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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Book review: Coping with Physical Loss and Disability by Rick Ritter, MSW

Rick Ritter, MSW, has created an easy-to-use resource to help people confront a life-changing illness or disability. He could simply give good advice, relying upon his experiences as a disabled veteran, a social worker, and a competitor in events for disabled athletes. Instead, he engages the reader in answering questions, gathering support, finding resources, and taking a completely positive approach to difficult situations.

I love the workbook format, because it forces the reader to begin thinking about and acting upon ways to continue with a life that has become altered. Of course, altered doesn’t mean over. It just means different. Ritter avoids sugar-coating those differences or the emotional, social, and physical problems that accompany them. However, he ultimately provokes the reader into finding ways to deal with those obstacles.

Ritter ends with a brief but inspiring look at his life, followed by a variety of resources. I suggest his workbook as a great beginning for anyone facing physical loss or disability.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Gay Movie Reviews

I love Brokeback Mountain too, but how many reviews does one movie need? Instead, I’ll keep focusing mostly on less well-known movies that I suggest. Read more of my movie reviews at This Week In Texas.

Three Dancing Slaves

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Holding Me Together, for This Week In Texas.

I first saw Gaƫl Morel as one of the stars of the tender and sad French film Wild Reeds. More recently, he directed the movie Full Speed, and then this disturbing story of family bonds.

At times, Morel leaves much of the plot and many connections to the imaginations of viewers, relying on the beautiful setting, and the equally beautiful male cast, to keep the attention of those viewers. Most of the actors here have appeared in numerous imported films. However, newcomer Thomas Dumerchez quietly soars as a young gay man in a dysfunctional family. Part of the film focuses on him, with parts also devoted to his two brothers; in fact, Morel splits the film into three pieces, with long spaces between.

Many film buffs might find the story too disjointed, but I found it worth the effort. The movie’s title slowly explains itself, just like the motivations behind why these young men keep hurting themselves or each other.

Almost Normal

Review by Duane Simolke, author of Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure, for This Week In Texas

Early on, strained acting and lame dialogue almost destroy Almost Normal. Hopefully, viewers won’t grab the remote and hit stop, because they would miss out on a cute, clever tale. Fans of the TV series Sliders or the movies Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married should take interest in this movie about a middle-aged gay man who suddenly finds himself back in high school, in an alternate reality where gay is cool and straight is sick.

Countless gay people will relate to the way this movie turns homophobia and heterosexism upside down, making the haters the hated. They will also enjoy the fun of seeing a world where gay is normal. It honestly amazes me that no one thought to make this movie sooner.

Director Marc Moody obviously has much to say about prejudice, acceptance, and love, but he says all of it in a light-hearted, imaginative way. He lets everyone see how unfairly society often treats gays, as well as the often painful experience of growing up gay, but he does both by asking, “What if gays treated heterosexuals as badly as so many heterosexuals treat gays?” Still, despite the profound satire, Almost Normal remains humorous throughout.