Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Blade, Sept. 2008: Books Following in Annie Proulx's Sneakers

This interview with Ginger Mayerson of Wapshott Press originally appeared in the Orange County & Long Beach Blade, Sept. 2008.

Annie Proulx, Anne Rice, Patricia Neil Warren, Mary Renault--all are part of a long and venerable literary tradition that links women writers with homoerotic stories. Now joining that tradition, Ginger Mayerson, 48, a Los Angeles writer, says, "To paraphrase Mrs. Parker on Edna St. Vincent Millay, I would say we ... are following the exquisite footsteps of Annie Proulx in our own comfy sneakers." She's referring to Chase and Other Stories, her recent collection of short stories by herself and several other women, published by her own Wapshott Press.

"If Ms. Proulx can get her story published in The New Yorker and made into a major motion picture, what's to stop other women from writing homoerotica?" asks Tally Keller in the book's introduction. "This erotica playfully thumbs its nose at conventional morality, tastefulness,and all other things proper young ladies are supposed to happily consider their lot."

Mayerson composed chamber music for a while, until she burned out--a background that's reflected in her Chase short story, "The Accompanist" (written under the pen name Amy Throck-Smythe) about inhabitants of the classical music world. For some years, she went through spells of reading what she calls, "gay porn." She became involved with a Star Trek slash community, where fans have been known to damn the copyright laws and go full speed ahead with homoerotic fiction inspired by the classic sci-fi franchise.

She started the online Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society (JLHLS) several years ago for a "literary society" of one--herself. She admits that originally she just wanted to get a press pass to San Diego Comic Con so she could interview Molly Kiely, a comic artist who specializes in gay porn. Now Mayerson says the JLHLS website has perhaps 12 regular contributors who review every type of literature and just about everything else, from toys to perfume.

Three Chase stories began as unsold scripts for graphic novels--Anastasia Witchhazel's title story, Mayerson's sci-fi "Chiaroscuro" and "The Accompanist." Chase began when Iris, a small-comics publisher, rejected "Chase" and Mayerson offered to publish it instead. Thus Wapshott Press was born, financed by Mayerson's day job. She credits the Internet for the tools to start her "nanopress" venture, "Amazon makes it very easy to produce these books."

The writers featured in Chase were rounded up from the JLHLS and the Star Trek slashers. While the title story and some others relate to sci-fi, others such as Mayerson's own "Dipsy Doodle Inn" (written under the pen name Karman Ghia) fit a Southern Gothic tradition. Mayerson comments, "William Faulkner and Flannery O'Conner are my idols. If I lived to be 100, I'd never write that well. There's something about Southern authors that's just amazing. My father was from Tennessee and was more of a film buff than a literature buff. But his taste in movies, particularly John Ford Westerns, was very literate. Now our Kitty Johnson is from the South and her "Omega Men" [about an Alabama fraternity] is a wonderful story."

She adds, "["Omega Men"] is so Gothic but the gay character doesn't have to commit suicide in the third act to explain why his widow is insane."

Mayerson says Wapshott is just a name with no particular significance but adds, "Fabrice Eugene Wapshott, the most fabulous gay man ever, [would] make Proust cry!" The character on the Wapshott logo resembles Oscar Wilde, but Mayerson thinks he looks more like Mick Jagger. Kiely drew the logo and did an illustration of another character for the Chase frontispiece.

Besides Chase, Mayerson has an original online novel, The Pajama Boy, that she expects to have available in hard copy by October. She also is readying a second anthology of stories about gay men, which for the first time will feature two male writers--Chad Denton, and Logan who also draws the gay Deimos comic. Then there's a side project, Bloglandia, for which she's looking for blogs on any subject.

2019 update:  Wapshott Press titles remain available via the Wapshott Press website.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Manga Review, Blade, Oct. 2009: Adventures in Boys Love

MANGA REVIEW:  Blade, Oct. 2009, Gakuen Heaven and an Interview with Lillian Diaz-Przybyl of TokyoPop

I interviewed Lillian Diaz-Przybyl of TokyoPop about her yaoi-themed BLU line and reviewed the yaoi manga Gauken Heaven for The Orange County & Long Beach Blade in Oct. 2009. I titled the story Adventures in Boys Love but it was published as Adventures in Boys Land and below is the story as it ran. -- Lyn Jensen

When Lillian Diaz-Przybyl began working for TokyoPop almost six years ago, the America-based publishing company of translated-Japanese comics was considering starting up a separate line for a then-new genre known as yaoi (pronounced ya-oh-ee) or Boys Love (BL for short). "TokyoPop is primarily a publisher of licensed Manga, which is comics in the Japanese style," Diaz-Przybyl said. "We're the largest American-owned Manga publisher in the U. S."
The company had published a couple of series [Fake and Gravitation] that fit the BL genre, and "they were tremendously successful here, both of those series just exceeded everyone's expectation."
The economy during the past five years has hit TokyoPop hard, but BLU, the genre line that Diaz-Przybyl edits, remains consistent. She talked to the Blade about how BLU's fan base apparently knows exactly what it wants and is happy to keep buying yaoi or BL manga.
She defines the genre as, "stories about romance between two male characters but they're usually [created] by women for a primarily female audience, so they're a little different from what you usually think of as gay comics.
"They're definitely mid-list but while the rest of [TokyoPop's] mid-list has really disappeared the last couple of years, BLU has been very consistent," Diaz-Przybyl continued.
BLU (short for Boys Love Unlimited) debuted in November 2005 with two series, Earthian by Yun Kouga and Love Mode by Yuki Shimizu, along with the single-volume Manga, Shinobu Kokoro:  Hidden Heart by Temari Matsumoto.
The line was created because Manga and graphic-novel sections in bookstores usually offer everything from children's comics to mature fare and, "we wanted it to stand out a little bit from the TokyoPop line," Diaz-Przybyl said. "We wanted to make something a little different so that people who were looking for this kind of content knew exactly where to get it, and people who were not interested in this kind of content wouldn't pick it up by accident."
BLU  boasts nearly 70 manga volumes, with more on the way. The biggest hit may be Junjo Romantica:  Pure Romance by Shungiku Nakamura. The 10th volume of the series made the New York Times best-seller list in July 2009.
"That was the first time a Boys Love title had got anywhere near that list," Diaz-Przybyl said, adding that she's looking forward to the release of volume 11 in December this year.
Junjo  "in some ways calling it an anthology series makes sense," she said. "There's a main couple you start out following through. One is a socially maladapted writer and his roommate, who becomes his boyfriend. Then it starts to branch off more with the side characters. It's not a single continuous plot; it's all these overlapping characters and overlapping relationships. You have a balance of sexy fun and good, romantic drama."
Another popular BLU series is Gakuen Heaven by You Higuri. It's based on a video game that's also called a "visual novel" because the player's decisions directly affect how the plot develops.
"Depending on the choices you make, you get a different ending, so each of these volumes basically follows these characters through different endings," Diaz-Przybyl said.
BLU has published two volumes [Note:  of Gakuen Heaven - Lyn Jensen], with two more expected soon. Visit blumanaga.com more information.
[Link is down as of 9/30/19, but BLU manga may still be purchased on retail sites. -- Lyn Jensen]

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Why the Hollywood Sign’s Still Here


Tourists from all over the world continuously stream through the narrow winding steep streets of historical Hollywood, past Humphrey Bogart's and Madonna's former residences, jamming Lake Hollywood Park’s meager parking, to get a very close look at a replica of an old real estate sign.

For that’s what the Hollywood sign is, a designated Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Landmark that may be the city’s most world-famous feature. One local resident, Joy Efron, is used to the never-ending steam of tourists, and she particularly remembers two young Italian men who asked, in halting English, where they could find the Hollywood sign—and next they asked where they could find the mountain with the four presidents on it.

In July of 2018 Warner Bros. announced they are considering financing, at a cost of about $100 million, a tram that would run from the company’s Burbank lot up to the sign, alleviating some of the traffic congestion and giving people a comfortable way to get all the way up to the sign itself. Presently the only way to get to as close as possible—as opposed to seeing it from afar, which is sometimes possible from as far away as the South Bay—is to hike up to it, from one of several Griffith Park trails.

The sign was originally built in 1923 to advertise a real estate development. Thirteen wooden letters, roughly 50 feet high and stretching for about 600 feet along the crest of Mount Lee, spelled out “Hollywoodland.” Movie stars occasionally rode up on horseback. Even motor vehicles sometimes managed the rough steep dangerous terrain, including that of a drunk driver who hit the H in the late forties.

Partly because of the drunk-driving accident, in 1949 the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation—by that time the City of Los Angeles owned the sign—did some renovation. They removed the “LAND” letters, so the sign would represent the community it overlooked.

By 1978 the old wooden sign was literally falling apart. The first O looked more like a U, several letters were sagging, and the third O collapsed.

The sign is here today because an eclectic assortment of Hollywood players donated $27,777 each to replace the wooden letters with steel ones. Each benefactor was matched with one of the sign’s letters.

Here’s the star-studded scoop on who saved the sign in '78:

H—Terrence Donnelly, publisher of the Hollywood Independent.

O—Giovanni Mazza, sometimes identified as an Italian film producer, but apparently the most obscure name involved. Searching his exact name on the Internet finds a twenty-first-century teen actor-musician, but no film producer, Italian or otherwise. There is a Wikipedia entry which says Gianni Mazza, born Giovanni Mazza, was a popular Italian TV personality in the seventies. It’s possible this popular Italian was trying to break into Hollywood in 1978 and donated to the Hollywood sign as a career move—but never actually produced any Hollywood films.

L—Les Kelley of Kelley Blue Book fame.

L—Gene Autry, singing cowboy and then-owner of TV station KTLA.

Y—Like the Y’s in Playboy, for Hugh Hefner, a leader in the fundraising effort.

W—Andy Williams, Hollywood singer and TV personality.

O—Warner Bros. Records, an off-shoot of the company that now wants to build a tram to the sign, financed the replacement of one of the remaining O’s, a letter that’s shaped like the company’s vinyl product.

O—Alice Cooper, pioneering Goth-rocker, has the second O in “wood” but the third O in the sign. Like Hefner, Cooper was a leader in saving the sign. When the 1978 restoration was underway, Cooper told the Los Angeles Times he had the idea to hit up nine benefactors for the cost of one letter each. In a publicity shot promoting Cooper’s work for the sign, he’s shown holding a small O where the third O was missing. He joked he had two O’s in his name and could give the Hollywood sign one.

D—Dennis Lidtke, the Hollywood Reporter identified him as owner of a graphic design firm, Gribbitt. He may be the same Dennis Lidtke who in the eighties owned the Palace, a prominent Los Angeles concert venue that featured appearances by many of that decade’s top pop-music stars. That Hollywood story ended sadly with ignominious legal troubles in the early nineties. No more recent reference to the life or career of any Dennis Lidtke can be found.

The original wooden letters may still be out there—somewhere--like the truth in the classic X Files TV show. CBS reported in 2005 that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce sold them to nightclub promoter Hank Berger, who sold them to producer Dan Bliss, who sold some small pieces as collectables but sold most of the remainder on eBay to an anonymous bidder for $450,400. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

HAIKU FOR AN APPALOOSA HORSE

I'm a writer, and I write poetry sometimes. Here's a haiku poem I wrote for my beautiful Appaloosa horse, Poca's Silver Spade, that I'd forgotten about until I found it in my mother's papers: The Appaloosa Horse comes home from pasture, Spots glossed with sunset. -- haiku by Lyn Jensen

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Review: "Elton John: I'm Still Standing--A Grammy Salute" (Airdate 4/10/18)

With Rocketman a hit in movie theaters and Elton John on his farewell tour, it's time to take a look back at Elton John:  I'm Still Standing, a Grammy Tribute that aired a year ago April 10. How well did it reveal to us how influential Elton has been, and his impact on pop culture?

Nothing except a random string of cheesy performances, is the brief answer. The major purpose of a simple random selection of Elton hits by a random selection of current music-industry cash cows appeared to be glorified product placement for two Elton "tribute" albums, Revamp, featuring today's rock/pop stars performing Elton songs, and Reconstruction, which consists entirely of country singers who are supposedly paying tribute to Bernie Taupin's role in Elton's life and work. The guests and set list consisted entirely of selections from those two albums.

Despite such product placement we were well into the broadcast before anyone got around to acknowledging this is a tribute to Bernie, too--which of course automatically rules out some of Elton's greatest songs. There's no "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" or "Circle of Life" because Tim Rice wrote those lyrics. No "Elton's Song" because Tom Robinson wrote that. No Elton John hits that Gary Osborne wrote--no "Little Jeanie" or "Blue Eyes" or "Chloe." No "Pinball Wizard," that's the Who.

How cheesy and cheap was this so-called tribute? It opened with Miley Cyrus singing "The Bitch is Back" in her Southern-magnolia twang that's about as witchy as a sugar cube--and about as tuneful, too. I don't know why or how, nearly fifty years after "The Bitch is Back" was a big top-forty hit, so many people have so much trouble getting their heads around--it's a gay song. A man wrote it. A gay man sang it. It's got nothing to do with women. Stop pretending it does. Stop insulting women with it. Stop insulting yourself and your sex, Miley.

After that opening piece of sexism, the show managed a tiny taste of the direction it should have taken instead, thanks to a pair of young British stars who told personal stories of Elton's influence on them. First Ed Sheeran, with his glasses and tousled reddish hair and English charm, showed his Elton influence with "Candle in the Wind." Then Sam Smith dared speak of the LGBT community and sang "Daniel."

Like Cyrus, however, most of the guests were young women with a country following, who have about as much to do with Elton John as a drag act has to do with whatever act the drag act's impersonating. These chirpy young girls with embarrassingly weak upper and lower registers were trying to sing songs written for a man's register--songs originally sung by a piano-pounding wild-man rocker who was heavily influenced by piano-pounding wild-man rockers Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

Lady Gaga took the drag-act flavor to its most literal extreme by performing what looked and sounded like a very poor drag-act impersonation of Elton, and on "Your Song" yet. Thanks for turning "Your Song" into a laugh-free parody, Lady. If this tribute's supposed to feature drag acts, at least have the nerve to invite some real drag acts.

Chris Martin, a contemporary British rocker and keyboardist, should have been one of the evening's brighter lights, but he inexplicably picked the obscure barely-a-song song, "We all Fall in Love Sometimes," and he wasn't even able to perform that little sonnet-like set of words correctly. He needed a bigger bolder song.

Martin's selection might have fared better if read as poetry, which some other guests tried doing with "Border Song" and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight." The problem with selecting "Border Song" as an example of Bernie's lyrics is, it may be the only such song that Elton ever actually added some lyrics to. Don't ask me why the Hell Gayle King, of all people, was cast to recite part of "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" with music playing, like she was trying to rap and couldn't even do that right. I guess she worked cheap and needed a booking.

We all know Elton is an icon of the LGBT community so, with the exception of Sam Smith and Lady Gaga, and some extensive praise about Elton's work for AIDS relief, where the Hell was the LGBT community?

Elton John is one of the great British rockers, where were his fellow British rockers? He's one of the greatest pianists of the rock era, where were his fellow pianists? What about all his iconic lady friends like Diana Ross and Patti La Belle and Bette Midler and Cher and Kiki Dee and Tina Turner? What about his impact on fashion--those glasses, those platform shoes, how he was seventies' fashion and all that implies?

Not to mention that for all the airtime this "tribute" gave to Elton's relationship to country music (which is by courtesy, if you want the truth) there wasn't a word about his much stronger relationship with soul and the African-American side of pop music, how he worked as a back-up musician for people like the Supremes and Patti LaBell in the sixties, how he made Sleeping With the Past, an entire album of Motown-influenced music in the eighties.

This show's strange and long side trip into country--loading the show with people like Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town--may have had a very cynical marketing ploy behind it. When Elton came out, first as bisexual and later as gay, he lost the American heartland. Frankly I doubt Little Big Town singing "Rocket Man" or Miranda Lambert singing "My Father's Gun" (another time the show lapsed into unintentional drag-act parody) is going to make the MAGA crowd buy any more Elton records than they've been buying for the past generation or so.

Yeah, Tumbleweed Connection was, way back around 1971, marketed as Elton's and Bernie's mediation on country-and-western themes, with songs referencing outlaws and guns--but it was a British meditation on country, and especially on the more iconic pop-culture aspects of country living and the American West, not so much on country music itself. Being influenced by the original isn't the same as being the original.

In the show's final moments we get to the other reason why the Grammys wanted to do this tribute. Besides being an extended infomercial for the two tribute albums, it marked an occasion to present Elton--and Bernie, I guess--with the Grammys' "President's Merit Award." Elton made a speech about all the years he and Bernie have been together, like celebrating some still-the-one anniversary, ignoring the fact that there have actually been major gaps in their professional time together.

Then Elton sang three songs, including the everybody-out-on-the-stage finale, "I'm Still Standing." It served as a demonstration of, just let Elton be his own tribute. He's better at it than anyone else.

Here's the link to the imdb.com page:
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8264268/
To the Grammy page:
https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/kesha-ed-sheeran-sza-more-honor-elton-john-grammy-salute
Billboard review:
https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/8299926/elton-john-grammy-salute-ed-sheeran-sam-smith
Variety review:
https://variety.com/2018/music/news/inside-the-elton-john-post-grammys-tribute-concert-with-ed-sheeran-lady-gaga-miley-cyrus-sza-and-more-watch-1202725695/