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.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Reading List 2020

For my reading goals in 2020, I'm returning to the same formula (inspired by Ray Bradbury) that I followed in 2018. I'll be reading 50 books, but they'll be comprised of a combination of ten novels, ten graphic novels, ten non-fiction books, ten collections of poetry and ten more of short stories. I'll attempt to complete one book each from at least four of the five categories every month. Of course the titles listed below are subject to change.

Ten non-fiction books:

1.  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
2.  Wisdom of the Elders:  Native Traditions on the Northwest Coast by Ruth Kirk
3.  Unlikely Loves by Jennifer S. Holland
4.  A Time it was:  Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties by Bill Eppridge
5.  The Brass Check by Upton Sinclair
6.  Remembering Buddy:  The Definitive Biography of Buddy Holly by John Goldrosen (or Rave On:  the Biography of Buddy Holly by Philip Norman)
7.  Coming of Age in California by Gerald W. Haslam
8.  Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
9.  The Ultimate Guide to the 2020 Election by Ryan Clancy
10.  TBD


Ten novels:

1.  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
2.  Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian
3.  A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway
4.  Puddi'nHead Wilson by Mark Twain
5.  Native Son by Richard Wright
6.  Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin (or another Baldwin novel)
7.  The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
8.  The Redheaded Outfield by Zane Grey
9.  You Know Me, Al by Ring Lardner
10. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Ten books of poetry:

1.  The Great Cat ed. by Emily Fragos
2.  The Best American Poetry 2006 ed. by Billy Collins
3.  The Best American Poetry 2008 ed. by Charles Wright
4.  A Night Without Armor by Jewel
5.  Tales of a Wayside Inn by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
6.  T. S. Elliot, title(s) TBD
7.  Jim Morrison, title(s) TBD
8.  The Women Who Hate Me:  Poetry, 1980-1990 by Dorothy Allison
9.  She Had Some Horses by Joy Harjo (and/or one or more other Harjo collections)
10.  Hard Words and Other Poems by Ursula Le Guin
Alternates:  Love Me Like You Mean it by Leslea Newman, look for a Countee Cullen collection


Ten short-story collections:

1. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
2.  Crafty Cat Crimes ed. by Stephan Dziemianowisc, Robert Weinberg, and Martin H. Greenberg
3.  Condor Dreams by Gerald W. Haslam
4.  Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros
5.  Home in Your Hands by Lee Lynch
6. Short Cuts:  Selected Stories by Raymond Carver
7.  The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories
8. The Compass Rose by Ursula Le Guin (and/or her Orsinian Tales)
9.  A Letter to Harvey Milk by Leslea Newman
10.  TBD


Ten graphic novels:

Suki by CLAMP (vols. 1-2)
Wish by CLAMP (vols. 1-4)
Love is Love:  A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting 
Red Eye, Black Eye by Thor Jensen
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Golden Cain and/or Sensitive Pornograph (re-reads)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Yaoi for Christmas

This round-up of yaoi manga suggested for holiday gifts originally appeared, in a briefer form, in Orange County and Long Beach Blade, Dec. 2010:

Enjoy the holidays--or start the new year--with the latest yaoi manga (gay-themed Japanese graphic novels) from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP). The Gardena-based publisher rivals Tokyo Pop and VIZ among publishers of Japanese comics in the United States. The company is an industry leader in yaoi, publishing more than 40 graphic novels each year.

Two DMP offerings, the Kizuna series by Kodaka Kazuma and the Finder series by Ayano Yamane together provide American audiences a look at the work of two of Japan's greatest female manga artists. Both titles are rated for adults, age 18 and older--both are grisly far-fetched dramas involving gangsters and rape, with explicit homosexual content.

Both titles were first published in the USA by Be Beautiful, a manga company that has since gone out of business.

"Yamane wanted people to be able to find the book," said a DMP spokesperson about the new edition of the Finder series. The artist also insisted on a different translation from the editions that were published by Be Beautiful. The Be Beautiful editions were released as Target in the Finder, Cage in the Finder and One Wing in the Finder. The DMP titles may be slightly different.

Kizuna is also being packaged differently from the American English-language version of the series that Be Beautiful published. The series currently runs 11 volumes in Japan, but DMP is marketing the entire series as six books.

Another new offering from DMP is a softer title by Hinako Takanaga, The Tyrant Falls in Love. It's a three-volume manga in which the seme [dominant partner] is a homophobe but the uke [passive partner] really loves him.

DMP markets"fan-based" content, based on what manga fans want, online and through independent bookstores. It is publishing such other titles as A Foreign Love Affair (another Yamane work) and the upcoming Under Grand Hotel which some fans have already suggested is too controversial for wide acceptance in the American market. It's an explicit gay romance set in a prison.

DMP is also entering the yuri market (female-female romance) with the upcoming Gakuen Misoragumi, a manga about a girl who has feelings for other girls so--her family sends her to an all-boy school to keep her away from girls.

Visit www.junemanga.com for more information on manga titles that may make great gifts for the holiday season.

Note:  a current look at the June Manga site suggests the above-mentioned titles are no longer available. Check places that sell used manga, or shop the current DMP selection.

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.