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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Review: The Pajama Boy

My review of Ginger Mayerson's yaoi novel The Pajama Boy appeared in slightly different form in the Aug. 2009 Southern California Blade, a GLBT magazine based in Laguna Beach, California. Go to www.goodreads.com to join my current discussion of the novel.

Discover a Japan where a handsome young newspaperman rescues a cute innocent teenage boy from a stalker, and they fall in love. Their relationship is tested when the boy semi-accidentally becomes a sought-after model, the star of famous "Pajama Boy" ads, and all Tokyo goes crazy. Old flames, jealous rivals, and a hypocritical family threaten to drive the gay couple apart. Welcome to the universe of American author Ginger Mayerson's The Pajama Boy, where two genres--Japanese yaoi and American romance--get a refreshing twist.

What's Japanese yaoi anyway? Mayerson, a yaoi fan, explains in her novel's introduction, "For those of you who wandered in from reality, yaoi manga is gay porn comics created by women for an audience of mostly women. There are lots of explanations why yaoi is such a huge hit."

She adds The Pajama Boy was written "to kick all those stray yaoi tropes out of my head before they ended up in something else." She had previously written some romance and erotica, but Pajama Boy marks a career milestone.

Mayerson demonstrates some of her finest prose here, creating a total environment, a total ambiance, in the way the characters relate to each other, and in the way little details and subplots nudge the main story along. She compares her style to looking into a lacquered box--it looks like you're looking into something.

"There are books and stories you write just to get them out of your system. That's what The Pajama Boy is," she explained in an exclusive interview with this reviewer. "There must be 10,000 yaoi manga where some guy in a suit trips over some kid in the street, takes him home, and they live happily ever after." If you're a yaoi fan, you know the guy in the suit is probably seme (active) and the kid on the street uke (passive), although reversals exist. If you want a more explicit example, then you'll want to read The Pajama Boy.

Mayerson even works in a satire of yaoi when an American producer comes to Japan to make a yaoi film starring the "Pajama Boy" model. The Japanese and American characters alike consider the genre and the project to be vile trash. Mayerson suggests, "Can you imagine an avaricious American producer who says, I don't understand this but I'm going to make money off it?"

To be fair we must add Mayerson hasn't written a perfect novel. Into the final thirty pages are crammed the film project, a murder mystery, AIDS, out-of-character personality and career changes, and the passage of several years. It's as if the author feared leaving a plot twist unturned. The overall result, however, is still a groundbreaking work that breathes fresh life into both yaoi and gay romance.

Japan may be the birthplace of yaoi but the genre has gone global in the twenty-first century. Mayerson has used the trend to create new romantic, erotic literature for a crossover audience. She also runs Wapshott Press, where she specializes in making feminist, gay, and erotic literature available to a wider audience.

The Pajama Boy is published by Wapshott Press. It's available online and in trade paperback (in three different collector's covers). At the Wapshott Press website you'll also find other works by Mayerson, including her series of novels about the mystery-solving eighties' jazz vocalist Dr. Mabel Hackenbush.

Friday, February 24, 2017

What I Think About When I Think About Rockers' Sons

My involvement with the mystery of who and what Cliff Morrison is started with seeing him in concert in San Pedro, June 27, 2008. I went to the show not knowing the connection to the Jim Morrison rock legend and legacy. Morrison's a common name, so I didn't know Cliff Morrison was allegedly Jim Morrison's son until I spoke to Lorraine Widen, the woman who maintains Jim Morrison fathered her son. When I did I wandered into a rock 'n' roll wilderness. I was moved, not by the show, which was mediocre, but why this man (and his mother) waited nearly forty years to cash in on the Jim Morrison legacy, actual or otherwise?

Whether or not Cliff Morrison is the son of Jim Morrison is not for me to debate. I find nothing conclusive that is publicly or officially available. To research a definite answer is to get lost on the Internet following outdated click bait. My eyes detect a family resemblance between the men, but best available evidence is that there is no proven paternity. Widen said in 2010 that she sent a DNA sample to the Morrison family twenty years earlier and never received a response. Let us not pry further.

So let us set aside who Cliff Morrison's father is and focus on why he attempted belatedly to launch a career as "Jim Morrison's son." Why did this man come suddenly onto the music scene nearly forty years after Jim Morrison's death, and then just as suddenly return to the checkered life he apparently lived before? Posts on the Internet promise records and/or movies and/or TV--but it's all out of date and never comes to anything, a possible indication that there's little profit from any alleged Morrison connection. A 2010 brush with the law mentions a prior record, further indication of an unstable career and a life that was not always about making music.

One thing was very clear to me at that San Pedro concert: Cliff Morrison is no Jim Morrison. He never was and never will be a rock star, he just doesn't have the right factors needed to be one. The Doors' vocalist was a classic blues-rock shouter. The guy I saw in 2008 sang Doors songs but vocally resembled Blake Shelton. The show looked headed for some cheap bar where the talent's expected to sing covers for hours on end, just to keep the patrons drinking. Rock legends don't do shows like that.

Even if it's about the money--and all indications are, the money isn't there--why wait forty years? Maybe the answer lies in the very nature of identity. Let me compare another night, another show, another son of a rock star, and this one's paternity was not in doubt. Circa 2004 on the Sunset Strip, I saw A. J. Croce play guitar and sing introspective singer-songwriter fare like I saw his father Jim Croce do in the seventies. Making music well enough to make a living is one thing, but making music well enough to be a legend is another.

Having seen Jim Croce live, I experienced the way he filled the room with his working-man songs and stories. I mourned his death.The younger Croce was like every other singer-guitarist I've heard in every other bar--but Jim Croce was not. Seeing the son only refreshed my grief over the loss of the father.

I wanted to ask, "He's nothing like his father, and not in a good way, so why does he do it? He could distinguish himself in any number of ways, so why does he keep going the hardest route, the one that will forever brand him Jim Croce's son?" I met his mother Ingrid Croce at her restaurant in San Diego recently, and I mentally shut down. That question about her son was clouding my head and I couldn't ask it.

Maybe I can answer it myself. If you identify as a rock star's son, you'll be a rock star's son whether you sing rock or pump gas. You may as well sing. Your legacy may be to make music. It may be out of desperation but anything else may only be a desperate lie. Maybe it doesn't even really matter whether your father honestly was that particular rock star or not.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Manga Reading for 2017

I indulged my yaoi fan-gurl self in January with the three-vol. series Prince Charming by Akemi Takaido (June/DMP). It's on the edgy side, about a high school teacher and three students who patronize the same gay bar. There's the disclaimer, "All characters depicted in sexually explicit scenes in this publication are at least the age of consent or older." Just the same, we're dealing with relations between a high school teacher and more than one of his students.

For February I'm finally getting around to Aegis, which has been on my "manga to read" list for probably ten years. The five-volume Korean series is by Jinha Yoo (Netcomics).  It's been compared to Lord of the Flies--which I've never read--but I can see the parallels involving schoolboys in extreme situations. The convoluted plot moves back and forth between two or more alternate universes (nightmarish sci-fi cruelty contrasted with the banal everyday kind of cruelty that schoolboys endure). The male leads may be brothers or classmates or--let your imagination do the rest.


By March I'll be looking for more manga, and high on my list is getting up-to-date with His Favorite by Suzuki Tanaka (published by SuBLime, the yaoi imprint of VIZ). In 2016 I read the first eight volumes, but a ninth is now available in the USA and a tenth in Japan. It began as a single story in which the hottest guy in the high school singles out the most unattractive one as "his favorite." It's sometimes marketed more as comedy than as yaoi, because (at least so far) there's no sex.

In April I can shop for You Will Fall in Love by Hinako Takanaga, one of the superstars of yaoi. I have the sequels You Will Drown in Love vols. 1 and 2, (all three were published by BLU) so this will allow me to read the entire series.

Maybe by May I'll start another manga series? How about vol. 1 of Shout Out Loud! by Satosumi Takaguchi (BLU) which has been on my "yaoi to read" list for--at least ten years.

June means the start of another summer spent with a manga series. I can continue through the five volumes of Shout Out Loud, but how about a side trip to Drug and Drop, the two-volume continuation of Legal Drug, my favorite CLAMP series and one of my all-time favorite manga series of any genre? (Maybe I'll get an excuse to read Legal Drug again.)

By July I'll probably have busted my manga budget for the year. If I want something new and different, I'll have to catch up with what's already on my "to be read" shelf. It may be a good time for J-Boy (an anthology of yaoi stories originally published by Biblos in Japan). It was published in the USA by June/DMP.

If I can squeeze one more series into my summer of manga, maybe come August I'll have room in my manga budget for all three volumes of Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love by Yaya Sakuragi. I have the first volume (published by BLU) but I'm guessing I'll want the whole series.

By September the summer of manga will be over but that'll just mean I'll have to find something for fall. It could be My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishigi. (Vertical publishes the series in North America.) It's not yaoi but I like a variety of manga. I don't even know if it's considered a boys' comic or a girls' comic (but who cares). Unfortunately I'll likely run into the same problem as with many other manga titles--the entire series runs at least nine volumes, so if I read the first volume (or two or three), I'll probably feel a compulsion to keep reading.

October is a good time for vampire and werewolf stories, so that may be a good time to finish Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino (VIZ). The complete series runs 19 vols. and starts out like a mash-up of rom-com and horror, then grows steadily more horrifying and grotesque. Despite often wondering, "Why am I still reading this?" I was able to get up to vol. 12 several years ago. With trepidation, I admit I'd like to find out how it ends.

I'll likely still be wallowing in Japanese vampire lore come November, but I'll probably want to mash up the horror with some yaoi. Three Wolves Mountain by Bohro Naono (SuBLime) is about a werewolf spirit who's pursuing a human, but not out of bloodlust, just plain lust (and love).

What manga do I put on my December holiday list? Decisions, decisions!





Thursday, December 22, 2016

Carol Martini's First CD in Six Years: Songs of the Girl on the Swing

Carol Martini's latest CD Songs of the Girl on the Swing (available for purchase on CD Baby) might be more appropriately titled Songs of the Girl With the Guitar. For that's the musical universe Martini comfortably inhabits, singing her own compositions, accompanying herself on guitar, in California coffeehouses. Except her alternative-style songs deserve a much broader audience.
Fortunately she also makes (and markets) her own independent recordings, with Girl on a Swing being her third CD of the twentieth-first century. It's her first since Petals of the Red Magnolia (2010) which followed Rose in the Boxcar (2005, named by the Orange County Register as one of "OC's Best of the Best"). Martini also, in the nineties, made three old-fashioned vinyl albums that are now rare collectibles.
Her two previous CDs were deeply personal tributes to the memories of her parents--Red Magnolia for her mother and Boxcar for her father. By contrast this album's nineteen songs represent a return to the romance of her earlier works. It's a simple collection of love songs, some plaintive, but many with a wry sense of humor.
One such song is "Because that Man's Still Here," in which the singer laments that guy that just won't go away no matter what:  "So I sit in this bar, night after night, crying in my beer, not because he's left me but because that man's still here." (At least she can get away long enough to cry in a bar.) It's the kind of song to sing along to, sooth heartache to, and and perhaps put one's own creative spin on. It's one of Martini's best songs ever.
Swing concludes with another highlight, "Won't You Please Come Home" which paints a word picture of a broken relationship so much that we feel we're living it right along with her--or living through our own breakups and losses along with her.
Unfortunately some of the songs here aren't given the proper musical showcase. Daniel Martin and Lewis Richards are the credited musicians, and they play well, but much of the backing sounds like it came from a computer. If only the musical accompaniment could have shown the same wit and variety as the lyrics.
For more about Carol Martini and her music:
www.carolmartini.net
www.markwebermusicblog.com
www.indie-spoonful.com
CD Baby

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Link to Random Lengths (12/1/16): Go Retro With Records

Here's the link to my ACE feature "Go Retro With Records" for the 12/1/16 issue of Random Lengths:

http://www.randomlengthsnews.com/go-retro-records/?ct=t%28This+Issue+12-01-16%3A+Holiday+Edition%29&mc_cid=6dc555751e&mc_eid=%5BUNIQID%5D

Editorial staff added two San Pedro stores to my copy but here is what I filed originally:

Gift of Music:  Go Retro with Real Records

By Lyn Jensen
Music fans! Here is your chance to go retro and spend many happy hours digging through record store bins. Three old-time rockin’ record stores in Long Beach offer you a chance to give the gift of music, in a variety of media—33 ½ RPM, 45s, CDs, even a few cassette tapes. You’ll also find holiday music to give you a soundtrack for the season. As you hop from store to store, you’ll find collectibles, DVDs, and shirts, too, along with surprise finds that only come from old-fashioned store-to-store shopping.

Third Eye on Retro Row
You’ll find about 3,400 new and used records—actual vinyl LPs—at Third Eye, 2234 Fourth Street, Long Beach, in the heart of several blocks of indy storefront businesses collectively known as Retro Row. Gary Farley opened Third Eye in Costa Mesa in 2002 and later relocated to Retro Row in Long Beach. (Note the store’s phone remains 714-415-9814.)
He recalls, “When my job ended as General Manager for a local retail store, I decided to turn my passion for music and record collecting into a career and have been enjoying the experience ever since.”
Farley also says millennials, who can’t remember the days before CDs, are now seeking out the analog recording technology their parents and grandparents know and love. They come to Third Eye for it.
If you’re a music fan who’s got something to sell, “I am always seeking record collections and music memorabilia (including shirts and posters) and pay cash or offer credit,” Farley says.
Third Eye has long had a reputation as a source for collectibles, imports, local music, punk, and hard-to-find items. Listening stations are available so you may try before you buy. Other perks include a delivery service (add $5 to your order) and cleaning records (for twenty-five cents each). Web:  thirdeyerecordshop.com

Bagatelle:  Downtown Landmark since the Seventies
Steve Mintz, owner of the landmark Bagatelle at 260 Atlantic Avenue, says what sets his store apart is, “I carry all categories of music, not so much new, mostly used and collectible.”
He buys and stocks some CDs but mostly he’s looking for old-fashioned phonograph records--be they 78, 45 or 33 1/3 RPM. Visitors will find the storefront’s 1,000 square feet crammed full with bins of 45s, LPs, 78s, 12-inch singles, CDs, and some music memorabilia—about 40,000 items in stock at any one time.
Bagatelle started out as a “junk store” in 1974, Mintz says, but soon became a record shop. In 1977 it moved to its current location just south of Third Street.
Be prepared to spend some time browsing and digging in the two aisles that are less than a yard wide. Want to sample before you buy? There’s an in-store listening station.
Web: bagatellerecords.com

Fingerprints in the Arts District
You’ll have to visit Fingerprints under the neon guitar at 420 E. Fourth Street to see the full range of holiday gift possibilities, which ranges from records to apparel, guitar straps, storage crates, memorabilia, and incense. This comfortably large store in the downtown arts district stocks thousands of old-school vinyl LPs, alongside tens of thousands of CDs, DVDs, 45s—even some cassette tapes. (There used to be VHS tapes, too, but no more.) The place will also buy your used LPs, DVDs, and CDs for in-store credit.
With enough floor space for just about every genre and music medium, lovingly used collectables mingle with the latest releases, and many of them are sealed copies much preferred as gifts. Country fans will be surprised with fresh sealed LPs by such contemporary stars as Kellie Pickler, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett. If you’re in a Woodstock frame of mind, you may prefer to trip out on collectable vinyl rarities, including maybe, just maybe, that certain Beatles LP still in shrink wrap. Punks, there’s something completely different for you, too, perhaps a new and unused shrink-wrapped copy of Patti Smith’s Horses LP.

Web:  fingerprintzmusic.com