Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Return's Playlist on Spotify

Last week, I reviewed Brad Boney's book The Return.  The last time I got so excited over a book was Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.  I read a lot and usually love most of the books I read, but occasionally one just speaks to me in a special way.  The Return did.  I loved how he interwove the stories together.  The coincidences gave me goosebumps, and of course, I now understand why.  As a historian and researcher myself, I love the amount of research and accuracy Boney put into his books.  So many authors just make up details or mesh together numerous details to create the perfect setting.  From what I can tell, Boney uses real settings and doesn't seem to compromise on the details.

Tuesday night, I wrote an email to Brad Boney thanking him for retweeting my review and for posting it to Facebook.  In my email, I mentioned how much I enjoyed reading about all of the music mentioned in the book, and would love to be able to listen to all of it.  I suggested that he make a playlist to share on Spotify.  (If you don't have Spotify and you are a lover of music, it is a necessary app to have.). Boney liked the idea of a Spotify list.  I was even more amazed that he sent me a follow-up email last night with a link for a Spotify list containing the music from The Return.

If you are interested in listening to the music, you can click the link below to listen to Brad Boney's playlist for The Return on Spotify:

I hope you guys enjoy this as much as I do.  If you haven't read the The Nothingness of Ben and The Return, I strongly urge you to do so. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Naked Sleeping and Relationships

A recent survey conducted by Cotton USA asked 1000 British people in relationships what they wear to bed and how happy they were in their current relationships. The survey found that couples who sleep in the buff had happier relationships, more sex and stronger bonds.

57% of those who reported sleeping naked said they felt happy, compared with 48% of pajama wearers and 43% of nightie wearers.

Manhattan-based therapist and relationship expert Amber Madison wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“Being naked in bed with your partner is physically and emotionally intimate,” she said. “It’s a way of showing, ‘I want to be close to you’ and a green light for sex. That intimacy and emotional and physical availability is what keeps a relationship strong in light of daily stressors and challenges.”

I asked a friend of mine who has a pretty wonderful relationship with his boyfriend, if they are usually naked when they sleep together.  He said that they usually are, but occasionally will wear briefs to bed.  When I am sleeping in bed with someone, I certainly feel closer and more connected if we are both naked.  I also certainly understand why couples who sleep together naked would have more sex.  What's better than waking up naked next to your partner when either or both of you have morning wood.

The study also looked at general sleeping habits and relationships. It found that dirty clothes on the floor, clutter and beds left unmade are big turn-offs. Eating in bed, allowing pets in the bedroom, stealing the covers and wearing socks to sleep were also listed as pet peeves. Full story here via the Gaily Grind!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love Returned

Love Returned
Bayard Taylor

 He was a boy when first we met;
     His eyes were mixed of dew and fire,
And on his candid brow was set
     The sweetness of a chaste desire:
But in his veins the pulses beat
     Of passion, waiting for its wing,
As ardent veins of summer heat
     Throb through the innocence of spring.

As manhood came, his stature grew,
     And fiercer burned his restless eyes,
Until I trembled, as he drew
     From wedded hearts their young disguise.
Like wind-fed flame his ardor rose,
     And brought, like flame, a stormy rain:
In tumult, sweeter than repose,
     He tossed the souls of joy and pain.

So many years of absence change!
     I knew him not when he returned:
His step was slow, his brow was strange,
     His quiet eye no longer burned.
When at my heart I heard his knock,
     No voice within his right confessed:
I could not venture to unlock
     Its chambers to an alien guest.

Then, at the threshold, spent and worn
     With fruitless travel, down he lay:
And I beheld the gleams of morn
     On his reviving beauty play.
I knelt, and kissed his holy lips,
     I washed his feet with pious care;
And from my life the long eclipse
     Drew off; and left his sunshine there.

He burns no more with youthful fire;
     He melts no more in foolish tears;
Serene and sweet, his eyes inspire
     The steady faith of balanced years.
His folded wings no longer thrill,
     But in some peaceful flight of prayer:
He nestles in my heart so still,
     I scarcely feel his presence there.

O Love, that stern probation o’er,
     Thy calmer blessing is secure!
Thy beauteous feet shall stray no more,

     Thy peace and patience shall endure!
The lightest wind deflowers the rose,
     The rainbow with the sun departs,
But thou art centred in repose,
     And rooted in my heart of hearts!

Monday, August 18, 2014

MCM: Zac Efron

Last night, I watched 17 Again, a cute little movie with Zac Efron in it.  It's worth watching.  And while Zac may have some substance abuse problems, and I hope he's getting the treatment he needs, I still think Zac is one of the top ten hottest men in Hollywood, and gets better looking every year.

I knew immediately it was a hoax when I read that James Franco was the first to officially congratulate his brother Dave and hunky heartthrob Zac Efron on their newly-public relationship, posting a screenshot of an article confirming the new Hollywood power couple on Instagram.

“Effron [sic] and My brother, dating!!!!!!”, he writes. “Congrats, boys! I’m so happy for you!!!”
The news of Efron’s brand new relationship with his Neighbors costar comes less than a month after reports linked him to openly bisexual actress Michelle Rodriguez. It is also, unfortunately, totally fake.

But wouldn't they make a beautiful couple.  And Dave does seem to have his eye on "Lil Zac."

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Walking in Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.1 John 1:5:10

1 John is a great book. If you have not read it or not read it recently I suggest that you do. In this post I want to discuss how we are able to walk in the light, in future posts I plan to explore more of the Epistles of John. Do we simply decide one day that we want to start walking in the light? Are there any requirements we must meet before we begin to walk in the light? If these seem like “loaded” questions they are so please don’t hold that against me.

First, lets define what “walking in the light” means. We are given the context in verse 5 where we are told that God is light. We must also know that when we see “walking” in the Bible, it often is a metaphor for how we live our day-to-day lives. With these things in mind it becomes clear what “walking in the light” means. It means to be living daily in accordance to God’s commands. Simple enough, right? Now that we know what “walking in the light” means we must turn our attention to how we can actually live according to God’s commands. This is not a small task.

Walking in the light is the opposite of walking in darkness. It means seeing reality for what it is and being controlled by desires that accord with God's light. If God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, then he is the bright pathway to the fulfillment of all our deepest longings. He is the deliverer from all dark dangers and obstacles to joy. He is the infinitely desirable One.

What does God want of me? What does God want of us? Probably every Christian has asked these very questions. They are asked in times of anguish, during crisis and decision making and, implicitly and explicitly, on a day-to-day basis. What does God require of those who want to offer their sincere allegiance and devotion?

God has created human beings in such a way that they continue learning and growing intellectually all throughout life. It is normal, natural and desirable that we continue to grow, even in our understanding of the Bible and theology. That is one of the reasons we attend church. Obviously we go to worship the Lord but we also go to learn from the Bible. This also means that as I grow, I become more responsible than I was earlier in my life. Paul teaches this same truth about love when he says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish way s behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11). The implication of this passage is that earlier in our life—when we had a simple understanding of truth, God accepted us and our ignorance. However, as we received more and more information, God holds us to a higher level of understanding.

So, if we continue learning and growing intellectually in our relationship with God, are we then doing what God wants? Are we walking in the light? We cannot simply mark these things off on a checklist. For there is a unifying thread woven through the pattern of "walking in the light." These "expectations" are unified by an understanding of God's character and of God's activity in Christ. Thus John begins with an assertion about God, the simple statement that God is light. Everything depends upon and flows from that statement. It is worth examining at some length.

Once we recognize our need for a Savior we are willing to listen and respond to the Gospel.  We must hear and respond to the Gospel before we can “walk in the light”.  When we respond to the Gospel, by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God adopts us into His family.  We become joint heirs with Jesus.  We must be adopted into His family before we can “walk in the light”.  As adopted children, we then become responsible to live under the authority of our heavenly Father.  This means following His commands.  When we follow His commands in our day to day lives we are “walking in the light”.  Verse 7 gives us the benefits of “walking in the light”.  We will have fellowship with one another and will be cleansed by the blood of Christ.

Are you “walking in the light”?  As I read this passage, I couldn't help but remember one of my favorite hymns, which I want to leave you with.

Heavenly Sunlight
Henry J. Zelley, pub.1899

Walking in sunlight all of my journey;
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the Light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.

In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.

Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Symphony of Words: A Review of Brad Boney's The Return

The Return by Brad Boney

A friend of mine recently suggested that I read Brad Boney's two books: The Nothingness of Ben and The Return.  I will admit that I listened to them on audiobook.  I drive back and forth to work each day forty minutes both ways, so audiobooks are an easy way for me to consume new books, without me staying up all night long reading as I often do with books.  While The Nothingness of Ben is a wonderful book and a true joy to read (and by the way must be read before The Return), The Return is an absolute masterpiece of gay fiction.  It is a symphony of words and one of the most masterful pieces of literature that I have read in years.

Here's a quick description of The Return
Music. Topher Manning rarely thinks about anything else, but his day job as a mechanic doesn't exactly mesh with his rock star ambitions. Unless he can find a way to unlock all the songs in his head, his band will soon be on the fast track to obscurity.  
Then the South by Southwest music festival and a broken-down car drop New York critic Stanton Porter into his life. Stanton offers Topher a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert, where a hesitant kiss and phantom vibrations from Topher’s cell phone kick off a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.
There is a lot of music associated with The Return, and it only seems fitting that I review it using symphonic allegory, at least that's what I calling it.  A classic symphony is in four parts:  1) an opening sonata or allegro, 2) a slow movement, such as adagio, 3) a minuet or scherzo with trio and 4) an allegro, rondo, or sonata.  The book loosely follows this pattern.  It begins with the opening sonata or allegro which is fast, quickly, and bright.  There is a whirlwind of things happening in the beginning, but once you start you are hooked and can't stop.  Then there is a slow movement, adagio, which is slow and stately.  I will admit it slows down and you think this book will be quite predictable.  I thought I knew where it was going and what would happen, yet I couldn't have been more wrong.  The scherzo can frequently be referred to a fast-moving humorous composition which may or may not be part of a larger work.  In the case of The Return, this come approximately in the middle of the book and holds the novel together.  It's fast.  It grabs your attention and the tears begin to flow.  It's all about a tying together of events, and Brad Boney is a master of this.  The third quarter of the book has a rising crescendo that grasps you emotionally.  Every emotion is tugged at and your heart swells and sinks as the book progresses.  Once the book reaches it's climax and you know how things will end, or at least you think you know, you must continue even though you know the emotional roller coaster is no where near its end.  The last couple of chapter, the last quarter of the book, is the second climax that brings things together that you would have never guessed.  When you think the book becomes predictable, hold on to your seat.  Many classical rondos feature music of a popular or folk character.  In the fourth movement of The Return, the central character of most serious gay fiction since the 1980s is also a major character.  If you don't understand, I'm speaking of the AIDS epidemic.  As I said though, this is an emotional roller coaster and one that you will not want to get off of.

In the literary history of gay fiction, you have books such as E.M. Forster's Maurice in which the main character find tragedy and sadness as a punishment for his homosexuality. The same is the case with the heart wrenching Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.  Gay authors were not allowed to publish books with a happy ending.  Then came the liberation of gay fiction in the 1970s and happiness could be seen in gay fiction for the first time. But once the AIDS epidemic begins, gay literature takes on a mourning period.  There are no more happy endings, only lessons of loss.  By the 2000s, there was a return of more cheerful books of gay fiction, romance and mystery.  These books were whimsical and fun, but publishers have since largely closed their gay imprints and ebooks and independent publishers have replaced the gay imprints. And finally, those who love gay fiction can find a large supply of books to read.  Some of the authors, such as Brad Boney, Amy Lane, Xavier Mayne, LB Greg, JB Sanders, and KC Burn are creating beautiful and emotional love stories, some are even still whimsical such as JB Sanders.  Not all of this proliferation of gay literature is readable or even mildly entertaining, but just as with the authors I just mentioned, there are numerous gems to be found.

I mentioned at the beginning that I listened to this book.  It was read by the actor Charlie David, who,read both The Nothingness of Ben and The Return.  I will admit, that Charlie David is a good reader, but some of this southern pronunciations of names and especially places is off in The Nothingness of Ben.  But with The Return, David had found his ability to capture the voices and settings.  He adds the emotions and conveys them like no other narrator I have ever heard.  There is one scene when Topher is on the plane coming back from NYC and he calls his band mate Peter and cries.  Charlie David's voice breaks, and I cried with Topher.  I can't imagine anyone reading a book with the emotions and savvy of Charlie David.  He was perfection in his reading of The Return.

The Return does transcend ordinary possibility and borders on fantasy or science fiction, but it's a beautiful story and the end will blow you away.  You just read this book, and along the way, listen to some of the songs mentioned.  It will truly bring the book alive, especially if you aren't listening to Charlie David read it.