Monday, November 18, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inside the Beltway (Characters)

Living together in the same apartment, sharing the same bed, was a serious commitment for Triston, Darrell, and Bobby.  No one made an advance, touched or grabbed unless it was expected and usually communicated before it was done.  They weren’t there for the sex.  They weren’t in a monogamous relationship, it was something else, a friendship.  They could talk all night long but they were also comfortable with awkward silences.  Each of them were in the bed for his own reason.

For Triston it was his own sense of openness, a sense of family, if not community and friendship, plus it helped him save money to one day own a business, a sex toy shop focused on teaching and resources for a community.

For Bobby it was the warmth of being there amongst the other bodies and saving money for a brand new car, a BMW, which he wanted to pay off in full so that he never had to worry about a monthly payment.  He felt like he could go anywhere if he owned a car.  He could drive anywhere, be anywhere, move on a whim.

For Darrell it was sobriety, dependency, and preoccupation, the little annoyances and distractions that made him fill his day with something else.  It had gotten bad two years ago before he moved in with them.  He had his own apartment in that section of town that sounded like a bachelor’s neighborhood.  Drinking on the weekends became drinking every night until he had a collection of bottles in the cupboards of his kitchen instead of dishes, along the counters, and windowsills.

Read their stories:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Teased: Brief Erotic Stories (Promotion)

Click on the image to go to the page.
Chapter Titles Are: Nude Recruits, Helping Hands, Pt 1/2 Gay Couple - After A Long Day, Controller Cords (Excerpt), Making Him Earn It, Professor Tucker Gets a Hooker, Come Twice Stay Once, Pt 2/2 Gay Couple - Rubber Play, Some Video on the Internet, Tasteful Nude, Amateur Doesn't Mean New, Midwest Hung Well, College Students Fuck in Stairwell, Man in Leather

Monday, October 21, 2013

Inside the Beltway Ch 11 (excerpt)

My serialized gay, fiction on the Swish Edition website.  I am missing the laughs.

Inside the Beltway Ch 11- They were meeting up with Triston’s coworker, Cheryl, and her friend Doug at an old strip mall in Virginia to, of all things, toss dildos. The sex toys, over thirty of them, had been pulled from the shelves for destruction by the manufacturer for their possible toxic elements.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Free Book Promotion- Per Pound of Flesh (gay, erotica)

I decided to do something radical and schedule all of my Amazon free book promotional days then post a schedule of when they will be... 5/5 for the next 90 days. If you get the book/have it and like it or don't like it and want to tell me about it please leave a review or send me a message.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Inside the Beltway (Serialized Fiction)

As of July 29, 2013 or yesterday, I, Bryan James, have become a regular contributor of a serialized fiction story to the Swish Edition, a podcast and LGBTQ interest site for news, gossip, and entertainment.  

My series is called ‘Inside the Beltway’ and to me is my response, my answer, to the absence I feel without Queer as Folk (QaF) and the L Word.  I had different formations of this story in my head for many years, wanting something fun but also responsible.  I wanted a modern story like QaF and the L Word were for their time.  

There were little grasps at a gay story but nothing quite stepped up.  I loved the Outs but it was short lived and now the new story by Adam Goldman is something entirely different but I bet it will be genius.  There is the homoerotic Teen Wolf and True Blood but it isn’t enough.  Although personally for me I love the Teen Wolf fandom and I’m a Sterek shipper but I know it’s never going to happen.

Inside the Beltway is a serial story that is posted weekly.  It is my attempt at modern characters dealing with the current society.  My focus will be on four main characters, gay men: Bobby, Spencer, Darrell, and Triston.  These characters arose from my own personal experience.

My synopsis:

Four friends Darrell, Spencer, Bobby, and Triston are living in the D.C. are trying to make a living, make careers,and find boyfriends, hookups, and maybe a few casual sex encounters.

Darrell and Spencer know each other from college.  Darrell dropped out to join the Army where he became a linguist.  He was kicked out after it was discovered he was openly gay.  He struggles with his identity as a gay, black man.  

Spencer graduated from college and held several internships until he landed a job with a government consultant group.  He ascended quickly from mailroom to consultant but has reached a plateau in his career and needs a horizontal change.

Bobby, a second generation South Korean in the United States, comes from the Los Angeles/Hollywood area where he attended college while living with his parents.  It was during that time that he came to terms with his sexual identity and began to obsess about fitness and his body.  He traveled to D.C. for an adventure away from his family.  He works part-time as a personal trainer under the table and at department stores.

Triston is an underachiever who majored in Philosophy at college and barely passed his courses.  He is both skeptical and open minded.  He works at an adult store selling sex toys, movies, and other forms of entertainment.  He co-hosts a local munch for kinky people.

While I will attempt to keep things PG-13 I want to also explore the complexity of the character including sex life, kink, BDSM play, and other expressions that I feel people explore and/or want to know more about.  I want to do so accurately and with respect.  Some things I have experienced personally and others I have not but may find some curiosity in the representation.

For the past year I have been, ahem, researching gay life on the internet which is a new aspect of our lives not explored very much in QaF.  What does it mean to be outed on FB or have a sex tape?  What does it mean to have someone contact you after twenty years of not talking?  And how do we cope with losing our anonymity in an increasingly public society?

My exploration of these characters in a city I found to be complex in my brief time there is possible because of the support of The Swish Edition.  

Working with the Swish Edition  is very exciting for me.  I found their podcast by accident one night as I was searching for something new to listen to and before then I didn’t really listen to podcasts.  I started listening about a year and half ago and right away I thought the guys were hilarious, sometimes rude and crude but hilarious.  It was because of them that I got interested in the D.C. area and adventured down there on a job prospect.  I landed the job, though it didn’t last long, but it did give me time.

I used the money from the job to spend time writing Per Pound of Flesh, which I partially dedicated to the show, because they gave me some much needed gay hilarity.  It was because of them that I sought out more podcasts.  They told me about The Outs, Elephant, Nasty Pig, and lots of other gay interest subjects it would have taken me longer to find on my own or may have never found at all.

Our relationship started on a lark when I found a picture in the depths of Tumblr of a sex slave man who looked similar to one of the hosts.  I decided I had to send them the picture so that was when I created my email account and actually began my nom de plume identity.  

Until then it had been a struggle for me because I felt very bound to my accounts, to being the person others wanted me to be.  Bryan James for me is like Don Draper for Dick Whitman.  It is the man I want to be.  The man I am inside without history and context of people who say they knew me when.

I sent the picture, we had a good laugh, and then I connected with them on Twitter when they were having contests for new followers.  I did happen to win a small prize package, this was while I was in the D.C. area.  I had to explain to my roommate why a package might show up with a name that wasn’t mine.  She was amused.

About a year later I decided after much toil to self-publish my first book Per Pound of Flesh and then a second book Controller Cords.  Those two books for me were liberating.  I felt as if I had ripped something from myself and it became a new entity.  I had always feared doing this would be too self-harming but I found out actually that wounds heal.  

I had been working on blog stories previously, two YA stories in fact, but I lost interest in them because somehow I think I got stuck thinking about what YA should be instead of being innovative.  

Writing these two books, but more so self-publishing them, has been a great learning experience and forced me be more bold in social media.  I have taken to Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to promote myself with minor success.  

I do have another, new story in me that I am writing as well as this weekly serial.  For me it will be the first main character that I have written in a while that focuses on a straight man.  Until I wrote and published Per Pound of Flesh I felt as if I had to represent something.  I had a compulsion to write gay characters.  I still do.  But this is a different story.  There is a gay supporting character who might also be considered a main character but this just feels different.

You can find excerpts of my books published and unpublished on my blog Briefly Told Stories.  I also write essays and reviews on my blog Queer Words Make Stories.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Inside the Beltway (my new serialized fiction)

Chapter 01
“He’s threatening to leak our sex tape,” Spencer said.
“Our sex tape?” Bobby asked.
Check out my new story on Swish Edition

This Is Something

I am probably the stereotypical blogger because I live with my parents and I am in my early thirties and unemployed.  I had a career before this, briefly, working for two different colleges as well as a string of horrible temp jobs.  I am deeply in debt from my college education and I feel betrayed.

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary when I got to college I thought I would be recognized for something, hard work and enthusiasm would mean something.  Instead what I found was people, professors mostly, who were living their own miserable lives.  They were there because they felt they had settled for something less than what they deserved like many of the students.

My professors failed at being role models.  My advisors failed at giving advice.  And generally the courses were taught in a haphazard way, well the normal classes, the ones I was supposed to take.  I felt there was a great deal of self-censorship by many professors so they wouldn’t offend conservatives who might report them, dislike them, stop participating in class, and/or sue them.

But that was years ago and I am trying to move on with my life despite some set backs.  As I said in the premise I am unemployed and live with my parents.  This happened after having one promising career/job in higher education which I left for two reasons.

The first being that I was being underpaid for my job and rather than giving me more compensation the college wanted to take away responsibilities as well as having an increasingly frustrated and frustrating boss.  The second reason is that my father had a heart attack and I felt my parents needed my help.

Since then I have not been able to find stable work.  I am over educated for most jobs.  When I submit my resume for local McJobs I feel employers look at my resume and don’t want to hire me because they know I will not be a lifelong employee for low wages.  I know that I deserve, everyone deserves, a living wage and health benefits.  We deserve to be able to have pride in our work.  Most people around here don’t have that.

They smoke cigarettes and drink beer, as well as take other drugs to self-medicate emotional and physical pain.  They work under the table jobs, don’t declare most of their tips, and sometimes do illegal things to make a living.  I’m not talking robbery but other things.  You know, other things.

I briefly had a job working for another institution down in D.C. area but found the boss to a bully and genuinely unkind man.  One morning I realized I felt good until he showed up.  I realized he was a like a schoolyard bully when I was in elementary school.  I had enough and without another job to go to I decided to quit.  I reported him to Human Resources and was done with it.

I then turned to writing.  I sat down once again in my life to write a novel.  This time it was day after day of thinking and writing for about two months while I lived off the little money I earned and lived out the rest of the short rental agreement I had made.

I wrote about half of my novel Per Pound of Flesh there.  After many false starts and many attempts I finally decided to commit.  I was worried it would turn out wrong.  I was worried it wouldn’t be good enough.  I still am.

After living there and writing all that I could I finally had to move back with my parents.  And to be honest I fell into a state of depression.  There were other extenuating circumstances I won’t go into here but it was difficult to keep myself motivated.  I worked on two blog fiction stories that were Young Adult (YA) in content ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘The Family in the Window’.

Despite feeling hopeless I wanted to write something that had a positive feeling but eventually ran out of energy for the stories because I felt as if I had trapped myself in an emotional box.  I didn’t want bad things to happen.  I wanted the stories to be about healing despite feeling very wounded.

I decided to commit again to my novel.  I went through a process of planning my story, thinking about characters and plot.  I had to fix, edit, rewrite chapters but then I felt like I had worked it to a form but I also had/have such big visions.  I could imagine a whole series of adventures about this young man who goes into gay porn.  But I also felt like I needed an ending.

I didn’t write the ending in haste trying to slap something on so it would be finished.  I wrote it to hopefully provide some emotional satisfaction to the reader while also giving the opportunity for more books and stories.  I did this all while writing and editing other short fiction and posts for my blog.

It was a struggle personally and financially but I feel as if I have accomplished something.  This isn’t supposed to be a sob story but it also isn’t heroic accomplishment, not yet.  This is just what happened.

Right now I am cautiously optimistic because I see so many people struggling with the same things I am trying to accomplish which is being paid to do something they enjoy, especially after having such bad workplace experiences.  I see people doing independent work that fulfills the complexity of human experience generally not portrayed by Hollywood and the Television Industry.

One of these project is ‘Whatever This Is...’ by the very talented Adam Goldman and his compatriots.  This project actually encouraged me to write this post because it is about that same struggle of getting paid.

I feel like there are opportunities through being self-published.  I feel like there are opportunities through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  I feel like there are opportunities out there that most people don’t understand.

I recently read an article titled ’20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don't Get’ and found myself feeling very angry about the premise of the article.  I feel like the premise is to fall in line, to be another brick in the wall.  If you try hard enough, endure enough pain then maybe, just maybe you get the American Dream.  But you have to be perfect.  You can't get sick, have kids, or anything else that happens in life.

Despite good intentions it isn't easy to get ahead in this world.  I look around and I see corruption in nearly every institution that mainstream news doesn’t talk about because there seems to be a fear that it will all stop, fall apart and disrupt the general well being of all people.

There is corruption in politics, Wall Street, banking, Medicine, mining, higher education (University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education
 By Jennifer Washburn), the NSAMilitary Spending, and so many institutions.  Unfortunately these are just some examples but there are many more.

I am between Generation X and Generation Y but we all feel it.  We are like the Capuchin Monkey suffering from unequal pay because there is disparity between the generations.

Many, many people would say life sucks, life is tough, and I should suck it up and move on, that life is unfair and everyone suffers but I say that the degree to which you suffer is largely based on your social privilege and yes there are people in the world who suffer more than I do.  The economic mobility/opportunity determines how fair the suffering is and if the suffering can be reduced.

And I will mostly do this, move on with my life, seek out new opportunities but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t express myself.  That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to process my emotions, that my feelings shouldn’t be recognized.  This is something.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The E Word That Shall Not Be Read: Adult Content and Censorship on Social Platforms

What happens when there are some words we can’t say?  I’m not talking about George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television”, many of which he pointed out you eventually were able to say.  No I’m talking about sex, erotica, penis, vagina, dick, gay, etc..

All those words that apply to our ‘bits and pieces’ and what we do with them personally, publicly, academically, and fictionally.  What happens when we, adults, can’t say those words?  They become whispers.  They become secrets.  They take on a shady quality and many people are hurt because of this censorship.

 As someone who has mostly come out of the closet, someone who wrote and plans to write gay interest fiction and erotica I am bothered by this new disregard for something that is a part of nature.  But it isn’t just business, my way of making money, not that I’ve made much.  It’s something else.  

I know what it was like to be in the closet, to hide that part of myself from people that I felt was my nature.  I know what it was like to have to deal with the phobia and out right personal hatred of something that could not be said.  As members of the LGBTQ community we still fear violence towards people who are openly homosexual or perceived as homosexual and/or differently gendered.

For all of the ‘pop culture’ progress, for all of the advances of civil rights, violence is a real thing for all minorities.  There were the numerous cases in NYC and around the U.S. plus what is happening in Africa, even the absurd, seemingly satirical protests of shirtless men in France had/has the possibility of mob violence.  And for what?  For being perceived as being different.

I believe that the way to decrease this personal violence is to have open conversations, to be able to use words expressively to communicate common emotions.  This is something that should be protected by the First Amendment but is increasingly being jeopardized and regulated by social media after years of positive gain.

While in some way there is the potential to say Google, Tumblr, Facebook, and any other social media outlet corporation (corporate person) has the right to control the use of the product, what is posted and shared, there is no equality because these corporations (corporate people) have made themselves the largest, most successful entities and by default the gatekeepers of society.  

They have done this mostly by buying out the competition.  This censorship feels hypocritical because, respectively, the internet and internet corporations grew with adult content’s help and that the largest consumers of porn are not the people you might think.  I point to two resources for this statement.  The study “Red Light States: Who Buys Adult Entertainment”.

Of all of the censorship battles I find myself as a user bothered by two specifically and that’s Tumblr and Blogger.  

What I find problematic about Tumblr’s argument of only censoring spam is that the whole site is essentially curated spam.  Sometimes I log into Tumblr and the first picture is a cute, young man who is probably naked.  Sometimes it is a violent, real image such as wound that I didn’t plan on seeing that day.  And sometimes, most often, it is related to a commercial product such as a movie or television show (Teen Wolf) usually created by a fan.

Similarly Blogger made the same argument about pornographic sites that had been created to drive traffic to paid adult entertainment, protecting users from... entertainment?  I don’t know, I’m not sure.  It sounds like Google and Yahoo! (Tumblr) are doing us a favor because it keeps us from having to pay?  

No, it targets the act of paying for sex, or in this case viewing the sex act, which unfortunately is the best, most accessible form of sex education for many people.  I’m not going into the argument of sex education and safe sex here but you know what I’m referencing.

In many ways I felt like we were getting over this fear as a society because porn has become a more known, more accepted part of American (U.S.) society.  To me porn models are increasingly recognized as being human.  They are recognized as personalities and to me this has improved their lives.  They are not only more successful but seemingly healthier.  There seems to be a decreasing stigma about careers in porn.

Adult content is something we, adults, use.  Often it makes us feel better by relieving stress.  So why is there increasing censorship?  

Because there is an decreasing expectation that parents will monitor their children’s use of the internet and an increasing fear that what the child may see will harm them irreparably.  It is about prolonging innocence and virginity.

I’m an adult.  The whole point of getting old was that I got to do fun things.  We have sex, we curse, and we have experiences not meant for children.  There are big risks and big rewards.

We live in an adult world. I’m not talking here about getting a job, buying a car, paying a mortgage world, that’s all fan fiction.  No, I’m talking about people going hungry, people being homeless, and people being exploited.  I’m talking about civil and national wars.  None of which doesn’t stop if we stop talking talking about it.  

Look to the Roman Catholic Church where it can be documented that possibly for the last hundred years sex abuse went unreported.  The victims of which had to live in silence, ashamed and fearful of their secret that the one institution they were encouraged to trust betrayed them.  Because of what had been done to them they were no longer virgins, no longer pure.

Secrecy and lack of expression of knowledge/education hurts people.  We end up misinformed and fearful.  We think we are alone.  We think no one has the same problem, no one understands, and no one can have sympathy for us.  

Instead we should share our experiences.  We should not be shamed by them.  We should teach children to be resilient.  My grandparents had a fatalistic view of the world because of the Great Depression, poor healthcare, and the scarcity of resources.  Their wounds became scars that they kept all of their life.

For me I am about healing.  I am about recognizing the danger of the world and existence and embracing uncertainty.  We do this through communication.  For me there are many great ventures that seek to decrease these boundaries for adults.  Three that come to mind are Sex Nerd Sandra, Risk!, and Make Love Not Porn.  

Sex Nerd Sandra is a podcast on Nerdist who tries to raise awareness and education about sexual activity for all people.

Risk! is another podcast and traveling performance of speeches performed by comedians, amateurs, and celebrities.  The topics cover the spectrum of human experience from birth to death.

Make Love Not Porn is not actually what it sounds like and is a website for amateur couples to broadcast their sessions of sex for others to view as one part education and one part entertainment.  

These projects give me hope, I had hope, about the changing attitudes about sex, the body, and freedom of speech.  I feel as if I had been lulled into a sense of comfort in thinking just because someone made something, shared it, that it would continue.

But these things are not inevitable.  We have to fight for them.  It is too easy these days, on too many fronts, to think that progress of civil rights was going to happen anyway (gay marriage), that it was meant to happen.  Think about how many hundreds of years we lived under censorship.  Think about how many hundreds of years of the African Slave Trade.  Think about how many hundreds of years women didn’t have the right to vote (Women’s Suffrage).  

There is great power in naming things and controlling the use of names.  For a more analytic understanding I point to Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault but for me I will link the sacred and the profane.  For me I liked the story I heard about why the early Jewish people didn’t speak the name of their god/God.  The story as I understood it was that these people believed to know something was to know its name and to use its name was to have power over it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

Controller Cords (novella)

Eighteen and just graduated from high school a young man thinks he has little to do until he goes to college but an old friend has a distraction in the way of a kinky weekend. What are his limits? What can he learn about himself?

Read an excerpt:

Buy it at

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Heroic Struggle of the Working Homeless

Business Insider/Ken Ilgunas - Photo: Ken Ilgunas

Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt

While I do not want to dismiss his struggle there is little talk in this article about predatory lending, poor quality colleges, and economic inequality that truly predicts a student's potential.

Also, there is no mention of social stigma and that many people try this type of living but are often targeted and legislated out of doing it.  Politicians create zoning restrictions and police enforce them.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reflections on Per Pound of Flesh

I had first imagined the story some years ago when I was in a large grocery store and I would always see the men who worked in the butcher department.  I began to think about what their lives must be like and how they made living.  I can’t say that I portrayed their life but it was a question that got me started thinking about the story.

The idea started first as a vignette about a young man from the butcher department needing a roommate then being introduced to a coworker who was openly gay and a student at a local community college.

I also wanted to explore the idea of a young couple with a child, something I saw at college.  I imagined a young man with bills to pay, maybe a high school diploma, and a wife.  This isn’t to say that he was worse off for any of these things but as I thought about the job, day after day, year after year it made me think about the daily grind.

Over the years as I thought about this young man struggling to pay bills, raise a child, and achieve satisfaction the character grew as my own life developed.

The story went through many iterations with initially the character falling for a male coworker and the two of them getting an apartment together, possibly a gay romance where they recognize happiness and end up happily ever after but the story wasn’t as interesting to me and the writing stalled.

I kept thinking about it and as I learned about gay-for-pay men in adult film it was an element that appealed to me.  Also, as I watched interviews with these men, watched them in porn, and how people reacted to them I was further interested.

With all of these elements I created John, his wife Brandi, Dennis, and other characters to explore the idea of sexuality, sex, and relationships.  To me John is a bisexual, naive but curious and like many people unconsciously forces himself into dilemmas in order to understand or confront some aspect of himself.

Like many people he has his own internalized feelings and fears the social consequences for what he does because of where he lives and the people he has known in his life.

In part it is the act of sex, the homosexual act of sex, sodomy, and being labeled as gay but it is also being paid for sex, the act of a prostitute and whore to those he knows.

Despite these factors he acts and engages in a pornographic film.  He is labeled by the industry as what is known as ‘gay for pay’ being perceived as a heterosexual man performing in gay sex for money.  This raises his value so he goes along with it.

This book is part one of a larger story and deals with John’s life before porn.  As the story continues I would like to deal with the theme of sex, sexuality, performance, and notoriety.

Adult film, sex work, prostitution, pole dancing, stripping, or any sexual act is simultaneously exonerated and deplored.  We want to look.  We want to know but yet it is still taboo despite the increasing depictions in popular media.  And those who do it, those we watch are often labeled as whores and exiled from society.

Though I am curious about these matters I also want my book to be entertaining and to relax people, to be a distraction after a hard week of work.  I want it to be a simulation but not practice or a guide.

If you are interested check out the preview through on your Kindle or other electronic device.

Friday, May 31, 2013

College Education

With the rise of for-profit colleges that buy their accreditation by taking over schools that lack capitol this will only get worse.

There are many, many colleges suffering from debt with interest that grows faster than inflation and their income.  They get bought up then centralized, reducing community employment and distribution of wealth.  It has happened.  It is happening now.  It will happen.

Wall Street will raid the college system much like the industrial sector then leave the remains and fractured local economies.

Much like K-12 the system needs an overhaul so does public colleges.

I worked at two and know a little of what they get away with and how the same people who write the rules of accreditation go on to be highly paid administrators so that they can avoid the pitfalls of the rules they wrote.

Society needs better common goals for the future.  We need to think about space and science and stop being afraid of our existential dilemma trying to live sheltered, plastic lives in suburbia.

The future is in the sciences but creationists and evangelists are being used to assault progress for short term financial gain.

While many suffer few get fat with blood like fleas on a dog.

---my reaction this great article on Dangerous Minds-

Thursday, May 30, 2013

If I’m Honest I’m Out

I just read the headline about Evan Low in Campbell, CA who had been asked to help in his part for a blood drive in his city.  He posed the dilemma of being an openly gay man who would not be allowed to donate and asked, ‘What would you do?’ in this situation.

This reminded me of my own experience not donating blood at work some years ago.  At the time I was not an ‘out’ person and did not feel secure as I had just recently been hired.  Though I had, and would have, many openly gay colleagues and would myself come out at work there were still colleagues who ‘tolerated’ but did not accept homosexuality.

In this case I had just started and many people had gone to donate, but one person in particular was enthusiastic about everyone participating.  This same person I knew was not accepting and barely tolerant of homosexuals at least during work.

When I said that I would not donate she began an interrogation about my motivation/fears about donation.

For some time I had managed to appease her questions until another colleague joined the conversation.  As a heterosexual woman she said she had a problem with the drive and that many people did not donate because there was a ban on men who had sex with other men after 1977.  She said it discriminated against gay and bisexual men.

Her intentions were good but this gave the person interrogating me a new question which in an indirect way she asked.

I wanted to answer and I wanted to answer honestly but I felt worried about acceptance.  I was about to say something when my second colleague defended my right to not answer.

In some way thinking back at that exact moment I was foolish.  There were many colleagues who I subsequently found out were homosexual and I believe you cannot be fired in California for being homosexual.

Now years later I live in a state where you can be fired for being homosexual.  Or at least there are no protections against being fired.

Though we have come a long way in terms of recognition and positive identity LGBTQ people can still be legally discriminated against in many states, saying nothing of lawful marriage.

But this is the dilemma.  As a gay man do I admit to having sex with men and out myself from donating blood?  Do I not donate blood and in effect out myself to my colleagues?

How many men who have sex with men (gay, straight, bisexual) do not honestly answer the question for fear of being discovered?

What are the standards for the question?  Is it blood status or something else?

I think it’s institutional homophobia.  I think it’s the threat, the potential, of two men having sex.  I think it’s about a person’s own fears, their own unresolved emotions and inability to differentiate themselves from someone else by trying to control the world around them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Made In America or Fade To Black

The ending of the Sopranos has been something that has infuriated many people, left many others in a quandary, and seemingly satisfied only a few.

My argument is that the ending is simply that and there shouldn’t be an attempt to predict or argue for an ending that might be more absolute.

Prior to the now infamous fade to black there is the establishment of several threats to Tony’s life and happiness.
One is indictment on the gun charge though he has beaten legal battles previously his luck may be running out.

One card up his sleeve is that we know the FBI has already entered a document into his record to be used when a judge considers sentencing if convicted.

The second and third threats are the two black men by the jukebox and the man in the ‘members only jacket’ who goes into the restroom all of whom could be hit-men sent by Butch DeConcini or some other rival.  We know that Tony had arranged a compromise that included the death of Phil Leotardo but Butch had never liked Tony and could betray their agreement.

We have a sense of impending finality in part because at the beginning of the scene as Tony walks into the diner, a deceptive shot is used that suggests Tony sees himself sitting in the diner possibly as a mortal object in space without his own psyche making his experience.

Similar shots were used in 2001: A Space Odyssey to suggest Dr. Dave Bowman witnesses the rest of his life and death in a nearly objective state of being.

For once the narrative, and our frame of reference is not Tony’s as had been used during his spiritual experience after having been shot by Uncle June but possibly objective and existential in nature.

Additionally to the feeling of finality we know that Tony’s therapy with Dr. Melfi has ended because of her own fears that she is helping him become a better criminal and manipulator.

In many ways his therapeutic need had been satisfied years prior and it was Dr. Melfi who continued the relationship at least at first to be associated with his power and capability because of her own victimization and rape while leaving work.

This is the least of Tony’s threats as he sits with his family.  In prior episodes black men have been used as the footmen for the mafia in an attempt to dissuade and obfuscate any possible organized crime ties.  This was the case in the first attempt on Tony’s life in the series when Uncle June and his mother attempted to have him killed.  Also men like the one in the ‘members only jacket’ have been used as they are usually the most expendable of the organized crime association.

It has been argued that the fade to black and the pause of sound is to signify the death of Tony however I don’t believe this is true.  There could have been something more significant to signal this end, perhaps a gunshot or maybe not, maybe a heartbeat that slowly fades which could be reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

For those who want an absolute ending the possibilities include:

Everyone gets shot- though having some relevance to actual mafia hits would be the saddest of endings.

Tony gets shot- the family would bare witness to their father, the patriarch, murdered in front of them could be the most realistic of endings possibly reminiscent of actual hits including Albert Anastasia, Willie Moretti, and Paul Castellano among many others.

All threats are removed- would perhaps be the happiest of endings, maybe, for those cheering for the Sopranos.  This would also be the least realistic of endings.

Tony could be arrested- the least likely scenario would be that police bust into the diner and arrest Tony before he can be killed if this even is a possibility.  Though unlikely we have seen writers use this method previously in the show when Uncle June himself was arrested at the end of the first season saving him from Tony’s wrath.

I don’t believe any of these were attempted.  I think the attempt was to have an ending like that of the first Godfather movie where Kay asks Michael about his succession which he denies but she bares witness to the truth of him as the new Godfather.

This was a great ending for that movie because the Godfather was about succession of generations, the inheritance of not just wealth but power.

The Sopranos live a very different life.  In the Sopranos all succession is clumsy and poorly managed from Soprano’s father Johnny Boy to Tony, Jackie Aprile to his son, and possibly Tony to his son Anthony Jr. (AJ) who knows of his father’s association and who already has participated, though rather passively, in criminal and violent behavior, however for Anthony Jr. his reaction to violence and general sociopathic behaviors of people is grief and depression.

William Butler Yeats, 1919
Sitting amongst members of his biological and his father’s criminal family at Bobby Baccalieri's wake Anthony Jr. attempts to reference ‘The Second Coming’ in an attempt to challenge those at the table about the seemingly lack of grief for the dead as well as the lack of human sympathy he perceives.

It is Paulie’s response that unintentionally and crudely echoes AJ’s intention yet dismisses it.

Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri: "In the midst of death, we are in life", huh? Or is it the other way around?

Meadow Soprano: I think it's the other way around.

Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri: Either version, you're halfway up the ass.

We know this funeral is different because the focus is not on the burial, shown only briefly through surveillance footage, but instead at the wake.

After all these tragic events we observe a mundane event as Tony is seen raking the leaves.  Carmela confirms plans with him and he says that he has something to take care of then goes to see his uncle, Junior Soprano, in state run care facility.  His presence is ominous to say the least and Tony is looking for a confrontation, some resolution to how and why his uncle shot him.

As he finds the old man indigent and senile he realizes that there is no answer to be given, no rationale to the man's act yet there is also a sense of finality to the visit.  This is similar to when he visits his sister's home in a possible attempt to reconcile his feelings.

We learn Janice's possible fate but more importantly her psychological state of being which is similar to that of their mother.  There is a sense of finality to her being.  This is also true with Silvio Dante who he sees briefly in the hospital in a long-term vegetative state.

We know where they came from and we know where they are going.

This won't be the same for Tony.

Much like the end of the first season the family is gathered together at a restaurant to eat, though this time it is not Nuovo Vesuvio but a diner which suggests that the Sopranos themselves have changed or possibly some other danger as they are not on familiar turf.

It is AJ who reminds us of the similarity as he attempts to quote his father and continue the sentiment.

Anthony 'A.J.' Soprano, Jr.: Focus on the good times.

Tony Soprano: Don't be sarcastic.

Anthony 'A.J.' Soprano, Jr.: Isn't that what you said one time? Try to remember the times that were good?

Tony Soprano: I did?

Anthony 'A.J.' Soprano, Jr.: Yeah.

Tony Soprano: Well, it's true, I guess.

[the waitress arrives with a bowl of onion rings]

Tony Soprano: I ordered something for the table.

But this time it is Tony who initially misunderstands then seemingly dismisses the relevance before the screen cuts to black and silence.

For me the ending is exactly that.  There is no more expectation, no more fantasy, suspicion, and wishes.  There is no absolute.

It is a dangerous moment unto itself.

We don't hear a heartbeat or a gunshot.  Instead it is a moment of silence as if we are all to appreciate a moment of life itself then there is music, perhaps an optimistic tune.

For that moment that Tony can enjoy with his family he is a man in a chair balanced on its rear legs at a rooftop ledge of a skyscraper and he is trying to enjoy the view.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Note: This is my first attempt at addressing the topic and I can recognize areas where I need more examples and to think out my argument, especially in terms of my final argument for empowerment of people versus disempowering people, but this is to open a conversation and provide talking points.

There are also more specific power arguments to be made which in my essay I treat in fairly generalized terms and form or possibly not at all.

I am open to constructive criticism.

Bullying Defined-

  • Wikipedia: Bullying is the use of force or coercion to abuse or intimidate others. The behavior can be habitual and involve an imbalance of social or physical power.

  • Merriam Webster: a : a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker

Bullying doesn’t just happen at schools.  It doesn’t just happen to youth.  I worked briefly for a man who had come to mistake cruel words for social intimacy.  I was his assistant and as his assistant I had an office next to his.  There were several times in meetings and in the hallways that he made comments to other people who worked for him that were cruel and mean spirited.

Most of the others had come to ignore him.  They didn’t listen to his lectures or much of what he had to say.

And because I was his assistant I think I felt it worst.  Other people had positions, titles, that functioned semi-independently from his daily scrutiny.  I on the other hand was constantly intimidated by his ability to ridicule and criticize without constructive feedback which made me feel like I was in a negative feedback loop.

I noticed that I always felt good in the morning until he arrived and then I felt horrible.  One day I finally imagined what it was like.  I thought of him as the schoolyard bully and I was his favorite target.  I thought about how in cases like that when it happened I hated recess, worked to avoid the bully, just as everyone else did too.

I didn’t last long.  I had the shortest tenure and I made sure to tell Human Resources about his behavior.

Bullying through unkind words, unkind actions, are offensive and can plague a social environment.  They drain moral and positive feeling and most often mistaken for criticism, lead to higher rates of absence, lower output, and cause poor health.    There is also the potential for rebellion either through sabotage or direct action.

This isn’t to say it can instantly be stopped or that eventually it ends.  Bullying persists through unequal power systems and is perpetuated by people who feel they need to threaten or intimidate others because of justice, revenge, scarcity of resources, and/or for proper moral and ethical behavior.

But here I would like to make the distinction between persistent behavior and an incidental unkind word, action, or behavior.  There are times when each person either based on some prejudice or frustration may attempt to strike out and level the playing field, to act in some offensive or cruel way that disempowers and potentially defeats an opponent or subjects them to some form of criticism.

This is especially true for those who feel powerless and is expressed as sarcasm or comedic wit when there is little positive feeling or intention to the comment or action.

An unkind word may ruin a day or may seem part of a larger epidemic, especially as people deal with their own personal crisis such as illness or death in the family but I feel they should be recognized differently than a persistent campaign.

As cruel as the words may be I personally would not work to censor them.  I want to know how people feel about me so that I can judge and determine a legitimate threat.  I don’t want to waste my time talking to them and I certainly would minimize my time in their proximity, especially if the person or persons is dangerous.

Each human being must understand their own capacity for violence both passive and aggressive then come to terms with their capability and its ramifications.  This is especially true to recognize that capability within a person’s frame of reference to the power they have whether professionally, physically, and/or artistically.

Some may identify their power over others then attempt to use it as a bully would, or else fall into a bully’s actions through some unconscious attempt to maintain power.  The latter is especially true when the person’s superior, boss or supervisor, actively or passively works to disempower the person.

There are those who would turn to strategy such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or Prince Machiavelli as in the Sopranos but that is largely for a person who wants to defeat an enemy, subject them to tyranny, conquer their land and resources.  This is largely how human history has worked and persists especially under concept of limited resources.

Bullying is a traumatic experience that can often leave the victims with PTSD.  While I feel that all people, especially those in various statuses of power should work to stop bullying I feel that people, especially youth should also be taught about resiliency and how to build social networks for support.

But it isn’t the subject of the bullying that needs to build a group but the people around the subject because it is too easy for the bystander to feel apathy or otherwise passively work to further ostracize the person subjected to the cruel and persistent treatment.  The bystander may react this way especially as they feel their individual safety is at risk and that they may in turn may be bullied.

So what do we do?  I don’t have all the answers but I think we, each person, needs to understand their own social privilege: sexual, gender, race, class, ethnicity, and education then instead of working to take we must give.

We should work to empower each other because then we make friends and create allies.  Two people are usually more capable than one whether in a physical situation such as labor and war or in a social situation such as business and education.

Crowd Sourced Tuition (My Wish)

I wish I could make a non-profit website to crowd source tuition, housing, and living expenses for students who could make a profile, upload videos, and create portfolios of their work so that they could go to college, both undergrad and graduate.
It would be searchable based on many criteria and initially there would be limits set for students that could be waived and increased based on certain criteria including declaring the use of the funds.
Also, students would have an advisor who would help them create the profiles, videos, and  then with the management of their money.  The advisor would have a case load of several students but be able to work with each one as needed.

Watch the Outs

I just watched the Outs Chanukah special and it was fantastic, completely satisfying.  Adam Goldman has a real sense of character and the portrayal of physical intimacy is so great throughout.  In an age when it is easy for two characters to aggressively grab each other to fuck the characters portray all the casual PDA of real life.

It is satisfying for being a gay interest story, for portraying gay life, and holding a narrative form.  But everyone should watch it especially this episode.

I probably have a crush on all the characters for their distinctive features.

Find it on Facebook and give it a watch if you haven't already.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Queer as Folk: What It Means To Me

In my last year of college I was renting a room in a house in a rural area out of the city limits on a lot with a steep driveway and surrounded by trees.

On my way to and from the house I used to pass a small field that hadn’t been used for crops for some time, the grass, recurring wheat, and rye grew tall, unmanaged and unchecked.

It was the type of place where it was easy to mistakenly think you were alone if you stepped out in your housecoat to pick up the newspaper.

The man who owned the house and was renting the room to me had two dogs, both were labradors and both had no training.

As I said it was easy to mistakenly think you were alone.  He didn’t like to keep them chained up and he didn’t believe in allowing animals inside the house so he had fixed up an area of the barn for them with hay where they could come and go easily.

It was the year Brokeback Mountain had been released and I was still deeply in the closet.  As part of my seeking for role models and identity I ordered Queer as Folk Season 1 through an online site along with two books.

I had known about Queer as Folk since about my junior year in high school.  Its name had pervaded popular culture enough so that I knew it was based in Pittsburgh (near my hometown) and about gay culture.  I was even able to catch ten minutes of it when my family had gotten a free preview of Showtime on cable.

Ten minutes was all I dared at the time in case someone waked into the room while I watched it.  Then when I was home from college years later and feeling more bold I used to sneak down to the living room and watch a whole episode or two in the middle of the night but by then it was season 3 or 4 and I can’t remember which episodes I caught, so frightened was my mind that it didn’t sink into my long-term memory.

So when I got the chance to order it, to have the first season arrive to my house where I could sit in my room and watch them all in private I was very excited.

The day came and I woke up late.  I looked on the front porch but I didn’t see a box so then I began to fix breakfast while listening for a delivery.  Finally with my food done I looked out one last time only to see something strange and shiny in the driveway.  I put down my plate and ran outside to see that the Season 1 box was alone in the dirt.

The cardboard covering for the season as well as one of the thin plastic DVD containers inside had been chewed upon but none of the DVDs were damaged.

I looked for more remnants.  I saw a cover to a book and I thought I would find the rest but I didn’t find anything else.  There was no shipping box, no books.

Did I mention the dogs were loose?  The two dogs had gotten into the box and ripped it to shreds, destroyed the books.  All I had left was the DVDs themselves in chewed containers.  I was pissed and amused at the same time.

Much later when one of them had puppies, because the owner until then didn’t believe in neutering animals, I found scraps of the pages in the nesting.  By then I was no longer angry and found some humor at the site.  Is there humor in that?

Anyway, the box had been destroyed by the landlord’s dogs so I called him and told him what had happened.  He wasn’t the type of man to offer compensation right away and told me I should call the place where I ordered it.  I did.  But at the time I had shame about what I was buying.

After dealing with the two different companies and complaining in my best angry but polite phone voice the representative told me to return the DVDs to a local store to get a replacement or else get my money back which I said I would.

I was full of anxiety but also enough frustration that I drove there.  With the DVD box in my bag I walked into the store, right past the return section all the way to the back of the store and through its many aisles.  We’ll say it was to let myself breath and regain focus.  I did.  And I ended up in the gay and lesbian book ghetto where a few older men lurked nearby sometimes looking for someone eager and naive.  There were a few there this time.

It was that kind of town.  It was that kind of store.  I was creeped out by the old men so I decided to confront my fears and go to the return section.  As I waited patiently to be called to the return counter one of the old men who had followed me from gay ghetto began to look at a display of calendars.

As I tried to determine his intentions he picked out one of the calendars that was a beefcake fireman one with a picture of several shirtless men on the front.  He lifted it into the air and began to look at it in a very brazen manner.  I looked away.

I’m not saying he was stalking me.  I’m not saying I wasn’t paranoid.  I am saying coincidence is a bitch, especially when you’re ashamed of the thing you are carrying with you.

I was called up to the counter where I presented my item to the cashier and told her my story along with providing the remnants of my receipt.  Oh yes, remnants of the receipt, I forgot to mention that was the other thing I found.  She had to get the manager and my anxiety grew.  In a town like this I didn’t know what type of manager I would get.

I was slightly relieved when he was only a few years older than myself, had a goatee, pierced ears, and set off my gay-dar, but only slightly.  I explained to him what had happened and he very politely told me I would have to call back to the representative and tell them he couldn’t accept the item because they didn’t carry it in the store so he couldn’t swap.  I thanked them and left the store.

Hours later I explained this to my coworker at my student work job in much the same way I am telling you and she laughed then I laughed.  She said it must have felt like God had intervened  with getting my first real gay, real defining gift for myself and it kind of did if I believed in those sorts of things.  But it didn’t stop me.

Later I would get myself several other gay interest shows and films as well as the series box set of Queer as Folk, without God’s intervention they all arrived safely.

In fact that box set was how I ‘outed’ myself to my new boss at work who himself was an out and proud gay man.  I remember standing in his office talking about something and then working into the conversation that I was between seasons.  His response was that it wasn’t the best representation of gay culture but that he watched it.

Which is a long way to saying how I feel about Queer as Folk as a show and as a series: it isn’t the best representation (what could be?) but it was and is very meaningful in my life.

My negative feelings about the show aren’t necessarily rooted in feeling that I wasn’t represented or that others, namely heterosexuals, will get a poor impression of me, because let’s face it if they are homophobic they aren’t going to watch the show, but rather some of the superficial and insulting elements to members of the LGBTQ community many of which triggered or added to my own internalized phobias and prejudice about how members of the community judged each other when it came to looks, gender, and sexual activity.

But I don’t really want to get into the semantics of that argument in this article.

Let’s just say it was a flawed diamond, a treasure that I found in the late hours when everyone else was asleep.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Breaking Bad: Everybody’s Seen This News Story

I, like many others, am anticipating the return of Breaking Bad, starring Bryan Cranston, and created by Vince Gilligan.

Breaking Bad is a well plotted, well characterized show that manages to depict each character’s motivation for their actions, from drug production and selling to even murder.

The show itself is about how good people do bad things, mostly because of pride but also because of the existential crises they face.

I recently found myself thinking that I had heard or scene the news report about how Walter had been caught before, that I had seen that episode of Cops or read about a criminal or mobster in a history book or news article and it struck me that ‘Breaking Bad’, or at least Walter White’s story, could be finalized in a news report.

After all when I was younger I had seen those news reports of criminals, those people who committed crimes, and barely understood their motivation, much less how they went from ordinary law abiding citizen to criminal.  Criminals were criminals.  Ordinary citizens were ordinary citizens.  Cops and robbers.

Though I had my suspicions, the two, in popular culture at least, didn’t cross paths.  I had known characters to break the law.  I had known characters that never broke the law but not seen the depiction of when the citizen became the criminal.

More often I had seen mobster characters as just mobsters, maybe tragic hero in the case of Tony Soprano, but for the life of the show I had only known him as a mobster.  I had never confused him for an ordinary citizen.

Someone else who broke the law was a junkie, or a drug user, such as in Trainspotting, but that was different itself as it was ‘self-medication’, the use of a substance for somewhat passive reasons.  These people committed other crimes but they seemed petty somehow.

Bones, Vegas, Justified, and many other shows all have the characters who break the law when they need to break it, operate outside the law, or are outright sociopathic criminals but this is different.

Breaking Bad to me is something else.  I can identify when Walter’s actions changed, especially when he killed Krazy-8, whom he was about to let go but ultimately decided to kill because he recognized the man as his enemy willing to kill him.  Although I think his nature is still very much the same, a nature that drove him to such extremes throughout the show in reaction to an extreme situation, I had much sympathy for his character.

Perhaps if he hadn’t contracted cancer the actions would not have been as severe but I could still see his character, his nature, reacting in some way to his growing family dilemma.

Regardless, as I thought about the series I also thought about if Walter White, his wife Skyler, and Jesse Pinkman had been caught.  I thought about what that news story would look like as I sat in a bar sipping a cold beer while watching the small television just above the shelves of liquor and this is what I imagined.

Fade in...


Female Reporter

Hello this is Mindy Aprile

Today it was discovered that a former Albuquerque, New Mexico Area chemistry high school teacher Walter White and his wife Skyler White were part of a large scale drug production and money laundering scheme whose tolls add up into the millions in what an unnamed DEA source says is one of the largest busts of an organized production maybe ever in the United States, the kick here is that the brother of the wife to the drug kingpin is a DEA agent himself.

It all started about a year ago when Walter White was diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer, a normally terminal disease for those diagnosed with it.

Facing this terminal disease with a pregnant wife and disabled son Walter like many Americans sought treatment, but like many Americans found that treatment was an expensive proposition.  It was then that Walter turned to methamphetamine production with the help of a former student named Jesse Pinkman.

Like many in the illegal production and distribution of drugs they found the need was great.  With a few store bought drugs, some chemistry equipment and lab chemicals, plus know how these two were able to make a common ingredient into one of the most addictive substances.  From what started out as a small operation quickly grew.

The two men were then on a boat in rising water, dealing with competition and other problems of the street drug trade they found themselves in a constant fight for their life.  They then turned to a man by the name of Gustavo 'Gus' Fring.

Able to pay for his treatment the cancer shrunk until it was optimal size for a very costly surgery which Walter paid for with his money from drug production but he was soon faced with another problem of this illegal business, too much cash.

Like the drug cartels of Mexico Walter had to find a way to launder this money while retaining as much profit as possible.  It is here where it is believed he used his wife and her knowledge of accounting business practices to purchase and fund a legal front, ironically a car wash where Walter used to work part-time.

Perhaps it was the dream of someday being his own boss that was finally realized but it wasn’t enough to get out of the illegal drug business.  Like many men before him when the previous drug kingpin, Gustavo Fring was killed in a sudden and violent explosion that is believed to be cartel related, Walter decided to take over the open market.

He soon found himself with riches beyond his once humble beginnings, riches that came from illegal doings, riches that couldn’t be declared on a tax form, couldn’t be used to buy a large house or anything too flashy and expensive.

And like many criminals he found that his luck was running out as well with the police, in this case his own brother-in-law Hank Schrader.  It is not known yet what exactly happened but suffice it to say Walter White, his wife Skyler White, and Jesse Pinkman are now wanted by the law.  They took a great risk for great reward.

For a man who had once faced a terminal disease and shortened life he now faces criminal charges that could be a life sentence in prison or possible retribution from Mexican cartels.  Whatever his fate this man made the choice to go against the rest of society.

It is believed that Walter White, his wife, and son are all traveling together.  Jesse Pinkman’s whereabouts are also unknown.

All suspects should be reported to the police immediately, do not approach them as they could be armed and dangerous.