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

My Photo
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.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Random Lengths: Special Election Spawns Dear Recall Attempt, July 9-22, 2015

Random Lengths ran an article I co-wrote, "Special Election Spawns Dear Recall Attempt," in their July 9-22, 2015 issue.  I wrote three articles and managing editor Terelle Jerricks edited them into one.  Here's the link:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Knack at Perkins Palace, April 4, 1981

by Lyn Jensen

On April 4, 1981, at Perkins Palace, a converted movie theater in Pasadena, the Knack's friends, fans and followers agreed it was among the best shows the rock group had ever done. It wasn't a show for trend-hoppers, it was for Knack fans.

It was for fans who've liked the Knack since "My Sharona" first blasted over their radios--or even earlier, who bought But The Little Girls Understand and didn't care what anybody said about it, who've fought off the punches thrown by Knack-haters, who are primarily in the media anyway.

After all the Four Lads from Los Angeles have been called--in print--everything from vicious sexists to cultural creeps to a smutty Beatles rip-off. "There's been a lot written about us in the last couple of weeks, the last couple of years, and we want to thank you people for being so loyal," said Knack bassist Prescott Niles.  "You can give yourselves a hand."

Many other contemporary rock groups may beg to differ when they're described as "The new Knack," but the fact remains a lot of people think a lot of other Los Angeles groups sound a lot like the Knack.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Knack may be the most flattered group around.

At the same time, despite charges to the contrary, the Knack are now proving they  imitate no one. All comparisons to other groups, from the Beatles to the Cars, crumble when discussed on anything but the most superficial level. When all that complaining stops, we're left with one of the most versatile, talented, and boldest bands of the new decade. No one should be allowed to knock the Knack until after witnessing how they grind out the beat in concert. If any of the so-called imitators wants to bury the Knack, they'll have to work a lot harder.

This evening they played about half their recorded material, throwing in two cover oldies ("Tequila" and "A Little Night Music") and maybe half-a-dozen new songs along the way. There's enough variety to encompass everything from the sweet-and-innocent "Heartbeat" to that tirade against a tease, "She's so Selfish," from the sultry moody ballad, "Can't Put a Price on Love" to the semi-psychedelic "Monkey and Me."

Their style isn't old-fashioned but it isn't smutty either. They can lay down a jam, and jam they do. They have variety in their work but they've developed their own distinctive style, too. Despite all the media talk about a change in direction, their new songs aren't really all that different. They fit in with the Knack's distinctive sound.

Racy songs about girls still predominate but there are a few songs not about love, or sex, and those fit into the still-developing New Wave that the Knack have ridden to stardom on.

If the Knack's time on the Los Angeles scene may be compared to the Beatles at the Cavern Club, the visual aspects of the Perkins Palace concert must have been as spare as those "Cavern Club" days. Any show had to come from the four band members and nothing else. They have traded their sixties-era black-and-white look in for more casual wear:  Niles wore a punkish purple, drummer Bruce Gary a red-and-white baseball outfit, guitarist Berton Averre looked neo-mod in blue.

Doug Fieger looked sexy in black tight jeans and half-open shirt. Maybe it does take a woman (not a "little girl," guys) to understand and appreciate Fieger. Chances are what men see as arrogant and egotistical women may find charming and charismatic. He's accused of singing smut, but he nearly blushes when a fan storms the stage and kisses him. He's a frontman. He commands the stage in those unisex-looking high-heeled boots, tosses his long hair as one earring glistens, munches on a fan's carnation, gets into a howling contest with the audience, and his face expresses each song as much as his voice does.

Opening the show was the Toasters, another Los Angeles New Wave quartet, but one that hasn't had the Knack's level of success--and this show let us know why. On a scale of one to five, their music wavered between a two and three. Their female bass guitarist was the only member that demonstrated the kind of appeal necessary to win a mass audience, and she was allowed to front the band only twice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Manga Review: Off Beat, Vol. 3

I waited nine years to find out how Jen Lee Quick's Off-Beat concludes, and this is it? Thank you to Sparkler Monthly for bringing vol. 3 to reality but I'm left feeling a little too much the way the story ends--feeling a love that will remain forever unrewarded. (Sorry but I'll be discussing some concluding plot elements here.)
When a manga series ends, it's all we're getting, never mind that there may be some attempt to revive it later. Strange how often a beloved manga series concludes with a major dose of disappointment. Any and all glaring plot holes stand out. Nothing's going to get fixed or smoothed over to balance out the lack of logic. We're often left saying "I could've done better myself."  (Sometimes that's how fanfic gets born, to clean up the mess the work's legit creator left.)
What TokyoPop sold us back in 2005 and 2006, with the first two volumes of Off-Beat, was American (original English language, or OEL) schoolboy yaoi.
When Sparkler Monthly revived and concluded the series in 2013, what we ended up with is more a routine Young Adult coming-of-age graphic novel with GLBT overtones. I could handle that--if the ending--which Quick supposedly had seven years to get right--wasn't so logic-defying, most glaringly because of an impossible timeline.
Key episodes in Off-Beat are given exact dates, starting when New York schoolboy Tory first encounters his new teenage neighbor Colin on "Saturday, Sept. 25, 2004," and ending finally on "Friday Dec. 23, 2005." The conclusion simply cannot exist within those dates for several reasons.
Let's shatter Quick's timeline quickly. In vol. 2, on Sat. Dec. 3, 2005, Colin comes to dinner and steals Tory's journal (which Tory conveniently never misses).
That would make next Saturday, Dec. 10, when the boys confront each other about their secrets. Vol. 2 ended with that cliff-hanger of a confrontation, which continues in vol. 3, but by Chap. 16, we sense an eerie foreshadowing that this is no sweet yaoi romance.
Throughout Chap. 16, Tory counts the days Colin mysteriously disappears until he gets to 13 days--that'd be Dec. 23. All's well with that except Chap. 17 begins on Dec. 22, 2005, and it's not a flashback.
Quick had seven years to give us a believable timeline and this is what we got. If we believe Quick's timing, the final two chapters all happen Dec. 22-23, 2005--the finding of Colin's plant on a weekend (impossible), back at school with Mandy's invitation (with "plenty of notice") to her Dec. 23 Christmas party, the preparations to attend Tory's mother's office party on the same date, the last we see of Colin. Yet the panels and dialog give the impression that much more than one day is passing. (BTW what mother just drives off and leaves her son literally running after some neighbor guy when he's got a duty to her?)
On first reading of Chap. 15-16 I suddenly sensed Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss" getting stuck in my subconscious. It was on to something. Without giving too much away, this schoolboy couple's first kiss is their last. The bonus scenes we've been treated to--the boys holding hands in Colin's room, playing with 4th of July sparklers, walking while clutching a bouquet--are part of an alternate universe where the main canon doesn't go.
Disappointment lies not in the bitterness of the ending but the finality of it. Again without giving too much away, my interpretation is that one character is dying (of an "offbeat" heart) and he doesn't want the other to know. The conclusion's clearly a permanent parting, allowing no room for any other possibilities, save for perhaps somehow correcting that impossible timeline.
Quick herself was perhaps troubled by her story's finality. As if giving us a ladder to climb out of the abyss she's dropped us into, she adds a bonus chapter that flashes forward about ten years but does nothing to correct the situation--other than to change this manga's theme song from "Last Kiss" to "Somebody That I Used to Know." A second bonus chapter focusing on one minor character and one new character is equally irrelevant.
While waiting nine years for Off-Beat, vol. 3, I'd built up my own set of expectations and now find them unfulfilled. Colin's medical condition is left unresolved, and so too is Colin's apparently troubled past in South Africa (in vol. 3 we learn he's mixed race, but nothing comes of it) and the Gaia project, probably a state secret, but again, never explained.
I still love Off-Beat but in the way I still love that memory of a long-ago infatuation that never happened and never will. It doesn't even matter how it never happened anymore.

Friday, May 1, 2015

NFL Stadium Possible in Carson: Random Lengths, April 30-May 13, 2015

Random Lengths published my account of the Carson city council voting on April 21, 2015 to approve a "stadium overlay" zone change so possibly an NFL stadium could be built on a former toxic dump.  The story appeared on p. 2 of the April 30-May 13, 2015 issue.  Here's the link to the online version:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Feminist Latina Poetry by Maria Enriquez

This article about feminist Latina poet Maria Enriquez and her collection Mi Sombra, My Shadow originally appeared in the Nov. 2014 Senior Reporter:

By Lyn Jensen

Educators looking for feminist Latina poetry will want to meet or tweet Maria Enriquez.  When she worked as a hairdresser at her shop in Long Beach, she’d write poems while waiting for customers. That’s when she wrote the poems featured in her self-published book, Mi Sombra ,My Shadow.  She spent four years writing the poems and preparing the book.  Even after four decades in America, her English remains shaky, so she wrote the poems in Spanish and hired a translator to provide English versions.

Members of Southern California’s Spanish-speaking community especially may recognize her as a former radio personality, where she often used the name, “La India Chona.” She says she got the nickname when she wore a Mexican folk costume in a parade. She carried a baby doll. Spectators teased her with shouts of, “La india chona!” which she says loosely translates to “Be careful with the baby!”

 “Since I was young, I used to write rhymes and poems,” she says of her path to poetry. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1952 and moved to the USA in 1976.  She became an American citizen in 2003.  Besides dressing hair, she’s been a nurse, seamstress, and parks-and-rec counselor—but she’s now on disability retirement. One husband and two children are long out of the picture, leaving her free to dedicate herself to poetry and art.

She recalls her days on radio, explaining, “In 1980 I wrote a funny rhyme alluding to Humberto Luna, radio program announcer, KTNQ Los Angeles, and gave it to him. Since then I participated [on his show] with my poems until 1993.”

Enriquez’ book Mi Sombra, My Shadow is laid out with the Spanish and English version of each poem occupying facing pages.  Some of Enriquez’ work is for special occasions, events, and persons.  There’s a tribute to longtime Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, and a few holiday poems.  However, most of the themes are romantic, focusing on love, family, spirituality, and everyday emotions. 

Although Mi Sombra, My Shadow was formerly available on the Barnes & Noble site, now to get it you’ll have to meet or tweet Maria. To order a copy, tweet @MariaCEnriquez (“India Chona”) and ask where and how to send payment ($10).  This feminist poet says she’s got about 60 more poems completed and is hoping to feature those in a second book.