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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ginger Mayerson: New Edge to Women’s Fiction

by Lyn Jensen
 
In the very creative mind of Los Angeles author Ginger Mayerson, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice are collateral damage in a counter-terrorism plot. In another of her feminist novels, a Los Angeles jazz singer named Mabel “Dr.” Hackenbush solves mysteries between gigs. In a third book, a male-male Japanese couple seek romance in the Tokyo fashion and media industries. 

When looking for unique experiences in contemporary women’s fiction, take a trip through the words of Mayerson, who’s creating a new definition of women’s literature. In her Electricland, she twists sideways the formula for macho hairy testosterone-fueled action-packed graphic novels into a sort of prose comic book. Here she tells of female state-sponsored terrorists who commit nightmarish mayhem because they’re obeying orders or disobeying orders or—it’s deliberately vague.

As for the neutralization of Rice and Cheney, it’s in Darkness at Sunset and Vine, a novel-length trilogy of stories that together burlesque the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon. Mayerson wrote it as a cartoonish sci-fi satire of Bush II’s USA—projected forward to 2016 Los Angeles. At one point a female agent’s boss complains, “You took out Cheney, Rice, and the entire Strag Plans office including the building. It was tough to convince State you made a simple mistake.”

Mayerson now publishes through her own dot.com venture, Wapshott Press, specializing primarily in feminist and LGBT literature. (The name Wapshott has no special significance.) “The big publishing houses are focused on blockbusters and so many little magazines that used to publish fiction have gone out of business,” she observes.

Wapshott Press uses a print-on-demand business model, which Mayerson sees as a way to keep literary and alternative press competitive with major corporations. She says of the current corporate-dominated publishing world, “I don’t think print is dead.  I believe the current publishing model is unsustainable.  Print on demand is the way of the future.  I can’t afford to warehouse 10,000 books but I can do this print-on-demand thing.” She further explains, “When you go online and order this book, a machine prints it out and mails it to you.”  She uses such sites as lulu.com for her print needs. 

 “I got into publishing on a good deed,” she recalls. “We don’t publish things because they’re going to sell, we publish things because they should be published.”   

The good deed:  Mayerson’s Internet friend, Anastasia Whitchhazel, was going through a rough time with her health and finances, and a publisher rejected her short story, “Chase,” after first accepting it. “I couldn't do anything about her life, but I could certainly publish her story.” Mayerson remembers.

So in 2007 she started Wapshott Press. She published Whitchhazel’s story in an anthology called Chase and Other Stories. She themed the collection around male homoerotica written by women. As Tally Keller writes in the Chase introduction, “This erotica playfully thumbs its nose at conventional morality, tastefulness, and all other things proper young ladies are supposed to happily accept.” Mayerson likes to compare the collected stories to Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.”

What began as a way to publish a single story collection quickly turned into more. After Chase came a follow-up collection, The Tagger and Other Stories. Since then Mayerson’s divided short story collections between two ongoing journals, Storylandia and Erotique. Mayerson says she wanted to make a distinction between works with very explicit adult content and the ones that contain little or no sex. 

She’s currently changing the focus of both literary journals from collections of different authors to collections or novellas by a single author. She published in 2014 the fifth volume of Erotique, which showcases erotic adult literature, and a sixth volume is in preparation. 

The stories in Storylandia are often in a more romantic vein. The first seven issues were published between 2009 and 2012, and included much adult fantasy and sci-fi.  In contrast Storylandia 8, 9, 10 and 11 each feature one novella.

The eighth and eleventh issues offer the third and fourth installments of Mayerson’s own Hackenbush series, in which Reagan-era jazz musician Mabel “Dr.” Hackenbush plays Los Angeles cocktail lounges while managing day jobs, mysteries, and failed romance. 

Dr. Hackenbush Gets a Job, Mayerson’s first novel, was about coping with horrible bosses. In the nineties no publisher would touch it, so in 2010 Mayerson self-published it with Wapshott Press. Next came a sequel, Dr. Hackenbush Gains Perspective, in which the musician provides a last wish for an AIDS patient. 

Between 2008 and 2009 Wapshott published a non-fiction literary journal, Bloglandia, publishing selected blogs from the Internet because, as Mayerson promoted it, “some ideas are too cool to stay in cyberspace.”  Bloglandia Vol. 2, Issue 1, for example, led with a lengthy postmortem by veteran activist Bruce Hahne on what opponents of California’s anti-marriage Proposition 8 did wrong (essentially everything).  Other topics have included sexual harassment in the Department of Defense, and the medical mystery of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (both by this author).

Wapshott Press is now offering Mayerson’s homoerotic novella The Pajama Boy, which may be her best work.  Here she creates an environment where her prose shows superb texture and depth.  She compares it to, “Looking into a lacquered box.  It’s like you’re looking into something.”

Set in contemporary Japan, Pajama Boy is about a romantic relationship between a young newspaper man and an even younger man who’s so good-looking he semi-accidentally becomes Tokyo’s top pajama model.  Old flames, jealous rivals, and a hypocritical family threaten to
break the couple up.  The result’s part Japanese-style pop culture and part American-style pulp romance.

    Mayerson often attends comic conventions, and that sub-culture constantly inspires her prose.  Pajama Boy is one obvious example of comics influencing Mayerson, because it borrows from the Japanese yaoi genre.  Mayerson is a leading example of an American author who’s inspired by comics created by and for Japanese women.

“For those who wandered in from reality, yaoi manga is gay porn comics created by women,” she offers. The genre was invented by Japanese female graphic artists, but it’s since gone international.

She says she got started with poetry and short stories, “but as a teenager I got too swanky for that and switched to music, which I wrote and performed diligently until about 2000 when I finally ran out of things to say with music.”

Writing by Mayerson and other Wapshott Press authors can be found many places online.  See www.wapshottpress.com or search Amazon, Twitter or Facebook.

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:
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/special-election-spawns-dear-recall-attempt/

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:
http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/robles-first-action-approve-zone-change/