meet have) - begun to notice the different faces of it, and how it changes the one experiencing it, as well as fans. I often wonder if, as it changes an artist, it also changes the art he or she produces.

Years ago, I was married (yes, imagine!) to a sort of local celebrity. My ex was a professional photographer - nationally recognized. Although photographers aren't generally recognized on sight, at the local level they are known. He had done some TV interviews and granted some magazine profiles (one of which was my first big publication) - and so his face was recognizable around the area we lived in. Back then, I was astounded at the way fans felt it their right to intrude upon his personal life. They would interrupt us during a private dinner out. They once stopped me in a mall to blab about how they knew what I was getting for Christmas (having run into him earlier as he made a purchase). They asked him questions about his personal life - including questions about me and our marriage (he was a foreign national, and they found it fascinating I guess that he married an American and stayed in the U.S.). Although we have been divorced for years now, I have never forgotten the sense of entitlement these fans had.

This I know:  Fame is never what those who never experience it think it is.  It is never secure. It is often not comfortable. It brings stressors one could never have foreseen. When it was never really sought out for its own sake - the holder of it just stumbled into it while practicing his or her art - it is often bewildering and overwhelming. We go through life assuming we understand the basic ground rules. Such as that a perfect stranger will never ask you what you like to do in bed, that strangers will not intervene in your love life, that people you don't know will not offer up unsolicited advice on the most personal choices you make. But when fame comes - those rules with which one is so familiar are often broken.

Perhaps I experienced fame in my last life! Oddly, I have never had the same feelings as I see fans have: I honestly never "fan-girled". Something in me instantly tells me that a person puts their underwear on just like I do, engages in good and bad judgment, just like I do, performs bodily functions, experiences highs and lows of life much like I do.  By some unique circumstance, some of us end up living in the public eye, most don't. I always considered it an accident of chance - more than some privilege given to specific magical beings.  Conversely, when Life grants you the chance to live in the public eye, it isn't because you deserve it - a special life full of privilege. Rather, it's because through a combination of luck, work, and life choices, you have somehow landed in that position. With it comes responsibility - to treat your profession with respect, to remain grateful for any adulation that comes your way, to deal with others kindly.  These things I believe.

My work has brought me into contact with many others who wrestle with varying degrees of fame on a daily basis.  Some never forget to be grateful. Others - especially the very young - seem to take it for granted that they deserve the worship, and even use it to further selfish purposes.  It pains me to see someone with celebrity mistreat a fan.  And it pains me to see celebrity friends attempt to deal with fans who lack common sense about personal boundaries: I am often in awe of the patience displayed by some very young people in the face of jarring comments.

In the world of writing, I have observed some of the same behaviors from some fans. I have mixed feelings. Many a fan has brightened my day with some note, some word of encouragement: I find myself continuously at a loss for the words that would express my sincere gratitude to these people that they took time to read my words and then took time to speak to me about it. But also, I have fans ask about things such as my sexual preferences: while a part of me understands their curiosity, given the subject matter I write about, another part of me wants to protect myself from too much scrutiny from strangers. Recently a fan thought it appropriate to engage in some obscene comments toward me, which he assumed I would find funny. I didn't. I found it as disrespectful and ominous as any woman would from a male she didn't know well. Do I sacrifice the right to these feelings because my books contain some of what could be termed erotica?  I have to maintain that I don't.

The casual way some toss out criticisms of my personal beliefs (those they find reflected in my writings) leaves me breathless - as if by putting my view of the world on paper, I have given permission for boundless judgment. I know, as I tell myself to breathe and count to ten, that these same people would never think to say the same things to someone whom they know in "real life".  And truly, most of them are simply incapable of understanding what it's like to be the recipient of this judging of one's most personal experiences of the world: they mean no real harm.  The behavior is born of ignorance and lack of depth, not of malice. Usually.

I have watched other writers - those who have been in the public light much longer than I have - develop a sort of protective layer: they lose the spontaneous friendly approach to fans they may once have had, they pull back a little, close down a little. Inevitably the self-protection is interpreted as conceit. How does this change the way they write? Does it? Will my own prose lose some spontaneity?  Will I - however subconsciously - begin to censor my writing, protecting myself from future fan assumptions about my life or belief system?  Worse, will it creep into the far corners of my subconscious and start to change me in my everyday life? I hope not.  I want to live bravely. And yet . . . I am as human as the next person.  The whole point of the type of prose I write is to suggest an alternative point of view, or to challenge a common belief: this is what makes writing fun for me. Without that . . . will I lose my fire?

And so the challenge becomes to rise above. I have resolved to remain grateful for every person who notices my books, or my online presence, and makes me a part of their world of entertainment, whether good or bad. It is a character-builder, to be sure.  But maybe that's the price: the price of having your work recognized is that you must sacrifice some right to dignity. Perhaps. Still . . . I am an idealist: I wish that in the end, we could all just be seen as people, not icons. We all put on our pants one leg at a time. We all are just trying to get through this life as best we can, day to day, with some degree of dignity.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: "Angel" by Laura Lee

Angel by Laura Lee
Genre: Literary fiction (GLBT)
Itineris Press, 2011
4.5 out of 5 stars. 
(See Reviews Guidelines.

When I first chose Angel to read, I was a little reluctant. Would I be thrown into some massive anti-Christian diatribe? Such things I find are as based upon ignorance and bigotry as is the view of gays from the far right. Both are equally annoying and a waste of time. But I was intrigued by the subject matter, and because any writer had been brave enough to do it - I couldn't resist taking a look. So I forged ahead. I'm glad I did.

Angel is the story of an ordinary church minister who finds himself in an extraordinary situation. A widower who deeply grieves his wife Sara, he is amazed to find himself drawn - first as a minister, and then romantically - to a young male drifter and addict. Their consequential affair, which inevitably comes to the attention of the parishioners of the conservative church, shakes Paul's life up in ways he could never have imagined or foreseen. The romance of the novel is however the superficial story - through it the author bravely delves into much deeper themes, and that is what makes Angel a gem.

Laura Lee is a gifted writer: her use of language ranges from fully capable to at times truly eloquent:
His sexuality wasn't confusing or complicated at all, really. He had fallen in love with Sara, and he fell in love with Ian. Simple. It only became complicated when he tried to fit that reality into the shorthand of official categories. That these labels failed to describe how he felt about himself should not have troubled him much, but so many people had faith in the categories that he was inclined to believe the problem was with himself, and not the check boxes. That was where he became confused.
Lee juggles a number of themes: conservative society's view of homosexuality,  religion and bigotry, bisexuality, and others - without ever muddling up the book. This is not easily done, and is a testament to her skill. The novel is laced with subtleties - metaphorical imagery, expertly-drawn secondary characters, and symbolism. Even the name of the protagonist is an interesting symbol: Paul was the apostle who had perhaps the greatest metamorphosis, the one who struggled the most with personal demons, and a preacher himself.

For me, one mark of sophisticated writing is that it is not simply narrative. Occasionally, the best writers weave in a little personal philosophy, something for the reader to chew on intellectually a bit. Another beautifully-rendered paragraph:
His desire for Ian had the force of an ocean, a tornado, or a mountain. The mountain defies any effort by humans to tame it. You can build at its foot if you like, but when the mudslide comes, you'll be buried regardless of ordinances or zoning laws. None of that exists in the face of nature. Nature has its own order. There is no motive to ascribe to the mountain. It does not kill with vengeance or purpose. It just evolves as it does, and whatever human order we try to create is temporary at best. If sexuality was a force of nature, then wasn't that closer to God than the human laws we try to impose on it?
The most important point that any review of this book needs to make is that it is if anything a courageous work. The author has chosen to write subjects that it may not be politically correct to talk about in many circles. She risked as much backlash from the Left as from the Right.  But she has presented an intelligent, well-considered novel that forces those on either side of the fence to look more closely at the complex issues in our society today.

It is interesting to see how the author handled the world of the everyday life of a church. As someone raised in that world, I found it extremely well-done: realistic and fair.  The author carefully painted a comfortable, comforting atmosphere, so that when it comes crashing down the reader is deeply affected. As a reader, I was somewhat bothered by the book's reluctance to address the reality that there are more liberal churches than the one presented. I felt that a picture was being painted that wasn't fair to all churches, in an era when Christianity is poorly understood to begin with. However, upon more consideration I realized that it is not the business of this book or its story to address all that: this is ultimately a story about one man, one church, one group of believers. It doesn't need to address the wider political reality.

Finally, it should be mentioned that although Angel is a deep read, Lee has a way with humor that makes the book even richer. The San Francisco Chronicle has said of her work, "Lee's dry, humorous tone makes her a charming companion... She has a penchant for wordplay that is irresistible." Witness this passage: 
When an ordinary-looking person wears an ugly hat, you assume he is out of touch with fashion. When a young and beautiful person wears an ugly hat, you assume you're the one who doesn't get it. 
Technical literary points:  The only structural objection I can offer about the book is that the author has placed at the beginning of each chapter a short paragraph or two concerning mountains - their history, their geology, their social significance and therefore their symbolism. I believe that her point was the timelessness and enormity of these structures, as compared to the timelessness and enormity of Nature's truths. I can appreciate that, and I applaud the uniqueness of the attempt as a literary device. However, it often felt very intrusive, and the interruption in the flow of the narrative was by the second half of the book so overwhelming to this reader that I found myself - reluctantly and with some guilt - skipping those passages.

Angel is a unique read, pleasurable from beginning to end, terribly thought-provoking, and above all, brave. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.


Angel is widely available both in paperback and in eBook formats.

Metro Detroit native Laura Lee divides her time equally between writing and producing ballet educational tours with her partner, the artistic director of the Russian National Ballet Foundation. In addition to her novel, Angel, she is the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books with such publishers as Harper Collins, Reader's Digest, Running Press, Broadway Books, Lyons Press and Black Dog and Leventhal. She has also written one collection of poetry (Invited to Sound), and a children's book (A Child's Introduction to Ballet). She brings to her writing a unique background as a radio announcer, improvisational comic and one-time professional mime.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Haunting 3 : Conclusion of a Milestone in Erotica

Ricky Roman and Arnaud Chagall. Courtesy Cockyboys
NOTE: Whether I am reviewing a book or film, my interest is in appreciating the artfulness and quality of a work, not in blind praise or unfair criticisms. It is my humble hope that through this discussion of plotting as it relates to this film, writers and anyone who deals in narrative as art, can find something valuable to keep. I hope that I can offer the viewer/reader something to think about, and all creators something to consider for future projects. For me, part of supporting fellow artists is giving a fair and honest review of their work; that is a personal ethic that I take seriously. The following review is not PG-rated; if you are offended by sexually explicit language, do not read it. 

This review contains a few spoilers; please do not let those dissuade you from viewing the episode! If you haven't seen Episode 3, please view it before reading.  


"Gay porn awards shows don't give out awards for videography, editing, scores, and scripts, but if they did, this is where all the nominations would come from." - The Sword, review of The Haunting

The final installment of Jake Jaxson's innovative, courageous, and beautifully-made three part gay porn film for Cockyboys, The Haunting, was released today to much anticipation - not only from loyal fans and curious porn aficionados, but from many professionals in the porn industry.  Jaxson in the past year has established Cockyboys firmly as the studio to watch: not only are the short videos increasingly decorated  with the characteristics that set them off from others in the gay porn world as something different, forward-thinking and classy, but his series Project Gogo Boy and The Haunting, are such a stretch from the standard and norm, that they have made many a jaw drop. Beyond the merits of the individual episode or the individual series, Jaxson has indisputably and forever  changed the industry - something for which he can be hugely proud. If he keeps this up, he will force gay porn, and eventually hetero porn, to increasingly consider questions of production quality - and the combination of coherent, intelligent plot with erotica.

I believe that I am the only non-porn blog to review The Haunting. (See my review of Parts 1 and 2.)  Consequently, my review is a bit different: others look at the porn, the camerawork, perhaps the overall production.  I look at the production, and the plot and narrative quality.  I have brought such reviews to this blog because I believe that we have begun our way down an important path - with Jake Jaxson at the helm - at the end of which we will see quality literary narrative merge with explicit sex scenes. And why not? It has happened in literature - we have seen story and explicit sex scene merge in the past decade as never before in the world of books.

Courtesy Cockyboys.
Now, whether we have seen it merge successfully all that often is up for debate. But to have moved forward is enormous! I don't believe that every book needs a sex scene: however, I do believe that - sex being a basic and integral element of human experience - it is not only acceptable and legitimate but healthy, that we as a society have come to the point where books can be beautifully-written, narratively sound, and contain sex scenes that advance and enhance the plot and the reader's experience.  The same should be true of film. Sure, mainstream feature film has given us cheap sex scenes for some time now; sexually explicit in a healthy sense? - I would argue "no". Too many are gratuitous, have little to do directly with advancing plot in any meaningful way, and God forbid we see male frontal nudity. Forget a quality gay sex scene. We have a long, long way to go.

For me, The Haunting Part 3: A Kiss Before Goodnight, was the most challenging of the three installments of this film. Jaxson had previously established with Part 1 a storyline involving flashes into the past, and a strong tie-in with a narrative involving the present. Scenes involving past flashbacks were infused with an old-fashioned feel - accomplished by strains of classical music, soft-focus camera-work, vintage clothing, and antique artifacts - that served both to draw the viewer into the story and add to the creepiness of the storyline. In the ending seconds of both Part 1 and Part 2, there was a startling surprise of a moment that quickened the viewer's heartbeat (and believe me, I'm not exaggerating that!) and set up questions about the next installment. It was genius: fans were engaged through the weeks in between releases.

The viewer's expectation, then, going into Part 3, was a tidy resolution of plot, more creepiness, and the continuation of the mood set in Parts 1 and 2, and of course some quality explicit sex. This third expectation was granted. It's the first two I wish to address, again from the point of view as one whose life is literature.

(Warning: Spoiler!) Narrative tension exists when a conflict is established and draws the viewer/reader along to the end. That may be the "end" of an episode or the end of a series. Timing is everything, and in the world of literature as in the world of film, it is something that takes practice. In Parts 1 and 2, Jaxson's plot design was near-flawless: even as the reader was watching the scenes unfold, he or she was wondering what, whom, why - it never stopped. Right up until the last startling, mesmerizing moment. Here in Part 3, however, the mystery that drove Parts 1 and 2 is revealed and explained in literally the first few minutes, ending narrative tension. Now Jaxson might argue - and I think rightly - that he was trying to then shift the tension to another conflict - that of an artist who finds his well of creative inspiration empty.  I have to admit, I didn't get this clearly: I was a little surprised to find it in Jaxson's introductory note to the episode: I had been so anxious to view the episode that I hadn't read it until I was 2/3 of the way through viewing the film. I thought "Really?"  I don't know if a little more in the way of showing the private life of the artist, revealing what others gossiped about him, or dialog, would have helped; as a writer I could think of several ways to accomplish it. The point is, this conflict - which could have and should have replaced the first and driven the entire episode from there - was not clearly established. It is a shame, because it reduced this episode to more porn film than a plot-driven erotica piece, as were the first two.

Roman, Chagall. Courtesy Cockyboys.
The biggest issue was the lead character himself. One thing that is difficult for a writer to learn is that a lead character must be sympathetic: he may be a pig, but he must demonstrate that he is human, understandable and relatable, and worthy of pity if not respect. If he is not three-dimensional in this sense, the audience is not interested in him. The lead character here, artist Klaus Heist (played earnestly and adeptly by Christian Wilde), is not a nice person: that is all well and good. The problem is that Klaus has no redeeming quality, nothing that allows us to understand him, relate to him, or care what happens to him. As a viewer, I got excited when I saw a spark of something late in the film - when a few paint strokes upon his canvas incite a vision experience in which he sees the past and what has happened in the house. I thought that it would somehow have an effect on him, that he would finally have some revelation and exhibit an iota of humanity.

This brings us to the second element necessary in successful plot, besides conflict: there must be change. Usually, this change must happen to the lead character or characters: he or she must experience a revelation, make a decision, take an unexpected turn. If it had been clear that Klaus Heist was struggling with his inspiration, and if it had been clear that the vision led to his successful resolution of that problem, the plot would have worked. As it was, we are given a decidedly unpleasant lead character, with dubious conflict (certainly none that we care about), and a merely interesting moment that should have led to resolution.

It is very difficult for a writer - or a filmmaker - to clearly see a difference between what he understands about his own plot, and what the reader/viewer will be able to glean.  How many hints to you give? When are you being too obtuse? And what is the point at which you pound the audience over the head and insult intelligence?  The work of an artist is to learn what these boundaries are, and that comes with experience.

There were other things that were very interesting indeed about this film. Particularly intriguing was the dichotomy between the two sex scenes. Both were very drawn-out but never less than hot, and Jaxson used them to make a point about sex and pornography. In the first, unlikeable lead character Heist seduces - through intimidation as much as heat - the young real estate agent (Max Ryder - in a really nice performance) selling him the house. This scene occurs very early in the film. Heist is a practiced lover, but not a very passionate - or COMpassionate one. He is one of those you see in porn films, where if he were in your bedroom, after five minutes of the near-continuous degrading, demeaning, and decidedly mean-spirited dirty banter, you would be tempted to slap him and scream "Just shut up for chrissakes!". It's enough to make you lose a hard-on. (Well, you know what I mean.)  It was so excessive that I wasn't sure whether I wanted to giggle or scream at the screen; that combined with the coldness established by the lead character, made me want to fast forward through the scene. But I sat tight and trusted Jaxson's instinct, and I was right to do so: at the end of the scene, Heist throws a towel at the young agent and spits out a chilly, "Now clean up and get out", leaving the young man hurt and confounded. (Ryder is excellent here - the emotion on his face is subtle but convincing - you feel used for him.)

In the second scene, which occurs at the end of the film and takes place within Heist's vision of the past, and between lovers Raif and Joe (played quite competently and movingly both in this episode and previous, by Arnaud Chagall and Ricky Roman, respectively - lesser actors in these roles would have altered the effectiveness of the films greatly), the romance is palpable, the mood quite different. Here, the occasional dirty talk is done lovingly, in stark contrast to the previous sex scene. This enormous contrast provides considerable food for thought, both about the porn world and about sexual human nature.

Self-portrait, Jake Jaxson, 2012.
I missed the creepiness factor in this episode. The storyline which provided it was gone when the mystery was blurted out early.  After that, we seemed to be taken in a direction in which we hadn't traveled before, which was never creepy and much less interesting. I wonder if a few minutes of ending - both to show the change evolution in the lead character and to revisit the poignancy of the love story shown in the earlier episodes - would have wrapped this all up more successfully.

The same high-quality production values that were present in the first two episodes of The Haunting are evident in this one: soft, gold-tinged lighting, alteration of focus to change mood, very competent acting from amateur performers, beautiful setting and music. In earlier episodes the beauty of the decor and the soothing nature of classical music made a stark contrast with the tension of the ghost story. Here, without much ghost story, these elements were simply a pretty setting.

I want to emphasize that which I said in my earlier article on The Haunting: watching this will amaze you. Early in the hours after the release of Part 3, Zachary Sire wrote in a review for the gay porn blog The Sword that "...Cockyboys' Haunting finale should make other gay porn studios very, very scared . . . no other studio is taking adult film to places . . . that it's never been before." Sire is right. Jaxson has dared to tread on untested ground: explicit, story-driven erotica and good quality filmmaking can be successfully combined, and he has proven it.
“Gay porn awards shows don’t give out awards for videography, editing, scores, and scripts, but if they did, this is where all the nominations would come from.” - See more at: http://thesword.com/cockyboys-haunting-finale-should-make-every-other-gay-porn-studio-very-very-scared.html#sthash.LZ0Cv3Yo.dpuf

Watching this film is fascinating, thought-provoking, and hot. Considering the overall package - episodes 1-3 of The Haunting - Jaxson has established himself not only as an innovator in his industry, but as a storyteller and innovative filmmaker. As is true with any artist of unusual creative vision, or any filmmaker of talent, he can only get better and better, his vision can only stretch further and to new, even more unexpected limits. I can't wait to see what he does next: it's guaranteed to be no less than inspiring.


The three episodes will be available soon on DVD as a complete film. Check Cockyboys.com in coming months for details. 
no other studio is taking adult film to places like…well…places that it’s never been before. - See more at: http://thesword.com/#sthash.NPSIP9By.dpuf"
CockyBoys’ Haunting Finale Should Make Other Gay Porn Studios Very, Very Scared - See more at: http://thesword.com/#sthash.NPSIP9By.dpuf

See the official trailer for The Haunting.  The trailer for Part 3 alone is here.

The price of a trial membership at CockyBoys.com is well worth seeing these films for literary and film-making merit as well as for some beautiful men doing what they do best.

Visit Cockyboys and Jake Jaxson on Twitter at @cockyboys .
See Jake Jaxson's website at http://www.jakejaxson.com

Monday, February 25, 2013

HUMOR! Now why couldn't I write this??

Recently, a friend suggested I write humor for a blog he hosts. I told him I was terribly flattered, but I can't write humor; friends would tell you that in my real, outside-the-internet life, I'm actually pretty damn funny. Go figure . . . I write dark, emotional novels.

I have been studying humor writing - I'm convinced that people who can do this are just wired a certain way: their brains translate the eccentric, hilarious way they view the world, into the keyboard. With me, the eccentricity goes out my mouth, and never makes it onto a keyboard. But I say it here out loud - you're all witnesses - I will learn to write humor. Maybe this decade!

Meanwhile . . . I present for your consideration and amusement the funniest thing I have run across this week, by young model Max Ryder, who lives in New York City and apparently is far too familiar with the joys of riding the subway. Thank you, Max, for this side-splitter! If you ever need an alternate career, consider comedy writing, seriously. You'll make a fortune! Meanwhile consider yourself the holder of a standing invitation to write posts for this blog!

(Max's blog - not suitable for work or the prudish! but always entertaining and often touchingly  insightful - is at http://www.maxryder.com. )


Max Ryder's Tips for Riding the MTA

If you’ve ever visited New York and you haven’t used the mothah fucking MTA then, well,  you’re NOT missing out on much.  Besides . . . well . . . hobos that piss on the floor, rats with 3 feet, and black girls in cheetah print. Wait - don’t forget the pick-pocketers, AIDS, and did I mention the hobos that piss on the floor?

It’s disgusting, but living in NYC, unless you want to always get ripped off by Ghandi cab drivers, you learn to tolerate the subway. Personally, I’ve grown to love what tourists call ‘the underground’… It’s actually one of the places where I actually have time to think. It’s cool to go down there with your headphones blasting some Lana Del Rey and your notebook; you’d be surprised at all the cool ideas you get. Actually, I wrote 2 of my most commented-upon REAL TALK posts while riding from Brooklyn to mid-town in the subway. All the cool kids take the subway anyways… Katie Holmes even takes it.

It’s not that bad, but if you aren’t EXPERIENCED or PREPARED you can end up somewhere in Harlem with no wallet and phone… So I’m going to provide a couple tips that can make your first experience one that you don’t regret.

Step 1: Don’t ever make eye contact. You can get shot, stabbed, or beaten. Unless they’re famous, a model, or have a big bulge.

Step 2Avoid all Nicki Minaj impersonators; don’t be blinded by their bright hair… they have a dark soul.

Step 3Never leave your wallet, cellphone, money, or baby in any UNZIPPED pocket. They will get stolen.

Step 4Make sure you never hold on to any railing, bar, door while riding the subway. Do use old people with canes, friends,  and Asians. REMEMBER hobos pee on them.

Step 5: Don’t ever take photos of people's weird shoes… no matter oh hard you try to sneak it. You’ll forget flash is on and they’ll punch you in the face.

Step 6Never take the subway after the club. No matter how sober you think you are, you will pass out and wake up with your shoes stolen (yes, this really happens).

Step 7If you’re a girl with big boobs, expensive jewelry, and "fuck me" boots NEVER ride the subway after 11:30pm. You will be sold into sex trafficking.

Step 8: Make sure you’ve downloaded my lifesaver while taking the subway, the iPhone app: iTrans NYC. Use it for finding which train to take, transferring trains, train times, nearby subway stations, and info on service advisories, delays or cancellations.

I hope these helped you prepare for your next ride on the MTA. I promise it’s not bad and you WILL survive if you follow those pointers. Trust me either I know from experience or this has happened to someone I know. Try to always ride w/ a buddy!


© Copyright Max Ryder 2013. All rights reserved.

Photo of Max, looking not tough enough for the MTA, courtesy Jake Jaxson.  
© Copyright Jake Jaxson 2013. All rights reserved.