Friday, September 27, 2013

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard this was being made into a TV show starring Justin Theroux, who I like. The concept sounded good, and I enjoyed the movie Little Children and had always wanted to read that book.

Really, I should have read Little Children.

This book was okay, basically after the rapture, a lot of cults form and people feel more lost and without purpose than normal. Plus there's a lot of grief for those who are gone.

That's kind of it. I hoped more would happen, it didn't. I hoped I'd care about the characters more but didn't really. I came to like the watcher who worked with Meg best but I can't even remember her name right now, and I finished the book less than an hour ago. That's not a good sign.

It was a lite distraction, I feel I'll like the show more.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really liked this book.
I feel it offered something to the new generation of gay men while at the same time showing them the past. I had put of reading this for a little while as the concept of a book being narrated by a Greek chorus seemed overworked and clich├ęd but I found it worked remarkably well. There's a few separate stories here, they all build to a crescendo that had me flipping pages like crazy at the end.

The book is well done, telling timeless tales of parent's disappointment, parent's support, and the power of will and love. There's great morals along the way from the voice of the experienced:

"Freedom isn't just about voting and marrying and kissing on the street, although all of these things are important. Freedom is also about what you will allow yourself to do."

I found myself wanting to grow up in this "two boys kissing" world, while at the same time realizing how much further there is still to go.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gay Computer

From the Spring 1970 issue of QQ, or Queen's Quarterly.

Cruise with the Gay Computer!

In an article from the same issue, "You've Come a Long Way, Baby!":
Ten years ago, the whole life style of some of the older guys I met appeared to be restrictive and lonely. In retrospect I see a blurred picture of little walk-up apartments, all very chi-chi; omnipresent poodles; Judy Garland records; trips to Europe where you could be yourself, and an occasional dab at the wrist with a razor blade because John had just walked out and oh God life was so rotten anyway.

Tips on Moving to the Big City

by Frank Keating

JUST recently a friend visited his aging mother in one of those cold states out west, where in spring it is not uncommon to find a beautiful boy thawing out against a barbed wire fence, after having been iced solid and covered with snow in a wicked winter blizzard. My friend stayed with his sister and her husband, who live in a small town of about 50 “clean livin’ folk.” There, delicate Bessie and manly Sam boasted to him of their part in executing a “God damn queer.”
A boy—a gentle, beautiful boy of only 18—following his natural desires could not resist the temptation to ‘love' a couple of the town’s studs; goons who first allowed themselves to be ‘serviced’ and then ridiculed the young man, a victim of circumstance. Word spread quickly and shook the town so violently that it was generally agreed the boy should be punished. With the blessing of a bigoted preacher and the approval of the sheriff, a few toughs took the boy to a wintry bluff, stripped him and threw him to roll and tumble 50 feet down a snowy incline. Being left for dead, this gentle boy, so blond, so beautiful, a god among the gay had he been born in a big city, had the will to live. For 12 miles he braced the cold wind, trekking through deep snow in a vain attempt to reach shelter, an abandoned cabin he knew of. Several days later his body was found, now blue and stiff, his blond hair faded and brittle, the soft lines of his buttocks breaking a snowy blanket of death.
He was buried quietly, by whom no one knows. Perhaps a secret lover perhaps by someone who will escape the same fate by leaving that evil town as a lasting tribute to a love which was silenced before it spoke. Maybe that man whose hands laid the boy to rest will, out of complacency and fear of what is unfamiliar—a big city—remain to grow old and gnarled, condemning himself to an empty life of bitterness. Even old maids are not put to such suffering; they at least are accepted socially.
My friend, helpless and sickened by the story, could not stay. Suddenly, the very womb which gave him life seemed depraved. What he had held in his heart as love all these years now abandoned him; had he not returned he would have at least preserved a golden memory of those he believed dear to him. One wonders: Had he been exposed before moving to a big city, or even now as a visitor, would his own mother have held the stake that surely would have been hammered into his heart?
Bizarre as this story may seem, it is nonetheless true. Such films as “Easy Rider” point up the bigoted ugliness that exists in this country, in people everywhere who fear anything different from themselves. Indeed, that movie should be seen by every minority group, and especially by homosexuals. Such modern witch hunts as the trials in Boise, Idaho a few years ago must serve as a warning to any gentle boy who believes others love as he and are capable of understanding and acceptance. We at QQ long for that day. Certainly the world is making progress: God bless the young people and their sexual outlook. God bless the demise of Victorian principles and our new awakening. But before the world sees with open eyes there will be countless attacks on all minority strains, and we who are gay are prime targets.
If you are trapped in a small town read these words well: Keep your wits about you while you are living among those who would do you harm. Acquire a good education to help secure your future. As soon as you are of age, leave. Join your people wherever they congregate, in gay meccas here in America or wherever homosexuals are given license to live and love as they must. Moving away cannot cause lasting hurt in your mother’s heart; if she loves you she will understand. Letters, a telephone call, an occasional visit can keep your love and hers alive. Remain and you may kill that love, by causing heartache and misery for yourself and those who are entangled in a web of hypocrisy from which there is no escape.
This article is addressed mainly to the young. But even if you are not so young, if your spirit for adventure and longing for freedom have not left you, use my advice as a propellent for liberation. If you have already escaped let these words serve as a reminder that no matter how rough you have had it, and no matter how many hills you must climb, your decision was right— for love cannot be fettered. If is life itself.
When you have reached your decision to leave, proceed slowly. Choose a city wiselyone which will afford anonymity and comradeship among your own kind. The place you choose must be a gay mecca in which homosexuals are allowed to live and love freely. Foremost in America are New York and San Francisco, with Los Angeles and Chicago next in line. Here and there, especially in California, are communities in which the gay life nourishes, for in these locales gay guys have united and increased their numbers by not relenting to outside pressures at first, and by dislodging straight society from within through their obstinance to leave. So intolerable does such a situation become for straight dwellers that in time they are thinned out. Most large cities, here and throughout the world, by nature of their indifference afford a sanctuary for the gay. If your move cannot be complete; that is, moving hundreds, thousands of miles away, then move to the nearest big town where you will at least find others like yourself living in harmony and happiness, even if in limited numbers. You may decide to remain in such ‘transitional’ towns. If you do not, your residency will condition you for a bigger move.
 If you are attending college the move becomes simple. By wisely selecting a college in or near a gay mecca, you will be making a safe transition, and with the blessing of your parents. Once matriculated, once familiar with your new city, you will find it relatively easy to remain after graduation. If you are not a student, then, after choosing a city, investigate job opportunities. Visit your local librarian, or newspaper editor. He will secure for you the names and addresses of newspapers in the city of your choice. Now it’s a matter of sending for a copy of Sunday’s leading newspaper, in which you will find numerous job listings. Not only will these listings give you some idea of wages paid, but will afford leads for jobs—even if you must first register (by mail) with several placement agencies. Moreover, you will learn (by reading the ads) how to construct a ‘situations wanted’ ad for yourself, advertising for a position in a big city paper—and possibly securing employment by mail even before leaving home.
Such newspapers tell you much more. You can examine the ‘apartments available’ ads, and get some idea of what rents are like. A look at the department store and supermarket ads will tell you a lot about local fashions, clothing and furniture prices, and the cost of living in general. Overall, the newspaper will clue you in on the town’s tempo.
Pay attention only to establishment papers. Seeking employment through an underground paper, gay or straight, will only get you involved with insincere people who make a practice of preying on the young—promising but never giving the world in return for one night with your body.
Perhaps there is an employment agency in your home town; there may be a listing just for you. If you attended school locally, visit the principal or guidance counselor to secure his aid in helping you locate a good job elsewhere. Oftentimes, local educators will go overboard to help, for in you they see the chance for escape they may have missed years ago, and your liberation—even if left unsaid—is an expression of their own desires. If you now have a good job, your supervisor will respect your honesty if you take time to discuss your plans (not entirely, of course), and may, in fact, be able to land you a solid interview with a friend who is in a hiring position in a big company in your chosen city.
If you leave after securing employment you will have accomplished a difficult task successfully. But do not let unemployment deter you. Take with you enough savings to keep you sheltered and fed for at least three months, and as soon as you are settled in a temporary home, scan the want ads and register with job agencies. Groom yourself, dress conservatively, be persistent and be ready to support all the claims you have set forth in a typewritten resume. Don’t settle for an unattractive position, but if the job is at least tolerable, accept it, and once you are settled you can quietly seek employment elsewhere. By then, you will have made friends, and opportunities will come your way.
Don’t buy a new wardrobe before leaving. Styles vary in different cities, and you should not buy clothing before knowing exactly what’s in vogue. Take with you a conservative dark suit, a couple of white shirts, a dark tie, underwear, shoes, and an overcoat if needed, as well as enough casual wear to keep you snapping on the gay scene after job hunting. Always in style are wash pants and dungarees, sports shirts and tee shirts, windbreakers, sweaters, and loafers. You may not be the ‘picture of fashion’ at first, what with your short haircut and conservative dress, but your hair will grow, and in the meantime you will be in great demand—for jaded homosexuals (as we sooner or later become in cosmopolitan cities) may occasionally poke fun at their country cousins, but nonetheless relish meeting and making any new guy in town.
If you own a car, you may or may not want to take it with you. For instance, in New York a car is a burden. Parking is difficult, and insurance rates are high. With great subways and bus service, as well as taxis—not to mention the fact that the City is laid out in an orderly easy-to-get-around fashion—a car simply is not needed. But in California, especially in areas such as Los Angeles, having a car is a necessity—for without one you will be trapped wherever you are. Communities are spread apart, and public transportation is lacking. If a car is not needed, then sell before you leave and travel by bus or train or plane. Selling after you reach your destination might get you an unfair price, depending on local economy and crooked dealers. You’re much safer making a deal in your home town.
If you have a friend or know some gay guys in the city of your choice, write or phone well in advance for whatever advice they might offer. A good friend will usually extend an invitation to stay with him on arrival, but such hospitality should not be abused. Unless he is a prospective lover, and the feeling is mutual, accept, but only for a few days, thereby showing a regard for his privacy (not every gay guy likes having sex with his tricks in front of an old buddy) and avoiding a breakup which could easily develop if you overstay your welcome. While you are visiting, make your plans for a short visit clear, and contribute to housekeeping, laundry, and groceries. As soon as you feel relaxed, move to a YMCA if you have not by then located a groovy pad of your own. The Y is always comfortable, affords an opportunity for many new friendships, and is inexpensive. On getting a job you can seek permanent quarters at your leisure.
Gay newcomers especially radiate a trusting glow which often leads to trouble. Of course there are many wonderful guys in big cities, fellows who like yourself were once new. There are also con artists and leeches. They are obvious among the hippie types who would do anything for a handout. Until you are settled and get to know the ways of your chosen city, don’t be completely trusting with strangers. This is not to say that you should be suspicious and impenetrable with people who show kindness, or guys you trick with. Be honest and giving of yourself, but also be aware that you may be an easy victim for the loan of money, a place to sleep, etc. Simply set guidelines for yourself, and don’t go flip-flop over the first guy who tells you: “I love you.” My God! I know a guy who gets so chummy on his first fling in bed with someone that he suggests and starts planning European vacations together. He’s done it dozens of times—and inevitably cancels after not receiving that first phone call. As in any town, one cannot hunt for love; love must find you, and when it happens you will both know and the affair will take its naturally beautiful course. At first, keep your eyes wide open and avoid being victimized by those who are pros at taking advantage of a good-hearted stranger. Ideally, if you have friends in your new city, or if you make friends easily, they in turn will introduce you to others—which makes things a lot easier during your adjustment period.
These, then, are general rules for all new guys in town. The decision to cut a niche for yourself in this beautiful world of ours is yours. If we can be of help in making your move, by advising you, feel free to write to any member of our staff. We do not charge for this service, and you will receive a prompt and honest reply. We consider you a member of our family. Your place is among us—wherever we congregate. Only with us will you find happiness. Join us. That someplace may be only a few miles from where you now live. Whether it is a short drive or trip of many hours, it can be the most difficult journey in your life—for that first step is the hardest. To find love you must take it.

Dear McDonalds

I occasionally write letters to McDonald's.  Very occasionally mind, but I do.  The last time I wrote to them was when I was charged a different tax percentage for my coffee in Ottawa than I was charged in Toronto.  See, I live in a world of logic and reason, and when these things are turned upside-down, it freaks me out a bit.

Recently on my way into the Archives where I volunteer every Wednesday night, I've had a couple of bad experiences so I've sent these two letters.  No response yet, will upload it when I get one.

McDonald's Restaurants of Canada Limited
1 McDonald's Place
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M3C 3L4
Fax: (416) 446-3443

Re: Visit to Yonge and Charles location on Sept 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm.

                I recently visited your Yonge and Charles location at 5:15, you can see on the attached receipt I finished paying for my order at 17:18.
When my order arrived I had the manager, James, write the time on the bottom that I received it, 5:38 pm. 20 minutes.  I think that’s unacceptable.  When I asked the woman serving why it was taking so long, she went and talked to someone in the back, said something I couldn’t hear, and then came back and served someone else. No one said anything.  Even when I asked the manager to acknowledge my 20 minute wait, he said “sorry” and walked away.
Sitting there for 20 minutes while everyone else was getting served and being ignored was not fun.

Adam Dunn

Re: Visit to Yonge and Charles location on Sept 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm.

            Me again.
Today I went to your restaurant for the 50% off promotion on wraps.
I was charged $2.50 for the veggie wrap and asked to see the manager James. The regular price of the wrap is $4.39. I asked James what 50% off of $4.39 was.  After a LENGTHY pause, he said $2.30. I’m not sure James is in the right business.
So I asked why I was being charged $2.50 instead of $2.20 and he said it was an error in programming the cash register. Then he asked if there would be anything else.
I don’t think a programming error is reason enough to overcharge me, do you?

Adam Dunn

The House on Brooke Street by Neil Bartlett

The House on Brooke Street by Neil Bartlett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars perhaps?

Again, after reading the fantastic Skin Lane, I wanted to read everything by Neil Bartlett. This often proves a bad idea.

A little more coherent than Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall but the plots no better, and a little more coherent does not mean coherent.

The same story of the same day is told five times by the same man as a soliloquy and you're supposed to figure out which one is true and how Rock Hudson fits in. I found at the end I didn't really care. There were brief glimpses of gay life whenever the book was supposed to be set (1920? 1950? It changes) but these were not the main points.

Too abstract, too flighty, too confusing.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is so uneven, it's almost like three different books in one.

Book one is the first 50%. It's well-written but tedious. I felt like it should have been relegated to a 15 page prologue, this is not the good part of the book, yet it takes up the most room, page-wise. Another story of another wealthy British family set after the first World War. I've read so many, it was during my reading of The Stranger's Child that I first realized I had had enough. I don't care what the wealthy did, if I want to read anything about that period it would be the story of common people or the poor or something else other than life in a stately home! Enough!
It was for a book club, so I kept reading.

This part is slightly redeemed by the smooth, well-flowing writing style, so 2 out of 5.

Part two is the gold, it only lasts about 30%. The main focus in this section is the Second World War and it's so vivid, so wonderful, it's like you're there. I've never heard this war described so well. I read every word of this part, it was fantastic, five out of five. If he can write this well, why did the author mess about with the kids games of part one?

Part three is an unnecessary tack on that runs about 20%. It's a jump forward to modern day that really stretches credulity and ends with the message that only an author could understand the plot of the book. It seemed elitist, like the author was throwing a party for himself and his work. Way to go, good job, he told himself. I could practically see the old age make-up in the movie version as I read it, ugh. 1 out of 5

Add it up and you somehow get three.

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Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad by Alison Wearing

Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad by Alison Wearing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Guest review from my mom:

At her age 18, her Father admitted:
"If I'd been born ten years ealier, it's very possible that I would never have come out at all, And if I'd been born ten years later, most probably I would never have married." What a powerful quote!
This is a fabulous book, well written with a sharp wit and good sense of humour; showing us a gay father's story, told through the eyes of his daughter. There were so many quotes in the book that I wrote down, and don't want to forget. I'm strongly suggesting you read this book and make your own list.
Life is always full of surprises, so read this book and find out how one family copes with tough choices in an effort to be true to themselves, and the love they feel for each other as a family.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

The German by Lee Thomas

The German by Lee Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book more than I’ve loved any book in a while. I highly recommend it and Lee Thomas is definitely on my authors to watch list.

The book is an original story that is extremely well written, I found myself wondering how Thomas wasn’t more well known. He earned a well-deserved LAMBDA award nomination for this novel so I suppose he’s getting there. The book reminded me of two other stores, at first for the slightly creepy narration and possibility of something supernatural I was reminded of Skin Lane. After finishing the book I was reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird, a similar tale of prejudice in the South with a young narrator.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, which I suppose put me off reading it for a while. The author had won the Bram Stoker award, was this a horror book? It was nominated for the LAMBDA for science-fiction. On Goodreads it was classified as M/M Romance, so what the heck was I going to get?

I’m glad I picked it up on spec. There’s no horror, there’s a touch of supernatural but a very light touch and it’s right at the end. There’s no romance. It feels to me just a fiction book, a well written tale of a loner in WW2 Texas and the lengths people will go to to protect themselves from the unknown. I would say Thriller or Suspense possibly.

The author’s setting and characterizations are fantastic, the book is well written and it all comes together quite well with a satisfying twist I didn’t see coming. This book is really a keeper, great job Lee Thomas!

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Twelve Inches by Karl Flinders

Twelve Inches by Karl Flinders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think with any of these “one-handed” reads, you’re looking for a certain level of eroticism. I’m not looking for just explicit details, I want a setting and a reason that’s believable and for the most part this book delivers. I would say Karl Flinders’ strength is the set-up.

The book itself, I suppose it’s bisexual? It seems to defy categorization. Men do sexual things with other men but rarely to the point of orgasm, and it’s usually brushed off as “boys being boys” kind of play. The one actual homosexual in the book commits suicide after realizing he’s gay and the rest of the characters really brush over this, as if it were expected. That kind of confused me, isn’t Flinders biting the hand that feeds him saying the gay ones deserve to die?

The book also contains a few page-filling sections. For example, after each sexual romp, there is a reminiscence of the romp that fills a few pages while basically restating the same things again. Also at the end of the book there is a lengthy set-up for a sequel where our hero decides to be a gay-for-pay escort that doesn’t really go anywhere – you have to buy the next book.

Still I enjoyed it enough to know what happens and will likely follow our hero to NYC.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic book, I loved it.
It really highlights what it's like to be 19 and not know what you're doing as you're made into a soldier, then a hero, then a commodity in the greatest country on earth.
Well written with satire and Destiny's Child, the book grabs you at the beginning and holds you to the end.
Rather than deliver answers, it presents more questions.
As the book says:
"Maybe the light's at the other end of the tunnel."

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Monday, September 2, 2013

London, Ontario

Had a nice overnight trip to visit my friend and co-worker Jonathan in London, Ontario. Weather was beautiful, business class on the way there was very cool and Jonathan has an amazing cat, Gucci. Also bought some amazing food at their farmer's market. Loved it, thanks!