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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

America Brown, reviewed for This Week In Texas by Duane Simolke, author of the West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories.

Though best known for their gay titles, TLA Releasing
also distributes independent films of general
interest. The best of those I’ve seen is America
Brown. Australian actor Ryan Kwanten takes on a West
Texas accent and an emotionally tortured role as
America “Ricky” Brown, a football player who goes to
New York City to meet his town’s football hero.

Directed by Paul Black, this film starts out a bit
slow and disconnected, but I kept feeling that all of
the characters would keep revealing much more about
their past, their actions, and their motivations. The
movie pays off in all of those respects. The further
the story goes along, the more Ricky and the people in
his life illuminate their pain, their regrets, and
their joy. It keeps getting more emotional, more
engrossing.

Kwanten appeared on Australian TV while growing up and
recently starred in the short-lived WB series
Summerland; I hope to see him in many more roles. The
cast of America Brown also includes Elodie Bouchez,
Frankie Faison, Hill Harper, Karen Black, Leo
Burmester, Michael Rapaport, and Natasha Lyonne.

Friday, December 23, 2005

In E. Conley’s review of The Acorn Stories, she says that “The ability to depict such a wide cross section of humanity, including details of each character's breadth of knowledge and experience, takes a talented, insightful author, and Duane Simolke is such a writer.” (Click that link to read the review, and many more.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Everyone DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Everyone

This Canadian movie caught my attention with its funny teaser line: “The guests have arrived and so has their baggage.” I knew from there to expect dark comedy with romantic entanglements. The fact that it centers around a gay wedding made it much more appealing.

At the beginning, though, I found the movie a bit tedious. It keeps switching between five seemingly unrelated scenes of couples arguing. Some of the music seems orchestrated with the intention of making those scenes even more annoying.

Several minutes into the film, the connections between the different couples become obvious, along with the reasons for their arguments. Family and tragedy connect them. At that point, the characters become sympathetic and even charming.

Even as the sad back-stories unfold, and even among the sometimes cold or cruel ways these characters treat each other, Everyone remains a comedy. The more the characters interact, the funnier it gets.

The multi-talented Bill Marchant wrote, directed, and produced Everyone, even co-writing and performing the title song with Michael Chase (who plays Gayle). One of the funniest roles goes to Katherine Billings, as the mother of one of the grooms; another goes to Carly Pope, whose character seems to live for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Matt Fentiman and Mark Hildreth are the stars, though. They portray a thoroughly mixed-up but devoted male couple who want a ceremony on their third anniversary. “It’s not a wedding,” they keep reminding each other. But it’s also not a good day for the ceremony.

Most of the actors in Everyone have appeared in a number of TV shows, movies, and/or stage productions. All of them seem perfectly cast.
Harry and Max DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Harry and Max

Admittedly, the plot of this comedy/drama sounds shocking, irreverent, and unlikely, but Harry and Max delivers emotional insight and probing character studies.

Harry (Bryce Johnson from Home of Phobia and TV’s Popular) takes time off from his boyband to spend time with his younger brother, Max (Cole Williams). We quickly learn that something happened between them during an earlier vacation, and Max wants it to happen again. Besides appearing in independent films and on 8 Simple Rules, Cole Williams is the son of singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams. Williams lends a believable charm to his role, while Johnson makes his character cocky yet scared.

Despite the constantly frank dialogue, the irreverent comedy, and the overly obvious parallels to a certain real-life boyband, the movie ultimately centers around strained relationships that have lost their sense of boundaries. Harry’s parents rely on him financially, even though they can no longer tolerate his anger or his drinking. Loved as a member of The Mamas & the Papas and as an actor, Michelle Phillips seems like the only choice to play Harry and Max’s mother; though we actually (and unfortunately) see very little of her, we learn that she has now pushed Max into the music business.

Of course, the parent/child boundary is hardly the film’s more obvious concern. Harry and Max’s sexual experimentation not only creates tension for their bond as brothers, but also prevents Max from truly seeking a gay relationship with someone other than Harry. Despite other experiences, he really just wants Harry, but their popularity makes that unlikely. Harry’s former girlfriend (Rain Phoenix from O and To Die For) gets trapped in the middle of their struggles, and it quickly becomes obvious why she wants to move on with her life.

Writer/director/editor Christopher Munch previously explored a gay relationship in a popular music setting with The Hours and Times. With Harry and Max, he delivers another short and low-budget but thoughtful film.
Conspiracy of Silence DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Conspiracy of Silence

With the Catholic Church struggling over sexual issues and losing priests, this movie seems especially timely. Considering how much the Vatican hates Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this Irish import received a cold welcome in Italy.

Now TLA Releasing is providing American distribution for the DVD of Conspiracy of Silence. Succeeding as a thriller, an exploration of theological issues, and on many other levels, this movie ultimately relies on strong performances from its cast, which includes Jonathan Forbes (from the Horatio Hornblower TV movies), Jason Barry (from Titanic), and Brenda Fricker (Academy Award winner for My Left Foot).

During a Vatican meeting on AIDS, a gay priest becomes annoyed with the lack of action and creates a protest, which the Vatican quickly squelches. Word of the protest goes unmentioned until three years later, when the priest commits suicide.

While a reporter begins examining the case, an Irish seminarian is fighting expulsion, which stems from the ungrounded suspicion that he had a sexual encounter with another young man at the seminary. The reporter and the seminarian both find corruption and a lack of compassion, all centered around the vow of celibacy.

John Deery, who also directed the film, wrote the screenplay from his Catholic background, and his fear that the Vatican’s hypocrisy and unwillingness to debate celibacy is destroying Catholicism. The film deals honestly and compassionately with both gay and heterosexual relationships, but never attacks religion. Instead, it looks at the dangers of absolute, unquestioned power.

Harry and Max DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition
Ethan Mao DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

Ethan Mao

Out writer/director Quentin Lee (Drift) offers a low-budget, independent film about an Asian-American teen whose homosexuality puts him at odds with his tradition-bound family. However, Ethan Mao is hardly the typical coming out drama.

Ethan (Jun Hee Lee) was never the same after seeing his father (Raymond Ma) shoot a robber. Life gets worse for Ethan after his step-mother (Julia Nickson) finds a gay skin magazine in his room and Ethan’s father kicks him out.

After reluctantly becoming friends with the drug dealer and hustler Remigio (Jerry Hernandez), Ethan casually asks Remigio to go back to his family’s house with him while they’re gone. Unfortunately, they come back, leading to a hostage situation.

While the characters’ Asian background obviously informs their actions and attitudes, this certainly isn’t a movie that will appeal only to Asians, just as it shouldn’t appeal only to gays. The casting of Jerry Hernandez, a hilarious little scene with an Anglo neighbor, and the many ways that this family seems so strangely familiar all add to the movie’s universal appeal.

Distracting dream sequences and flashes of unconvincing performances mar this drama, but not enough to ruin Quentin Lee’s attempts at showing the difficulty of life for gay Asian teens. The characters all seem cold at some point, but their posturing conceals and intensifies deeper emotions. Even the friendship between Remigio and Ethan hides something more.

The ending is satisfying. After a series of unexpected turns, it makes the entire film worthwhile and Lee’s next movie worth anticipating.
Heights DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.

A day in the life of New Yorkers reveals constant surprises in what they learn about themselves and each other. Their lives, seemingly unrelated at first, intersect throughout the movie in ways that neither the characters nor the audience can fully predict.

Heights features a talented and familiar cast, including Glenn Close, Isabella Rossellini, James Marsden, and Jesse Bradford. Directed by Chris Terrio, it also features hidden emotions, agendas, and needs in a deeply human and moving way.

From the obvious fact that at least one of the male characters is gay to the less obvious secrets the twenty-four hours still hold, Heights keeps viewers glued with strong performances, believable emotions, and an obvious love for New York City and its citizens.

Despite the beautiful photography and the many plot twists, Heights relies on realistic dialogue and skillful acting more than anything else. It delivers in those ways and more. Amy Fox adapted the script from her play, and will, hopefully, continue to bring such engaging characters to stage and screen.
Mysterious Skin DVD review for This Week In Texas. Review written by Duane Simolke, author of Holding me Together: Essays and Poems -- Second Edition.


Mysterious Skin

Adapted from Scott Heim's 1996 novel, this sometimes dreamy, sometimes brutal, and often disturbing film engages the viewer in the lives of two boys. One boy responds to sexual abuse, and his attraction to his abuser, by becoming a hustler who fears showing emotion. The other boy hunts for the truth behind his lost time by clinging to UFO theories. As young men, they will eventually meet, for a beautiful ending to an often ugly story.

Director Gregg Araki, not known for avoiding controversy, deals honestly with the emotions of both characters, and the other people in their lives. Brady Corbet (Thunderbirds) plays Brian, the supposed UFO abductee. Corbet convincingly portrays Brian as constantly distant, constantly fragile, always searching for truths that he knows will hurt him.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (TV’s 3rd Rock From The Sun) recently starred in another instant gay classic, Latter Days. In Mysterious Skin, he owns the screen as the older version of the hustler, Neal. Quiet but smoldering with emotions, Neal obviously loves his mother (Elizabeth Shue from Leaving Las Vegas) and his best friend (Michelle Trachtenberg from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Still, he acts coldly or even cruelly towards other characters, and himself.

Gregg Araki continues to distinguish himself as one of the most innovative and daring directors among gay movies. Looking back at Araki’s films, I hated Nowhere and Doom Generation, liked The Living End, and loved Splendor. Mysterious Skin took him to a new level in my opinion, and in the opinion of countless other viewers. With his most daring movie, Araki actually managed to appeal to mainstream critics; Mysterious Skin deservedly received constant praise during its theatrical run. Its arrival on DVD will bring it to a much larger audience.

For the DVD of an unusual movie, why not offer an unusual special feature? Stars Brady Corbet and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both give extensive readings from Scott Heim's book, sprinkled with images from the film. This feature reveals much about the characters they played, how they approached those characters, and why Araki found the novel so compelling.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Gay Book Receives Rave Review!

For my 200th blog entry here, I wanted to share some good news!


In a review appearing both at QMediaReviews.com and in the November 25, 2005 issue of EXP Magazine, SouthWest Edition, critic Shawn Revelle calls the revised, second edition of my book Holding Me Together “an inspiring and timely collection of works.” Revelle goes on to share details about the book, which he also refers to as “a worthwhile and life-affirming read.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Book review: Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold

Though I frequently came across her name as a highly recommended science fiction author, I missed out on Lois McMaster Bujold until recently, when I read Ethan of Athos. That scifi adventure involves a man from an all-male planet who uses technology to provide children for his world’s population. Ethan happens to be gay; many of the other Athosians simply practice celibacy. Unfortunately, something goes awry, and Ethan must leave Athos on a mission that will cause him to rely on a woman for help.

Despite the strange plot and the comical tone, Bujold delivers an exciting story and characters that seem real. I like that she doesn’t remind me of any other writer.

As someone who enjoys reading (and writing) science fiction or fantasy novels with queer themes, I suggest this novel, as well as Wraeththu (by Storm Constantine), CinĂ¡tis (by Ronald L. Donaghe), The Left Hand of Darkness (by Ursula K. Le Guin), Stealing Some Time (by Mark Kendrick) and The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood). Other readers could suggest more, but I loved those and plan to read many related titles.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

LocalVoter Special Issue Feature: Proposed Amendment Banning Gay Marriage. That’s a thought-provoking article, with links to numerous resources.

Supporters of the gay marriage ban have allies: the KKK! That says so much! City To Permit KKK Rally Against Gay Marriage.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Visit the following Web site to see how Constitutional Amendment 2 puts all Texas marriages at risk.

http://www.savetexasmarriage.com/ Save Texas Marriage

The language in that amendment is supposed to ban gay marriage in Texas, even though gay marriage is already illegal in Texas. It actually just panders to prejudice. It also bans civil unions and domestic partnerships—possibly even common law marriages.
Now read what it says in the first part: “Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.”

With that definition in mind, a judge or a lawyer could use the second part against any or all heterosexual marriages: “This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” That would include marriage itself! Don’t underestimate the wave of litigation that would exploit the lack of clarity, or what it would cost Texas taxpayers.

Our legislators couldn’t find time for school finance, leaving schools wondering if they could pay for text books; yet, they found time for this garbage. Please tell these politicians not to mess with Texas families, or the Texas constitution.

Please also see http://www.nononsenseinnovember.com/ No Nonsense in November.

Both sites include details on where to vote and how to encourage others to vote against this outrageous legislation. Please vote No on 2.


Related blog entry from LGRL’s blog:
Texas AFL-CIO Against Proposition 2

And from Burnt Orange:
Austin & Victoria Papers Against Prop 2

Friday, October 21, 2005

Gay Symbols and History: PFLAG-Lubbock Presentation by Duane Simolke. 10/18/05.

Visit http://DuaneSimolke.Com for Rainbow: Lubbock and many more resources.

* Bear Pride Flag. Consists of a bear paw print with brown, white, and black stripes to suggest the different kind of bears, as well as a blue stripe for the sky and a green one for the Earth. What’s a bear?

* Gender symbols. The common gender symbols for men and women, put together in varying ways to symbolize gay men, lesbians, or bisexuals.

* Lambda. Greek letter lambda, or L. The Gay Activists Alliance of New York adopted it in 1970, though their reasons for choosing it are unclear. Many organizations use Lambda in their name, including the gay fraternity Delta Lambda Phi and Lubbock’s former group Lambda Social Network.

* Leather Pride Flag. Consists of blue and black stripes, with one white stripe and a red heart. Created by artist Tony DeBlase and first displayed on May 28, 1989 at the Chicago Mr. Leather contest.

* Pink triangle. Used for gay men in concentration camps, imprisoned for Paragraph 175. In 1871, the Reich Criminal Code criminalized homosexual acts, but the law received little enforcement before the Nazis. Black triangle for lesbians.

* Rainbow flag. Created by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978 for a gay pride parade. Many variations, often combined with other symbols.

* Red ribbon. Symbol of AIDS awareness. Popularized by actor Jeremy Irons when he wore one while hosting the 1991 Tony Awards. Variations include a white ribbon for gay teen suicide, as well as many other symbols and causes.

1.) How does seeing LGBT symbols affect you? Is it important to see or display gay symbols? I mentioned some of the most popular ones, but can you think of others?

2.) In 1869, “homosexuality” first appeared in print, in a German pamphlet written by Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824-1882). Then in 1892, “bisexual” appeared in Charles Gilbert Chaddock's translation of Kraft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis; however, the term apparently goes further back. What are the origins of the words “gay,” “queer,” “dyke,” “lesbian,” “faggot,” and “fag hag”? How do you feel about those words? How have their meanings and the reactions to them changed?

3.) When did you become aware of gay history? Of gays in the holocaust? Did your high school or college cover those topics? Did they ignore the sexual orientation of famous LGBT people?

4.) What is important about June 27, 1969? Oct. 11, 1987?

5.) Did all past cultures condemn homosexuality, and do all countries do so today?

6.) What are some of the famous gay organizations, past and present? These could be local, national, or international.

7.) How much did AIDS change gay people and the attitudes toward them?

8.) In 1533, King Henry VIII established English sodomy laws. What has happened to sodomy laws in England, America, and other countries, and how did those laws affect LGBT people? Are anti-gay laws still a problem?

9.) Which changes and events have affected LGBTs the most?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Serenity is an exciting, emotional scifi thriller. It doesn’t matter if you watched Firefly or not; it’s a great movie either way.

More upcoming science fiction and fantasy.

DVD
Star Wars, Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Movies
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Books
Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book 11)
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4)

I’m now writing Worried: A Science Fiction Adventure, a sequel to my award-winning novel Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure. For a limited time, you can read a partial draft here: FanStory: Worried: A Science Fiction Adventure.

TV
On the WB, Smallville has just started its fourth season.
StarGate SG-1, StarGate Atlantis, and BattleStar Galactica will resume new episodes this January, on the SciFi Channel. Meanwhile, they’re showing reruns of those shows and reruns or unaired episodes of the aforementioned Firefly on Friday nights.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Book review: The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

Can you imagine sexism and homophobia mingling with government? Considering that it really happens, I'm sure you can. I don't know how many times I've read this scary but plausible tale, which is set in the near future. If you like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, or other dystopic novels, give this one a try.

Book review: The Left Hand of Darkness (Remembering Tomorrow) by Ursula K. Guin

The author of the Earthsea books brings readers to a frozen world that challenges traditional views of gender and society. Both exciting and fascinating, the adventures of Earth Ambassador Genly Ai on the planet Winter represent science fiction storytelling at its best!

More of my gay DVD reviews have appeared at the newly redesigned This Week in Texas site. Watch for still more soon.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Holding Me Together


Revised version of award-winning gay book!


Table of Contents


Part One: Reactions to Homophobia, An Essay.

Introduction
"Unlike gay people, I don't tell people what my wife and I do in bed."
"They can be gay, as long as they hide it."
"If a normal guy or a white guy gets beat up, hate crimes laws can't help him. That isn't fair."
“I’m not queer, so why I should care about those people?”
"We shouldn't have to see gays when we watch TV or movies."
"I would accept gays, but I believe in family values."
"Family members spending time with their gay relatives would suggest that they endorse that lifestyle."
"They live that gay lifestyle."
"It's an insult to African Americans to compare being gay to being black."
"The parts don't fit."
"If we weren't so tolerant of gays, there wouldn't be any."
"I wouldn't mind gays if it weren't for them checking me out."
"Having gay parents makes children gay."
"Gay people should try to be cured."
"Homosexuality is a mental illness."
"If everyone were gay, we'd stop having children, and die out."
"You deserve what happens to you, because you choose to be gay."
"Accepting homosexuality destroyed empires like Greece and Rome, and even led to the Holocaust."
"They recruit.”
"They just haven't met the right person of the opposite sex yet."
"Gays can't adopt, because their children will get teased, and that isn't fair."
"God sent AIDS to the homosexuals because He loves His children and wants to turn them back to Him."
"God didn't create Adam and Steve."
"The Bible says it's wrong."
"The Bible says God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of gays."
"I love the sinner, hate the sin."
"Anyone who condones homosexuality can’t be religious or moral."
"We can't allow gay marriages, because tradition protected heterosexual marriage and reproduction for thousands of years."
“Public schools need to quit hiring gays and quit promoting homosexuality.”
"Gays can't serve in the military, because that would disrupt efficiency."
"Surveys prove gays are a much smaller number than they claim, that their average lifespan is 44 years, and that they have 5000-15,000 partners per year.”
"Homosexuals are just a bunch of men dressing up like women."
Reactions to Homophobia: Conclusion
Resources for Reactions to Homophobia





Part Two: Poems and Short Essays
Home
Chasing Seagulls
Rainbow
How "Children in the Streets" Wrote Itself
Children in the Streets
Children in the Streets (Song Version)
Friday Afternoon Spectrum
Reception
Album
Can God Cure You?
Digging Up “The Gardener”
The Gardener
second year
Separated
Angels and Razors
Question
Faces, Parts I-VII
Process
Songs In Sign Language
Forgotten
Sock Poem
Higher Education
Haiku
TV Senyru
Not Worth Dying Over
Siblings, Ten Voices
Homeless, I: Cities Don't Build People
Homeless, II: Also
Family
Ex-Gay? Part I: Cocoon
Ex-Gay? Part II: The Ex-Me Movement
Ex-Gay? Part III: Who Does God Hate?
Spiral Staircase
Violence
Storm
The Escape Artist
Daughter
The Same Lips
Pharisee
The Loss
Adding to the Hurt
Bareback
Success
Spelunker
Out Of the Closet
The John Doe Family
Family Reunion
A Great American Voice
Anne Bradstreet
Cycle
Cross
Hero
Two Rapes
If: A Satire
The Bible and Gays
Tonight’s Wind
Denial
Undetected
Elephant On An Opera Stage
Detour
Editing
More About the Author and His Works

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Lubbock, Texas: Saturday, July 9, 2 PM, at Barnes & Noble (6707 Slide Road).

Local author Stephen Chamberlain will sign his debut science fiction book Broken Angel. Jeff “Corky” Copp, a former Lubbockite, will sign his teen mystery The Haunting of Briston Manor. I’ll sign copies of my West Texas fiction collection The Acorn Stories.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Writers and/or science fiction fans, visit CJBOOKS.NET for details on free resources and the novels of Christine Jones.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer

Review By Rochelle Moore, an author with works in the books War And History and Twice The Tale

This book is a wonderful tribute to all the writers who gave up their time and great talent to produce such wonderful work. It was a pleasure to read and I am delighted that these authors are donating funds from the book towards cancer. For any author to take time out from their own work and produce such an excellent book in aid of charity, is really wonderful. These authors are wonderful people with excellent talent and their book is a fantastic read.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More of my gay DVD reviews are now up at This Week in Texas: Movie Reviews. Recent additions…Boys Life 4, Cowboys & Angels, Yossi & Jagger, and Testosterone.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Queer As Folk Final Season, Six Feet Under, Reactions to Homophobia, Scissor Sisters.

Preview the fifth and final season of Queer As Folk. (You’ll need to click on “QAF Is Back!” to see the teaser.) The final season starts in May 2005 on Showtime. Six Feet Under’s final season premieres on HBO, June 13.

Please also visit my newly updated Reactions to Homophobia page.

We Are Scissor Sisters…and So Are You
DVD reviewed by Duane Simolke

Despite the fact that their debut album provides their entire play list, Scissor Sisters manage to deliver a DVD collection that includes a full-length concert, several music videos, a documentary, and much more! This DVD reportedly includes some Easter eggs as well, for those with the patience or equipment to find that sort of thing.

The picture quality during the concert falters at times, but the sound quality is perfect, and that really matters the most in this case. Fans of this theatrical dance band will enjoy seeing how they interpret these already familiar songs on stage. Keep in mind that singer Jake Shears previously worked as a go-go dancer; or just think of Queen’s Freddy Mercury with just as much peacock attitude but even more energy! All of the members bring their unique personalities to the show and the music. The ending number goes so far over the top that it seems like the Muppets crashing a live performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show!

The music videos capture the humor and energy of the band in other ways, allowing them to play with costumes, low-budget special effects, and silly plot lines. The documentary goes a long way in explaining the bizarre antics but immediate magnetism of this hot new band.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Book review: First Chill: A Collection of Poetry by Brian E. Bengston

With “First Chill,” Nebraskan poet Brian E. Bengston establishes himself as a unique and passionate voice for Omaho, gay men, anyone facing HIV, and anyone who ever felt loneliness or longing. He celebrates all those people and more in this diverse volume, separated into five distinct sections.

“I. NEBRASKA” begins the book with images of Bengston’s state and its people. These poems mix physical details like streets, buildings, or nature with internal longings.

“II. Names” reveals Bengston’s ability to empathize with others and listen to their dreams. The people differ as much as the forms his poems take.

“III. T-Cells” reveals Bengston’s personal struggle with HIV, as well as with HIV medications. It also reveals courage, hope, and frustration. This section includes my favorite poem in the entire book, “Standing at the Edge of the Quilt.” That poem involves the AIDS quilt.

“IV. Letters” includes poems that literally sound like letters. The recipients vary from Bengston’s family members to an author of graphic novels.

“V. First Chill” features the most erotic and emotional poems of this collection. Even more than in the other sections, Bengston keeps the readers off guard and can change the feel of an entire poem with the last line or two. This section provides a satisfying conclusion to a book that I would suggest for poetry lovers everywhere.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Tuesday, June 21 on PBS’s POV series. The Education of Shelby Knox. According to the Incite-Pictures Web site, that documentary “is a coming of age story about a teenage girl who joins a campaign for comprehensive sex education in the high schools of Lubbock, Texas. As Shelby is swept into the fight, she begins to question her deeply conservative Southern Baptist upbringing; when the campaign broadens to include a fight for a gay-straight alliance, Shelby confronts her family and her pastor, in the end declaring herself a feminist and a liberal Christian.”

Read the review in Lubbock Online and a preview at pbs.org. (Air date subject to change, of course; check local listings.)

Read about gay Lubbock topics in my online newsletter Rainbow: Lubbock. I update it constantly.

On a related note, please read the following excerpt from “Fat Diary,” a story I wrote for The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.

Forcing myself not to scream, I quickly changed the subject.

“I noticed on your application that you’re married. How long?”

“How long what?”

“How long have you been married?”

“We were married five months. We just got divorced, but we were still married when I filled out my application for you.”

“I’m sorry,” I offered, trying not to think about the fact that my marriage only lasted five weeks, and that I wasn’t sorry at all when it ended.

“It’s okay. I’m like so over him! He thought he was all that because he was manager of the last Piggly Wiggly around here, but it closed down and he wasn’t manager of nothing. He’s a bag boy at the super center now, but I don’t go in there. It’s like a magnet for stupid people. My new man is more sensitive than my husband was. He’s a theater major, anndduh…he has a part-time job at the flower shop!”

I stifled the stereotypes that flooded my mind, and I mentally kicked myself for thinking those stereotypes. “He sounds nice!”

She indicated exclamation with some sort of cheerleader motion of her right hand. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe how nice! But we’re not real serious. If he wants to buy me stuff, that’s great, but I need to be my own woman now, and I don’t need any help raising my kids.”

“Kids?” I said the word too loud for decorum, especially in a library. One of the housewives, spending way too long reading the back cover of a love story she would soon check out for the fifth time, looked up and cocked her roller-covered head.

“I have two kids, but I live with my parents now, so I don’t need any help. I’m a independent woman! My little sisters are both pregnant, though, so we need more income while I’m in college, planning for a career with some big company, maybe Enron or K-Mart.”

While helping Ian check out his TV/paperback tie-in and noticing for the billionth time how he and Lynn Williams always appeared at the same places at the same time, I bit my tongue over a myriad of “don’t go there” thoughts. Still, after Ian left, I couldn’t help but voice one of those thoughts. “I take it the Acorn School District still uses the abstinence-only, no-discussion sex education program that’s so popular in West Texas.”

“Yeah,” said Tiffani, chewing her bubble gum and tugging at the lacy bra strap that peaked out of her red sweater’s V-neck collar. “Why fix what ain’t broke?”

“And speaking of the Dewey Decimal System,” I swiftly and breathlessly replied, before I could get myself into trouble.

Monday, February 07, 2005

My book Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems includes “The Ex-Me Movement,” a poem about the ex-gay movement. Instead of writing in general terms, though, I showed a young man yanked from his life and his lover.

Mountman, a reviewer for StoneWall Society, has created an animated presentation of that poem. Visit Mountman’s MS Agent pages first, to download the characters Vinnie and Janet. Then you can see the presentation on Mountman’s page exme_movement by duane simolke.

Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems also includes my poem “Rainbow,” and my long essay “Reactions to Homophobia.”

Monday, January 31, 2005

Please read my interview in Chapter 2 of the gay ebook Q&A New Voices. That project tries to educate the public about diversity within the lesbian/gay/bi/trans community, while also exposing misconceptions about us.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Gay Valentine’s Day E-Card (Ecard)

Gay men who want to send their boyfriend a gay Valentine e-card for free might send a link to my
gay love poem “Home”. There’s also a “Share” button on the top of that page. You can find an audio file of “Home” at DuaneSimolke.Com, under the listing for my book Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Torch Song Trilogy


When I first saw Torch Song Trilogy, I had only seen a few movies that included gay characters, and most of those showed gays in both a limited and a negative role. Certainly, none of them came close to exploring how I felt as a gay man.

This movie changed that. I watched with amazement at how much Harvey Fierstein’s character matched my life and expressed how I felt. Actually, I wasn’t a gravel-voiced, Jewish drag queen who sang torch songs, but Harvey’s outlandish character experienced the same need for love and acceptance that other gays experience. In fact, he even manages to capture the universal desire for all people to know love of every kind.

Fierstein adapted the screenplay from his Tony-winning drama of the same title, bringing it to the big screen in 1988. Though parts of it might seem dated, the struggles of his character (Arnold) continue to epitomize the struggles of gays and lesbians everywhere.

Of course, Fierstein gets helps from great co-stars like Anne Bancroft (as Arnold’s mother), Brian Kerwin (as Arnold’s lover at the beginning of the movie), and Matthew Broderick (as the new man that Arnold slowly learns to trust). Despite seeing this movie countless times, I still feel empathy for Arnold in his struggles. I also still feel ambivalence toward the way he treats his mother; despite her flaws, I think she really wants to understand and love unconditionally.

Overall, I can’t think of many gay movies that I suggest as readily or as often as Torch Song Trilogy. Watch it. Then watch it again. I certainly will.