Jun 8, 2020

German for beginners -- Lederhosen

Our friend Sacha (depicted as Jack Horn in our literary oeuvre) and we have been back and forth today about receiving pictures from friends concerning a country that both of us left 40 or 45 years years ago. So...along those lines, here are pictures concerning things which are still happening today in those parts:

Why do you do this, you'll ask, putting up this post? Well, we want to sell our books, and here's a fragment from our first novel, Green Eyes, a finalist of the Lambda Literary Awards...and which--TADAA--came out out in a German translation last month. 
The fragment involves Maurice Dymond, a recent acquaintance of our narrator John Lee, who's telling about Godehart Wagner, a fictional fifth generation member of the Richard Wagner clan:

"[Godehart] tells me his life story. He’s from this minor branch of the Wagner family, but somehow he still holds some rights to the Wagner name. Not for the music, of course, that belongs to the public domain, but in some way Wagner’s name is still protected under German law, some special provisions enacted by the Nazis, and he makes his money with Wagner mugs, and Wagner busts, and this themed stuff that you find in tourists shops. And he sells leather shorts, Bavarian leather shorts, emblazoned with the Wagner motif. You know—-these garments that they wear with Tyrolean hats when appearing on the telly where they dance to the tune of Bavarian square dances, jodlers, if you will, and slap their thighs to the rhythm of the music. You are aware of that folly if you ever watched German television. It’s of no importance when you switch to a German channel, there shall always be men in Bavarian shorts and Tyrolean hats, slapping their thighs.
“Impossible.” [John]
“Mind you, they don’t dance to Wagner music, just a jodler.”
“But the Wagner theme, how do you combine this with leather shorts?” [John asking]
“Good question, no idea.”
“Do you know whether Wagner was gay, too?” [John]

“Actually I asked Godehart. Wagner wasn’t officially gay, but he had an affair with the young king of Bavaria, Ludwig the Second, Godehart told me. Ludwig furthered Wagner’s career, in fact, he underwrote his productions and built opera houses for him. Wagner would not have succeeded without Ludwig. So perhaps Wagner wasn’t gay, perhaps it was just the casting-couch behavior of an ambitious composer. But we can’t be so sure. Wagner and Ludwig exchanged quite a few letters, quite explicit, passionate ones, the jury is out on that one.”
“How do you know?” [John asking]
“Well, Godehart told me, I asked pointed questions.”
“Nobody asks pointed questions anymore.” [John]
“I do,” he says.

Buy the book, here: 

Green Eyes

Jun 1, 2020

Afternoon picnic

...just back from an afternoon picnic in the park, the "forêt domaniale de l'Estérel":

May 14, 2020

Michael was born 4 years later and still remembers the ruins

(Our friend Glenn sent this:)

Fragment, fragment...yes, here, cool, from Michael's essay, My Childhood Ruined, which tells about his youth in the suburb of Berlin-Grunewald:

Halfway experiences are also fairly common, I believe, and it took me some time to get over the shitty first sex of my teens, like when Amy, another classmate, him from Armenia, living alone with his father in one of the villas not bombed out, took me to the plot opposite his home which had been cleared of the rubble and grown into an orchard of sour apples with an undergrowth of stinging nettle—-and then suggested that we’d play doctor. We had barely started when Evelyn, whom I hated, and who was officially my friend, turned up and sent us scampering into the stinging nettle.

Fruit trees and cleared plots weren’t typical, however. Roughly half the splendid villas of the Grunewald, by reputation Berlin’s most residential area, had gotten hit by air raids during the war and burned down to black skeletons of eternal stone and reinforced concrete, with rusty steel rods sticking out and begging for accidents to happen like when you were chasing an Indian under fully-feathered headdress up to the fourth floor of the rubble and trip and fall to your death. Yes, fourth floor, or fifth even, since these structures had been built by the nouveau riche in the ’70 and ‘80’s of the nineteenth century when Berlin became the capital of the Second Reich. Falls from ruins never happened, though, or were never reported in the West-Berlin of the ‘50s, an insular place so devoid of news that nothing ever happened—-save for a world-shaking crisis when Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Communist World, threatened to take us by force and unclench WW3—-so the press had to play along and beg any visiting celebrity to confirm with his/her own eyes that—-yes—-Berlin was still the Hauptstadt, even though the government resided in Bonn and anything of consequence had decamped to Munich in Bavaria, including Siemens, the founder of local Siemensstadt (don’t ask).
How about the fruit trees, then? Well, if you’d trip while aiming your pistol at this Indian, you wouldn’t land on an apple tree, but on an Acacia. Nobody ever remarked on it, or explained it, but newly grown Acacias dominated the ruined plots, whole forests of them, until Khrushchev’s ultimatum was forgotten, investors regained confidence, and reconstruction got under way.

May 11, 2020

Plato's Symposium

Here's little Michael, done by David Cantero, posing--yes, that's the word--posing as Phaedrus, son of Pythocles, the first speaker in Plato's Symposium (each guest is supposed to give an encomium on EROS, the eponymous God of Love).

Just so that you know. I believe I should rather play one of the slaves, but anyhow.

Fragment, fragment. Here, from our script: 

PHAEDRUS (begins): Eros is a great and wonderful god…
PH: for he is one of the oldest gods. Hesiod says that Chaos came first---followed by Gaia, and Eros.

CAPTION: (Hesiod goes on) “…Eros, who is the most beautiful among the immortal gods. He is the dissolver of care who overpowers the mind and the thoughtful council of gods and humans alike.”
PH: Eros is also the source of the greatest benefits. I know of no greater blessing for a young man than to have a good lover, and for any lover, to have a proper beloved.
PH: The principle that must guide men who strive to live a noble life—-the principle of honor—-is best fostered by love, not by birth, money, or other means. Without this sense of honor, neither states nor individuals can ever do great work. 
PH: And, I say that a lover who is detected doing anything dishonorable, he will be more pained at being found out by his beloved than, say, by his father, or his companions. And the beloved, when he is found in a disgraceful situation, will feel likewise. 
[IMAGE: Sacred Band of Thebes]

PH: If there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, it is beyond imagination how well they could do, refraining from anything base, contending with each other in the pursuit of immortality, and exhibiting such valor in battle that—-even as a mere handful—-they could overcome the world.

Sacred Band of Thebes, random picture from the web

In this spirit, n'est-ce pas?

May 9, 2020

German for beginners: Grüne Augen by Michael Ampersant

Finally, folks, the GREEN EYES are out in a German translation with the DeadSoftPress. Have a look:

Michael Amperesant, Grüne Augen

May 5, 2020


We'll explain later, but we are working on Plato's Symposium again, and here we have a scene from Aristophanes' speech, the Council of the Gods pondering what to do with the uppity primordial humans:

Rafael: Council of the gods, cropped

Apr 12, 2020

Green Eyes -- the fishbowl -- This Is Heaven

The Green Eyes are coming out soon in a German translation, so lets draw the attention of our readers to this...

...a fishbowl, yes, because a fishbowl plays an important role in the sequel to the Green Eyes, This Is Heaven.

The Green Eyes tell of a "romantic" love story between two gay protagonists, John Lee and Alexander Iglesias. The sequel continues with our heroes, and because they are already together--some reviewers complained that they are not "together" enough--the story is about something else than sheer romance, and murder is always a good substitute. And so, John, as the potential suspect of a potential murder committed in the darkroom of his town's only gay club, is called to the local police station, where he's interviewed by a certain Mario LaStrada, a homicide detective.  And, yes, I have no recollection how I got this idea, but I had to animate the scene somewhat and a fishbowl came to mind. The bowl subsequently appears in various chapters since John is called to the police station at various times, but when John is called in for the last time (after that, LaStrada wont be in the position to call in anybody anymore), John is asking himself the question:

What will be the strada this time?

It will be the fishbowl. The glass container has grown in size and is studied intently by the inspector upon my arrival. We’re watching a detective flick from the ‘40’s—-educating the audience how the suspect is broken down by sheer disregard for his awkward presence. LaStrada has a point though, the toy fish of old has gotten company by three brethren, all looking more or less like goldfish, but not quite. And if my mammal bias is of any help: the fish don’t like each other.


He [LaStrada] is turning to the fish bowl again. Previously, a single fish turned its pointless rounds at a leisurely clip, but now there are four of them, and a sense of purpose has taken hold. Were it not for the bowl’s spherical shape, one would fear for the centrifugal forces, the fish being misled by inertia and missing a turn. 

Isn't this neat? Murphy's law inverted, partially. Whatever can get right does get right, and so we hit on this gif picture  with a fish missing its turn. There's more about these fish in This Is Heaven. Perversion, sex, anything. Get yourself a copy, here.

Apr 11, 2020

German for beginners -- Ralf König

We've been fans of the German comic artist Ralf König for quite some time. Here's one of his latest strips (need hints (? ), scroll down):


"Mundschutzmasken" -- face masks (first panel)
"Fetischisten" -- fetishists (third panel)
"Wir Fetischisten sind jetzt klar im Vorteil" -- Us fetishists are clearly having an advantage in this situation (third panel)

Contact us if you need more help: michael.ampersant@gmail.com

Apr 9, 2020

Sunlight is the best disinfectant

We're getting concerned questions as to whether we are safe and well. Well, here's a picture of our face masks, hanging outside for sunny disinfection. We put them on when we go shopping. There are no shortages in the local Lidl, not even of toilet paper.

Mar 30, 2020

Donald Trump -- a comprehensive explanation of his success

Donald Trump, mocking a handicapped member of the audience

If you're like us, you've been kept awake at night ever since the summer of 2016---when Hillary Clinton, despite the pundits' communis opinio, never managed to escape the shadow of Trump's polling numbers, and eventually succumbed to them---so, you've been kept awake at night about/by Trump, and by the question: HOW COME.

And we are still being kept awake, four years later. Well, here's a COMPREHENSIVE EXPLANATION of the Trump phenomenon. 

Simple minds, like ours---with their reptile brains schooled by Occam's razor---always look for THE explanation, THE cause, when it's almost always a COMBINATION OF FACTORS that leads to serious accidents. 

This comprehensive explanation here, by Bobby Azarian, was published in 2018 on the blog of Psychology Today. It combines fourteen factors. It feels a bit dated at the edges with its references to HILLARY (who, we might add, was factor #15). Still, you'll sleep better once you've read it. It all makes sense. Trump makes sense, regrettably; he's not our fault---as opposed to Hillary---so don't let her disturb your future nightmares: 

Bobby Azarian Ph.D.

A Complete Psychological Analysis of Trump's Support--Science can help us make sense of the president's political invincibility.

Posted Dec 27, 2018

Whether we want to or not, we must try to understand the Donald Trump phenomenon, as it has completely swept the nation and also fiercely divided it. What is most baffling about it all is Trump’s apparent political invincibility. As he himself said even before he won the presidential election, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

In all fairness, we should recognize that lying is sadly not uncommon for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but the frequency and magnitude of the current president’s lies should have us all wondering why they haven’t destroyed his political career, and instead perhaps strengthened it. Similarly, we should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven’t sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy.” Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and such a revelation would likely have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man’s political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While various popular articles have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.

Mar 27, 2020

"Grüne Augen" cover reveal

Dead soft---yes, we also had to ask---the German queer romance press---so, Dead Soft is going to publish the Green Eyes in a German translation, which is due April 28. Here's the cover. Isn't it pretty?

We'll let you know more as soon as we have the buy-links.

And here's how it starts:

Liebe Leser, das erste Kapitel dieser Geschichte beschreibt eine zufällige Begegnung dreier Männer in den Dünen hinter dem Schwulenstrand meines Ortes. Es ist in krasser Sprache geschrieben—-einer Sprache, die Sie irritieren oder sogar verletzen könnte. Ich habe mich deshalb entschieden, es durch eine knappe Zusammenfassung der dort beschriebenen Ereignisse zu ersetzen—-Ereignisse, die die herzzerreißende, mörderische, aber am Ende doch erbauliche Geschichte der Grünen Augen auslösten.
Mein Name ist John Lee. Ich bin neunundzwanzig Jahre alt und wohne in Georgia Beach im US-Staat Georgia; ich doziere Französisch am Southern Georgia College, einer kleinen Hochschule fünfzig Kilometer süd-westlich nicht weit von der Grenze zu Florida.
Ich bin ein Problemfall. Während meiner Jugend wurde bei mir Bipolarität diagnostiziert, eine manisch-depressive Störung, die wohl für meine Arroganz, Scheuheit, und vielleicht sogar für meine Homosexualität mitverantwortlich ist. Während meiner Jugend war ich noch kontaktfreudig und sexuell aktiv, aber jetzt verkrieche ich mich in meiner kleinen Wohnung am Davis Canal, wo ich—-abgesehen von onanistischen Anstrengungen—-Schach im Internet spiele (und verliere), einen Blog schreibe (den niemand liest) und Seminare vorbereite (die die Studenten hassen). 

Unsere Geschichte beginnt Anfang Juli 2012. Ich wache an einem Sonntagmorgen auf, spüre den Drang nach frischer Luft, und beschließe, einen Spaziergang am Strand zu machen. Während ich am schwulen Teil besagten Strandes vorbeischlendere, begegne ich einem ausgesprochen gutaussehenden Mann. Er ist ungefähr in meinem Alter, aber sein hervorstechendstes Merkmal sind seine faszinierenden, grünen Augen. Wir nehmen voneinander Kenntnis. Der Mann lässt durchblicken, dass er zu einem sofortigen Austausch von Körperflüssigkeiten bereit wäre. Ich folge ihm in die Dünen. Wir entkleiden uns und praktizieren Geschlechtsverkehr. Ein dritter Mann erscheint auf der Bildfläche, entkleidet sich und macht ebenfalls mit. Wir kommen schnell zum Höhepunkt. Die Grünen Augen ziehen sich wieder an und verschwinden von der Bildfläche. In einer überraschenden Wendung—-überraschend zumindest für jeden, der mit dem anonymen Verhalten beim schwulen Cruising vertraut ist—-lädt mich der dritte Mann zu einer Party im Haus eines Freundes später am Abend ein. So weit das erste Kapitel.

...in this spirit...

Mar 13, 2020


..."my book" here is not Michael Ampersant, but "myjetpack"...follow the link...

Feb 11, 2020

Claire Bretécher died at the age of 79

She was a trailblazing comic strip artist with an incredibly explicit page in the Nouvelle Observateur during the '70 and '80 of the last century.

Here's a harmlesser, yet informative drawing from that period:

Do you get it? Don't be shy. (Hint: this joke wouldn't work today (Heidegger was a celebrated German philosopher, who would routinely write lines such as: "Das Sein seint, und das Nichts nichtset" (which don't even make sense in German (J.-P. Sartre visited Germany during the '30's to meet Heidegger and hailed him as the leading inspiration of his own Existentialism (Hanna Arendt was Heidegger's girlfriend before she fled the Nazis and went to America))))). 

(Yes, yours truly did a lot of LISP programming (don't ask)).

Let's get serious: 40 years ago, intellectualism (like dropping names of philosophers) still did things to people; now we have Donald Trump (not Trump's fault (Trump is a symptom, not a cause (as we have been saying long before Obama did))). 

(In this spirit).

Jan 28, 2020

Kate A. Hardy -- Londonia

Our friend Kate Hardy has a serious novel out with a serious publisher printed as a serious hardcover:

The book

The author
We are intensely jealous, of course.

(From the press release:)

Londonia is a magnificently immersive page-turner. Set in 2072, it seems at first to be a dystopia in which the internet and other modern technologies have collapsed. An elite have sealed themselves up in Central London, while everyone else has to get on as best they can, making-do, bartering, and cooperating with their neighbours. Moving between the two societies is Hoxton, a "Finder" of desirable objects, her own past a mystery to be solved, with the help of new friends. Can hope and friendship survive in this strange new world? . . .

(This is how it starts:)

‘Oi! Second floor. Is Tom Ov-Brixton in there?’ Tom takes a drag on the clay pipe and squints at me through the  smoke.  ‘Scrote. That’s  my  hitch—gotta  get  to  the  Forrist  before  darking.’  He  abandons  the  pipe,  rolls  on  top  of  me  and  kisses my forehead. ‘Beauteous, you are.’ I trace a finger over his lips. ‘You too.’ As  we  gaze  at  each  other  a  brassy  note  sounds  in  the  street,  followed by the same voice, now more insistent. Tom leaves the bed and starts stuffing things into his kitbag.  ‘Merda! Can’t find my wrist-clock.’ I  hold  the  weathered  disc  out  to  him  as  he  hops  about,  one  leg  trousered,  the  other  a  naked  white  streak  in  this  dim  room.  ‘Here—it was under your felty.’ He pulls on the rest of his jeans, yanks the belt’s teeth into a well-used notch and takes the timepiece from me. ‘Wouldn’t want to go without that.’ ‘What’s the point of wearing it?’ ‘Hands  still  move,  don’t  they?  Useful  for  calculating  how  much work time’s been done—aclockface,two,three. . . any lane, it was Dad’s. Not worth nothing but it’s a . . .’ ‘Mascot? Talisman?’ ‘Where d’you come from, wordsmith dame?’ He grins at me, face still rosy after the activity that has made this bed so warm. I risk the icy chill, slip out from the covers and scoot to the win-dow,  a  blanket  about  me.  A  makeshift  carriage  waits  outside fronted by two horses, their breath pluming white. A man sitting behind  them  looks  up  at  this  window,  waves  his  arms  in  a  gesture of frustration and yells. ‘I foitling said, is Tom Ov-Brixton in there?’ Heaving up the sash I call down. ‘Just coming.’ Tom  snorts  a  laugh,  shoves  the  last  item  into  his  bag  and  envelops me, blanket and all into a hug. ‘Sorry, I gotta go, and so sorry you can’t stay here.’ I  kiss  his  now-anxious  face.  ‘It’s  fine.  I’m  ready  to  explore  this . . . Londonia—find my way.’ ‘D’accord. They’ll be here soon-time. Tell ’em thanks for the loan of the room.’ ‘I will.’ ‘Can’t xacly take your address, can I?’ ‘Not until I get one.’ He  smiles  sadly.  ‘Write  me,  p’raps.  Ov-Brixton,  Hepping-forrist—might  find  me.  There’s  a  horse-letter-mec  what  goes  in  that direction—from Bethy-green.’ The  brassy  note  shrills  again  and  I  look  out  to  see  the  now  furious-looking man, trumpet in hand. ‘Pizzin’ come  on—got  three  more  to  pick  up  and  Clasher  territory t’get through.’ Tom  shouts  out  a  response,  hugs  me  tight  once  more  then  he’s gone, footsteps clattering on the stairs. I consider the vast everything and nothing before me. I should perhaps  layer-up  and  get  out  there  to  pace  the  streets  and  find          .  .  .  the  next  piece  of  this  life,  but  the  bed  beckons  again  even  with its biting population. The people that own these two rooms will  return  when  the  sun  is  directly  overhead  but  as  the  sky  is  once   again   a   sullen   mass   of   cloud,   it’ll   be   impossible   to   anticipate  their  arrival.  Tom  said  the  merde-mec  always  passes  late morning with his cart of shit-filled buckets, so I’ll wait until then. The bed is still warm. I burrow down into the crackling straw and sweet-stale wool covers; curl, foetus-like, try to remember—anything  from  before  these  last  few  days  of  his  kindness.  A  limpid  blankness  stares  back  at  my  mind’s  eye  before  somnolence fills my conscience. A rattling sound from the street disturbs my slumber. Merde-mec? His call affirms. ‘Bring out yer merde, an’ scraps. Egg for a pail.’ Least I can do for the owners of this place. Hopping out from the covers I cram on shoes and coat and go into the tiny kitchen. The bucket of peelings is full, the other vessel, about half, judging  by  its  weight—no  desire  to  lift  the  lid  .  .  .  I  take  them  and  join  the  other  residents  walking  down  the  stairs  with  their  own  various wastes. The conversation is of never-ending cold, a possible arrival of some charitable and benevolent outfit and scoop-trucks. As we reach the downstairs hall, I ask a man in front of me what these are. He looks at me beneath impressive eyebrows as if I am from a different planet—which I could be. ‘Just don’t be out on the street if you hear a sound like this.’ He  emits  a  wailing  cry  to  which  another  resident  prods  him—‘Nah—more  like  this.’  The  hallway  is  filled  with  eerie  moans  until an old woman clangs her pail with a walking stick. ‘Foitlin’ shut it! Don’t we fear it enough wivout you lot doin’ a re-run.’ 

(You can order the book here, or here; enjoy!)

Jan 23, 2020

Portugal (23) -- Returning to France

Chang shot this picture this morning in the Heineken Bar of Terminal II of Lisbon airport:

(The lower right quadrant is not photo-shopped, it's just a  TV screen)

The house-hunt failed, at least in the sense that we didn't find the ideal place; we'll try again in March.

(Chang asks me to add that we didn't actually drink Heineken at this bar at 7 AM; we had pretty, yet overpriced Cappucini instead)

Jan 21, 2020

Portugal (22) -- this afternoon

The walk to the Praia do Norte  (the northern beach -- that's where the big waves happen) takes us past a deer sanctuary:

Jan 17, 2020

Portugal (20)

A rainy day on the beach of Nazaré (still house-hunting):

Picture, as always, by Chang 

Jan 12, 2020

Nazaré again -- Portugal (19)

We've just arrived in Nazaré, Portugal, for a glass of Sangria and a house-hunt. Wish us good luck. Picture taken on the patio of our favourite beach haunt, the Inn Bar




Jan 5, 2020

Star Wars Episode IX -- Review

We're still living in Le Trayas, 19 kilometers from Cannes, or 19 quilometros, as they say in Portugal, whereto we are planning to relocate. We kept a Netflix subscription for three or four months last year, during which we watched ONE movie. So we canceled Netflix and decided to resume our occasional excursions to Cannes, where the theaters may show movies in English. And yesterday we went to see the latest Star Wars movie...uh, what was the title..."The Rise of Skywalker" (yes).

This is the Esterel, seen from Cannes, the "mountain" range where we live

I don't quite remember, but this may have been my first time to walk out of a movie before it ended. I had read the reviews, which were so-so, but not devastating.
You watch this movie like you're reading a recipe...
-- "Make sure to satisfy all demographics that count, and don't forget the Marsians and all the other good people of the galaxy;"
-- "Make sure to ignore the established laws of physics, because hard-working American Families, including Donald Trump's, don't care" (so we have this obnoxious space travel going on all the time, and it's particularly grating that we are informed that they travel at the speed of light (meaning, if they are crisscrossing a serious galaxy, that they would still need hundreds or thousands of years to get anywhere));

We could serve as a Star Wars location, save for the beach umbrella

-- "Make sure to separate GOOD from EVIL."
-- "Don't offend anybody," meaning that SELF-HELP is the only permissible ideology/religion left to support the GOOD GUYS. And so we are constantly treated to blatant falsehoods such as 'You can do anything, if you want,' or 'Good people will fight, if we need them,' or 'The force will be with you, always,' or 'Was this review helpful?'
-- (as a lemma to the last ingredient:) "Don't use swear words, or any such thing. And...sex is out of the question, unless it happened light years ago between Harrison Ford and Princess Leia."

So, we walked out. It was Chang, partner and photographer, who noted that I was constantly looking at my watch, and suggested that we'd leave.
The special effects are trying to be more special than any previous special effects, and this race is going on now for a hundred years. As this movie shows, there are special limits. We liked the special waves, though (link), because the place we are moving to in Portugal has the highest surfable waves on the planet:

Nazaré, on November 22, 2018

Have a look at the link. Nazaré's waves are better.

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