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, March 6, 2018

Manga Review: Aegis

Aegis by Jinha Yoo (six printed vols. Netcomics 2001-2005)

Schoolboys who are also warriors and warriors who are also schoolboys are the central characters in Aegis, one of many Korean manga ( or manwha in Korean) that the Korean-American publisher Netcomics made available to the English-language market in the early twentieth century. The innocent-looking schoolboy depicted on the cover of Aegis vol. 1 is Jino, while his "brother" (as in, like a brother) Izare wears a military uniform along with the flowing locks of a legendary warrior. The marketing campaign compared the manga to Lord of the Flies, perhaps because both works deal with schoolboys in a savage social environment that's rapidly breaking down.
Since Aegis deals partly with attraction--or at least affection--between the leading males, yaoi (aka shonen ai) fans may be expecting boy-boy action, but what readers get is six volumes of violent sci-fi warfare in which Jino and Izare live with only the distant memories of the brotherly affection they once shared before the brutality of war tore them apart.
Any male-male sexual implications are subjugated to the theme that war destroys the innocent, where any trace of tenderness runs contrary to survival. The convoluted plot flashes forward and back over ten years or more, between Korea, America, the Middle East, and outer space, from the time Jino and Izare are two very young orphans, kidnapped and forced to become child soldiers, until long after they've survived all manner of abuse and savagery, and matured into elite officers embroiled in some space-age invasion. Jino flees rather than serve, passing himself off as a mild-mannered Korean-American schoolboy on earth. Izare, who's still the age of a schoolboy, fights the interstellar conflict aboard dangerous space stations, but his motives are all about protecting his missing friend--maybe.
That's where we are in vol. 1, and that's still where we are in vol. 6, as sub-plots come and go and characters--and whole cities and whole space stations--get bumped off. Supposedly the premise is that one day Jino and Izare will be reunited--but after six volumes' worth of plot twists and still no resolution looming, we can't even be sure of that.
At least in the available English-language edition, the series and story remain unfinished, meaning fans will never learn the ultimate fate of Jino and Izare amid all the other tragedies anyway. Netcomics published print editions of the first six volumes between 2001 and 2005. The Korean-American publisher made the seventh, eighth, and part of a ninth volume available online--but the latest posting is dated 2009.
The site lists Jinha Yoo as the same artist for Aegis and another Netcomics title, Totally Captivated but that information appears to be inaccurate. The Totally Captivated artist has a slightly different name, Hajin Yoo, and the art for the two series doesn't look similar.
Anime News Network lists vols. 7 and 8 with 2008 publishing dates, but the print versions apparently never saw retail, at least not for any English-language editions. Whether the series is still being published in South Korea, or is concluded, or was discontinued without reaching a conclusion, is information beyond the reach of a simple Google search.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Link to Senior Reporter Article: "Election Time: Be an Informed Voter" (Feb. '18)

Here's a link to my latest article, "Election Time:  Be an Informed Voter" on p. 42 of the Senior Reporter (Feb. '18). It's part of my continuing "Life in Long Beach" feature:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Book Review: The Bonobo Way

Random Lengths News features my review of the book The Bonobo Way by sex therapist Dr. Susan Block (Gardner & Daughters 2014) in the Feb. 8-21, '18 issue. Find the link for the online version below:

Make Love the Bonobo Way by Lyn Jensen
Couples should make love like apes — or more specifically, like bonobos. That’s what Los Angeles sex therapist Susan Block suggests in her latest book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure.
Her thesis maintains that the way to improve human sexual relationships is to seek peace through pleasure, what she calls “the bonobo way.” She suggests we need to become more like sensitive bonobos and less like aggressive common chimps, our other close cousins in the tree of evolution.
Think of The Bonobo Way as similar to the work of pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall but “after dark,” suggests Discovery TV producer Thomas Quinn, who is quoted on the book jacket.
Block’s book is part scholarly evidence of ape behavior, sexual and otherwise and part sex manual. She discusses the physical and mental differences between bonobos and common chimps that began more than one million years ago, about the time humans were evolving, when the Congo River divided the great apes’ habitat. Today’s chimps were confined to the savannah, where food is scarce and there are many predators. Present-day bonobos were free to evolve in the rainforest, where life’s a peaceful endless salad bar.
“Some primatologists place the bonobo IQ at the level of the average seven-year-old,” Block says. “But their EQ or EI (Emotional Intelligence) is much higher.”
She discusses at length the considerable scientific evidence that bonobos show a higher degree of both sensitivity and intelligence than any of the other great apes, sometimes to a degree unexpected even in the average human.
These sensitive and intelligent bonobos very often use sexual activity as a form of conflict resolution, in ways that might get humans arrested if we went ape and behaved similarly. Block describes a comparatively G-rated example:
“Ouch! Time out! Let’s turn around and rub butts—quick before someone really gets hurt! …  Do you remember why we were so mad at each other before? Because I don’t! Now how about a kiss?”
“Does this mean that when apes like us feel safe and have enough to eat, we’re not as apt to kill each other and more inclined to make love?” Block asks, rhetorically. “Yes.”
When she turns to sex therapy, what she calls “The 12 Steps to Releasing Your Inner Bonobo,” her thesis rests on shakier ground. She delves into bisexuality, polyamory (emotionally non-monogamy) and group sex, all of which have long been fairly common in human sexual behavior, but don’t necessarily lead to peace through pleasure. At a time when non-consensual sexual activity is in the news cycle, and a world leader is bragging about the size of his nuclear button, Block’s book serves as a reminder of how far we humans have to evolve before we find peace through pleasure.
Block’s 12-step “Bonobo Way” program is much more helpful on a very intimate, personal, individual level. Couples experiencing difficulty in the bedroom, or who’ve hit a rough crossroads in their relationship, may well find mutual peace and pleasure by going bonobo.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Chely Wright: LGBT Role Model and Sexy Lesbian

This article, in a different version, originally appeared in Blade California, Aug. 2012.

Chely Wright's signature song, "Single White Female," is an inspiration about looking for "a one-woman man who doesn't want no other." The hit made her a top country star in 1999 but the truth of her life remained private until her book Like Me:  Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer (Pantheon 2010) was published. It revealed that the simple Christian country girl who was living a dream of Nashville stardom was also leading a lifestyle that her church condemned.
Chely Wright:  Wish Me Away, a documentary based on Wright's book, was released in 2012, and describes how, as a young girl in Wellsville, Kansas, she heard preaching against a "huge horrible word, homosexual." She spent years desperately trying to pray the gay away, publicly dating men while privately engaging in closeted lesbian relationships.
Wright agreed to the documentary project, with filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf, because she hoped the film might reach an audience the book didn't. Even with so many passionate and intimate scenes shared, the film only gives a glimpse of what Wright risked:  her career, her personal relationships, even her life.
After a suicide attempt, she believes her faith in God allowed her to survive. She wrote her autobiography--along with working on the film project and some new music--because, as she explains, "I wanted to be understood by the gay community and I want to be understood by the non-gay community." She hopes to counter what young people are still being told in conservative churches, just like she was.
Some of her emotional turmoil is revealed through her sharing of her video diaries, including some additional controversial moments. She remains a conservative Christian who hopes to still reach that audience, but she dropped the f-bomb while venting about an argument with her book editor over some long-ago swimsuit shots.
When I interviewed Wright about the scene, she admitted it was something she was reluctant to make public, "but if it was edited out, it wouldn't have been genuine." She explained the argument started over whether the book cover art should show her plain, make-up free, and scholarly-looking, or something closer to her established brand. "I'm a sexy lesbian," she declared. Eventually, the book cover used a glamour shot.
Although she came out to America on The Today Show on May 5, 2010, that was just part of a process that lasted several years and across multi-media platforms. (One major flaw of the film is that we don't see the Today Show interview.) During that period she moved from Nashville, where she lived one dream, to New York, where she began another. She married a woman, Lauren Blitzer, in Aug. 2011.
A CD, Lifted Off the Ground (Vanguard 2010) also came out of what Wright calls, "the trauma of being gay." While recovering from her suicide attempt, she took some songs to acclaimed singer and producer Rodney Crowell. In the film he describes himself as her "straight ally" and relates how she shared a song with him, about how a lover could be either sex, enabling her to come out to him on a private, personal--and musical--level.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Link to Random Lengths: Women's Rights at Historic Crossroads (1/25-2/7/18)

Random Lengths News posted an online version of my article about the women's march, "Women's Rights, Trump at Historic Crossroads" which is also printed in the Jan. 25-Feb.7, 2018 issue:

Should the link be down, here's an edited version:

January 20, 2017:  Donald Trump became president, Republicans dominated Congress, and the outlook on any progress for women looked bleak. Republicans had been waging political war on women’s rights for more than a quarter-century—and now appeared able to pass and enforce any anti-woman laws they pleased, at least until the 2018 elections. 

Women wasted no time mounting opposition. On January 21, millions of women—and others—took to the streets to peacefully and legally demand women’s rights. A protest that started as a social-media post by some disappointed Hillary Clinton supporters morphed into a historical global action. Mobs of protestors thronged to great American metropolitan areas including Washington, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as red-state capitals like Little Rock, Arkansas, and small towns like Chelan, Washington.

 What women’s political empowerment could do was abundantly demonstrated in several states’ off-year elections in November:  Democrats turned Virginia, New Jersey, Washington, and even Oklahoma a little bluer. According to Steven Rosenfeld at Alter-net, “The nation’s leading voter turnout experts said the race was marked by women voting in historically high numbers and overall voter turnout exceeding expectations in non-presidential years.”
On Keith Olbermann’s video-blog “The Resistance,” he noted about half of November’s election results could be seen as morality plays. In Oklahoma a young lesbian Democrat won in a district chockful of Trump supporters. In Virginia a Democrat who identified as transgender beat a Republican who campaigned on keeping public restrooms safe from transgender intruders. A man who lost a woman to gun violence beat a pro-NRA Republican.
As 2017 concluded, Time magazine chose some women it labelled “silence breakers” for its Dec. 10 “Person of the Year” cover. Some were famous (singer Taylor Swift, actress Ashley Judd), others ordinary (engineer Susan Fowler, farmworker Isabel Pascual, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and an anonymous woman only partly seen). Together they represented what Time characterized as the “#metoo” movement, from a Twitter hashtag where thousands of women (and men) had recently begun sharing experiences of sexual harassment. The accompanying lengthy article reported dozens of them. Some were formal legal complaints, others were, well, “just” complaints.
Time was referencing a new surge of outrage against sexual harassment—the movement’s birth may have been Oct. 5, when the New York Times broke the story that powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had a history of sexual harassment. Judd, Rosanna Arquette, Lupita Nyong’o, Daryl Hannah, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan, and Gwyneth Paltrow were among the dozens of actresses and other working women who reported incidents with Weinstein. In the backlash he was run out of Hollywood.
The fallout turned into a mighty stream that’s still cascading, as public accusations which a short time ago might have been scorned, mocked, or simply pushed aside as lacking “evidence” are suddenly being taken seriously. The lasting effect on America’s political landscape is uncertain as the 2018 election season looms.
So far the outrage has only resulted in the downfall of two major politicians—both Democrats. Sen. Al Franken resigned after several women accused him of kissing them without their consent years ago. Rep. John Conyers, a civil-rights icon who presided over Nixon’s downfall, resigned after his history of settling sexual harassment complaints was revealed. Both men were dependable votes for women’s rights, but their party told them they had to go.
At the same time Republicans—the party and its voters--appear to care little, if at all, about credible allegations of outright sexual abuse, including complaints about Trump, Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore, and others who openly despise women’s rights. Election season 2018 will tell whether voters will continue to allow Republicans to make war on women. The Trump presidency has put women at a historic crossroads.