The Houseboy: A Review Sunday, Aug 31 2008 

A couple of weeks ago, PJ and I watched The Houseboy, a 2007 movie written and directed by Spencer Schilly. It stars Nick May as Ricky, a young gay man who is romantically involved with a couple. As the movie begins, it is immediately clear that one member of the couple is very much interested in maintaining the threesome while the other partner is not.

The film’s plot follows Ricky as he house sits for the two men when they go away for Christmas holiday (he has his own apartment and doesn’t live with them).  He takes care of the rabbits, fish, and cats (sometimes), meets another gay guy his own age whose family lives in the neighborhood, and invites random strangers back to the apartment for drugs and sex. Here’s the trailer:

As the trailer suggests, Ricky is kind of lost. His life is full of drugs and sex, so much so that he’s lost touch with anything else. He’s in a relationship that isn’t going to last, and he doesn’t know how to relate to other gay men apart from sex.

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Summer Music Part 4: Jason Mraz Wednesday, Aug 27 2008 

Earlier this month I composed a series of posts about the music I’ve been listening to this summer. I still have a few albums to go. One of my favorites has been Jason Mraz‘s new album, We Sing We Dance We Steal Things.(Btw, check out his webpage at www.jasonmraz.com — it’s great too!)

I really liked his first album, 2002’s Waiting for My Rocket to Come, but I have to admit that I never paid any attention to his sophomore effort, Mr. A-Z, which came out in 2005. Sometime around the time We Sing We Dance We Steal Things came out, however, Mraz garnered a lot of attention on some of the gay blogs that I read due to the following picture:

Apparently, Mraz posted this picture on his myspace page as part of a discussion of vegetarianism (or something like that — I didn’t see the original posting; I just followed it on the blogs). I’ve always thought that he was really hot, so let’s just say that this picture got my attention and alerted me to the fact that he had an album coming out.

Shortly after seeing the picture, I saw the video for the new album’s lead-off single, “I’m Yours,” on Vh1:

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Traipsing Down Memory Lane Sunday, Aug 24 2008 

I blame this entirely on my mother. She’s been asking me to find some old photos of a play that I was in when I was in eighth grade. I finally went down to the basement today to see if the pictures were in a box down there. They were, so I started scanning them so that I could send her electronic copies. It didn’t take long before I was mildly obsessed with googling and facebooking my old classmates to see what had happened to some of them. One search led to another, and before I knew it I had spent the entire afternoon looking people up online, signing up for the alumni associations of my high school and undergraduate institutions, and joining classmates.com!

I went to junior high in Nederland, Texas. Nederland is a small residential community outside of Beaumont. We moved there when I was starting sixth grade. I was in the “theater arts” class in part of seventh and all of eighth and ninth grades. The seventh-grade class was just an introduction to theater arts; in eighth and ninth grades we participated in producing plays and other theatrical events. Our first play was a production of The Wizard of Oz, a one-act version based more on the book than the 1939 movie. These were the pictures that my mom wanted. I thought I’d share a few here.

Here’s Dorothy as she arrived in Oz. She’s talking to our Glinda and the munchkins:

I played the scarecrow.

My mom made my costume. If you look closely, you’ll see the striped socks that I’m wearing. I still have them. They’re not wearable, of course, but I’ve always kept them as a memento of when I first fell in love with theater.

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Visiting Arkansas Friday, Aug 22 2008 

PJ and I spent a week in Arkansas visiting friends and his family. We had a great time, but it wasn’t the kind of trip that packed one exciting activity after another. It wasn’t Niagara Falls, in other words. That makes blogging about it a little difficult.

We went to Fayetteville first to visit our friends who live there. PJ went to the University of Arkansas for his undergraduate degree, and we’ve gone back there almost every year since we first got together. It’s interesting to see how much it’s changed in the last 14 years.

We also make the pilgrimage to see Harrington, the first cat that I spent any time around. She’s a great cat. When she was younger, she played a milk top game for pounce treats. That was our first glimpse at what a cat can add to a household. She’s older and kind of frail now, but she’s still great. Here’s her picture:

I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me as we did things, so I can’t illustrate all of my opinions, but I’ll relate the highlights anyway.

Once of my favorite Fayetteville landmarks is the Dickson Street Bookshop. It’s a great used book store. For years, I slowly bought the store’s collection of books from one of UA’s former eighteenth-century scholars, including his 11 volume set of Pepys’s diary. I highly recommend that anyone who likes to read stop by the Dickson Street Bookshop.

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Lord Peter Wimsey on Page and Screen Tuesday, Aug 12 2008 

This summer I’ve been reading Dorothy L. SayersLord Peter Wimsey novels. I had read a few of them years ago when I was in college, but I hadn’t really read very many of them. So, I started with the Lord Peter-Harriet Vane novels — Strong Poison (1930), Have His Carcase (1932), and Gaudy Night (1935) — before going back to the beginning of the Lord Peter novels,Whose Body? (1923). In addition to those novels, I’ve read Clouds of Witness (1926), Unnatural Death (1927), and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928). I’ve just started Five Red Herrings (1931), but I have to admit that I’m losing steam and may have to take a break from Sayers for a bit.

Sayers is one of the great writers for the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. She started her literary career as a poet before World War I. After the war, she decided to try her hand at detective fiction. In all, she wrote ten Wimsey novels and two collections of short stories. She also composed a play that takes place during Lord Peter’s honeymoon with Harriet. After she discontinued her detective series, she wrote religious plays, translated Dante, and composed several nonfiction works.

Having now read the majority of her novels, I have to say that Sayers is the greatest detective writer I’ve ever read. When I was younger, I spent a summer reading Agatha Christie’s works and I’ve always considered myself a Christie devotee. In graduate school, I took up reading Patricia Cornwell‘s novels, the first few of which, at least, are excellent, scary reads. And of course there’s Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Sherlock Holmes stories and novels are unrivaled in the genre — or at least they were until Sayers came along.

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Summer Music Part 3: Bishop Allen Thursday, Aug 7 2008 

My favorite band right now is Bishop Allen. I first came across their music in Andrew Bujalski’s movies, which PJ and I saw earlier this summer during our mumblecore summer film festival. I really liked Justin Rice‘s music in Mutual Appreciation, so I bought Charm School (2003) and The Broken Strong (2007) from iTunes. Rice and Christian Rudder are the primary members of this New York-based band. Both are connected to Bujalski: just as Rice starred in Mutual Appreciation, Rudder co-starred in Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha.

Since Charm School is the older of the two albums, I listened to it first. I instantly fell in love with this band’s quirky alt-pop sound. My favorite tracks off the album are “Things Are What You Make of Them,” “Quarter to Three,” and “Empire City.” Here’s a live version of “Things Are What You Make of Them:”

I loved the first album so much, that I was a little resistant to the second one. At first, I thought it was too sophisticated and that the band had lost its charm. But after listening to The Broken String more closely, I now love it as much as the first one.

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Summer Music Part 2: Adele Tuesday, Aug 5 2008 

Yesterday I wrote about Duffy’s Rockferry. Another album that I’ve loved this summer is Adele‘s 19. Adele is also British — she hails from North London — but her sound is quite different from Duffy’s. Adele is much more a jazz musician than neo-soul or a throwback to the 1960s. Here’s a sample of her music, her first single, “Chasing Pavements:”

I first heard “Chasing Pavements” on Vh1. Of course the visuals of the video are eye-catching. It’s a great, creative video. But what really held my attention was the vocal. I like her combination of pop and jazz. The overall sound is pop, but her articulation and styling is jazz. It’s definitely very listenable.

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Summer Music Part 1: Duffy Monday, Aug 4 2008 

I’ve been meaning to blog about the music I’ve been listening to this summer. I’ve put it off long enough that I’ve got about a week’s worth of posts to write, so I decided to make this music week. I’ll try to write about one album each day.

Today’s album is Duffy‘s Rockferry. I only started listening to it a week ago — PJ and I heard “Mercy” on the radio as we were driving back from Canada and then I got it from iTunes as soon as we got home — but I already love this album!

Duffy is part of the new British invasion of neo-soul singers. She’s often compared to Amy Winehouse, but her music actually sounds very different from Winehouse’s. First off, I love just about everything British — I’m totally the stereotypical American Anglophile. Second, I love this neo-soul movement — Winehouse, Adele, Paulo Nutini. Everything becomes new again, and this music is hot!

Here’s a sample, “Stepping Stone,” one of my favorite tracks from the album:

Duffy is a 24-year-old singer from Wales. She sounds like a modernized version of Dusty Springfield, but according to wikipedia she dislikes the comparison. Nevertheless, I think the comparison is apt.

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Summer Movie Reviews Sunday, Aug 3 2008 

I posted my comments on Mamma Mia a few weeks ago, but PJ and I have also seen several other films at the theater this summer that I haven’t had time to review yet. So, I thought that I would sit down and write one post to catch up. To organize my post, I’ll move from my least favorite to my favorite.

5. X-Files: I Want to Believe

PJ and I began what was then our friendship watching X-Files together almost every Friday night back in 1994 and 95. I will therefore always have a soft spot for the early years of the series (i.e., before it got so hopelessly bogged down in its “mythology”). Consequently, I was really looking forward to seeing the new movie and to finding out what Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have been up to.

Some of X-Files: I Want to Believe fulfilled my expectations. I like what’s happened between Scully and Mulder. I also like that each is still having a crisis of faith — Scully in God and the Catholic Church and Mulder in the paranormal. Gillian Anderson is particularly good at conveying Scully’s dilemmas and issues.

Unfortunately, however, the plot of the movie is just ludicrous. The moment that it became laughably bad was when Scully conducts her research into stem cells as a cure for a rare brain disease on google. She literally goes from googling “stem cells” to operating on a kid, inserting stem cells into his brain. What’s more, she does this in a Catholic hospital. It gets worse from there, including one plot twist that is needlessly homophobic. The “x-file” in the film is just stupid and ultimately insulting to the franchise’s fans.

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The Shaw Theatre Festival Saturday, Aug 2 2008 

While on vacation last week, PJ and I saw two plays at the Shaw Theatre Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Shaw Festival started in 1962 and is dedicated to staging the works of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) and his contemporaries.

American audiences are probably most familiar with Shaw’s Pygmalion, since it was the basis of the musical My Fair Lady. (I read the play in high school.) But Shaw wrote a large number of plays, many of which are still part of the repertoire, including Man and Superman (1903), Major Barbara (1905), and Saint Joan (1923).

Neither PJ nor I have ever enjoyed Shaw’s plays all that much, so we didn’t have the highest expectations. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed Niagara-on-the-Lake and the two plays we saw at the festival.

The first play we saw was Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession. The play centers on Vivie, played by Moya O’Connell. Vivie is a rather prudish, mannish kind of young woman who intends to become an actuary now that she has graduated from Cambridge. As the play begins, Vivie is joined in the country by her mother’s friend, Praed, played by David Jansen, and eventually by her mother, Mrs. Warren, played by Mary Haney. Over the first two acts, Vivie learns that her mother has supported her through prostitution (Vivie has been raised by surrogates while Mrs. Warren has lived on the continent). After hearing her mother describe her early life in poverty, Vivie initially forgives her for her choices, but when she learns in Act 3 that her mother’s extremely profitable business is still in operation (Mrs. Warren now serves as CEO of the company), she decides to repudiate her and swears never to see her again. In the meantime, other revelations about Mrs. Warren’s past doom Vivie’s relationship with her young man, Frank, played by Andrew Bunker.

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