Monday, December 25, 2023

A Review without major SPOILERS

Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, THE BOY AND THE HERON, is truly a masterwork created by one of film's greatest artists. Like the studios of major Renaissance masters, Miyazaki basically entrusted much of the actual visual creation to his Ghibli workers. They created the animation itself, those stupendous, gorgeously detailed backgrounds and the voice acting, as well as the superb musical score.

It is significant that Miyazaki has long had the reputation of being an extremely hard task-master, even a slave-driver to those who worked under him at Studio Ghibli. Relentlessly pushing his worker to long hours, sleepless nights, no weekends, his own ambitious drive to perfectly realize his visions required that his workers give up everything else.

The works that resulted have proven extraordinary. I often tell the uninitiated that "Miyazaki's films make Disney animations look like McDonald's commercials." The beauty, complexity and mental and emotional depth of the Ghibli films is unparalleled. Though Miyazaki inspires many in the anime film genre, none compare. For this latest film, some who had left his employ returned to work for Ghibli.

THE BOY AND THE HERON is something of a departure, for the told man (now aged 82) felt confident to simply write the story, draw the storyboards and direct this film. He even gave his workers the weekends off! The result is a departure in some ways, and moves the man's established legacy forward at the same time. What has grown stronger than ever is the imaginative potency and messages of connection with people and most crucially, respect for the natural environment.

This film is said to be somewhat autobiographical. The first part of THE BOY AND THE HERON moves along in this so-called "real world" of our consensus. Then the traumatized boy discovers a portal into imaginary worlds. Fantasy can be escapism, but sometimes we experience harsh realities necessary to escape from, at least temporarily. Best of all is when we find imaginary realms worth escaping into. There we may learn important things about ourself and our place in the world, before we return to the supposed consensus reality. This may even help us to preserve our sanity!

This seems to me the primary arc of this extraordinary film. I will soon be seeing it for a second time in a theater, which I definitely recommend to anyone with special appreciation for Miyazaki's work. Also, I am pleased that the old man feels no need to announce yet another retirement, rather he is already working on his next project.

The film is complex. The latter portion may bewilder anyone who seeks rational understanding, or pure entertainment. Best to simply surrender to the imaginative wealth of imagery.

Flow with it, and you will feel enriched, blessed and possibly wiser.

- B.P.G. 12.25.23

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

 DEMON POND (Film of 1979) A Review

This rare, unusual work of art is among the most amazing films I have ever seen. However, for several decades the film eluded all of our attempts to actually view it in any satisfactory manner. Let me share, as briefly as possible, something of a deep dive into DEMON POND, its mysteries and magick.

Both in production terms and in my own experience, DEMON POND has a rather remarkable history. About twenty-seven years ago, my partner described a film he had seen in an art-house cinema, which continued to haunt him. It was an unusual Japanese film with a contemporary setting, yet the story delved into mythic dimensions. It included animals, spirits, and mythical creatures.

After my partner first described the film to me, we began a search for a quality copy of the film. It had never been released on VHS or DVD, as far as we could tell. At last we discovered that an 8 mm celluloid print might be obtained for a high price and it would also be necessary to purchase a sound projector. Once the Internet kicked in, around 2000, our search continued in vain. Even in Japan, when my partner traveled there, he could not obtain a copy of DEMON POND.

Sometime after 2010 we obtained a copy of a DVD copied from copies from copies. This teased with a grainy, almost indecipherable image and very poor sound: a frustratingly poor quality experience, merely suggesting how spectacular a good copy would be.

Then late last year, after having pretty much given up hope several years before, on some kind of impulse I searched online. There it was! A site: "samuraidvd [dot] com" offered the film on DVD for $24.95. Immediately I contacted the site, and was assured this was a legitimate offer of a quality copy. I ordered it and so it is! 

What a remarkable experience to finally enjoy the film in clear resolution, full color and sound, with quality subtitles that can be turned ON or OFF!

Bando Tamasaburo, a great Japanese Kabuki actor know for performing female roles onstage, plays two very different women in the film. One is a humble young woman, the other a regal Dragon God that rules in Demon Pond. His performances comprise a stunning tour-de-force. Unless the viewer is looking for it, you might not realize the role is played by a man. This actor has mostly done stage work and only appeared in a few films. In the year 2012, Bando Tamasaburo was declared a Living National Treasure of Japan, and has many other honors.

Because DEMON POND dates from long before the use of sophisticated CGI for imaginative creatures and settings, it relies on what are called practical effects: actual settings, sets, costumes, and makeup filmed without digital trickery. Partly because of this, the ingenuity and artfulness of the production achieves unusual levels of artistry.

Like many Japanese films, this story moves from contemporary urban life into rural spaces where more traditional modes of being survive. A young scholar from Tokyo travels by train to a remote village where his encounters lead him in the direction of legend, folktale and even the subconscious realm where Spirits of Nature dominate the narrative from"below." The performances and the story are phenomenal. The tale is moving, tragic, enchanting, profound and catalytic.

The literally cataclysmic conclusion of the film represents the kind of humbling before the forces of Nature that every human being experiences when we discover that a deeper dive requires surrender to something more ancient, vaster and deeper than the illusion of the individual "self" so prized by self-indulgent Western cultures.

This confirms to me why my partner carried that obsession for so many years. Sometimes dreams come true, when you don't let them die!

Here's one worth wishing for and you can fulfill the wish.

- BPG 1.24.23

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Re-learn to Read for Pleasure and Wisdom

Symbolic language can serve as a prison, barring you from direct contact with actual experience of your body in the DNA-mediated realities of the material world. However language is also, as one of the oldest forms of real human Magick (perhaps the oldest), a creative tool for both your educational and recreational enjoyment.

Here I refer to your ability to craft written language and also your ability to enjoy reading texts, such as printed books, magazines, journals. Closer to the end of this book I will suggest means of using other “offline” and somewhat old-fashioned media to deliberately subvert the influences of Big Tech and the Internet connectivity that about half of the humans on the planet now experience.

Clearly Big Tech provides many benefits and possibly crucial advantages to our species, along with serious drawbacks in the form of control and manipulation of our choices. Also, electronic media produces a distraction factor and can reduce your attention span.

For example, the ability to read printed books and concentrate on printed texts in magazines and journals can suffer from eroded attention span. Consider, do you read printed books or texts for pleasure? With such seductive Internet media at the fingertips of about half of the humans on the planet, enjoyment of offline media may become a challenge. To read a text on a screen is fundamentally different.

While online, you can always dart away from wherever you are to check email, Facebook, or someone may message you. You may grow accustomed to beeps and intrusions, but are you able to focus on a book, able to surrender and dive into a longer text for the pure enjoyment of reading?

Some of us need to periodically, deliberately disconnect from electronic media in order to re-discover the private personal sanctuary provided by printed texts, both for education and recreation.

This is so worth the effort!

The wonderful worlds that reading printed texts can take you into, whether the texts are considered fiction or non-fiction, are in truth all equally real and equally imaginary worlds. They exist in your mind.

(From THE 9 REALITIES OF STARDUST by Bruce P. Grether, p. 84)

Sunday, March 4, 2018


About 35 years ago when I lived in Estes Park, Colorado, one night I had a vivid and detailed dream about a handsome young man of perhaps 19 years, who left his home of privilege with only his dog for company and launched on an epic journey to seek enlightenment and Love. When I awoke, I immediately wrote down as much detail from the dream as I could remember (a great deal as it turned out) and soon realized that was only the beginning. When I read through the story, as sometimes happens with imaginative fiction writers, I found I could easily enter again that rather fantastic world where, among other wonders, woolly mammoths survived, and the Moon had rings something like our planet Saturn.

Another element of the story was that the young man, like me, loved to masturbate but he was just beginning to learn to do so with any real skill, and his sexual attraction was towards member of his own sex. As I kept writing, the story grew from there, the only major change was that the dog in the story became a more unusual creature I call a "chameleon cat," able to render itself virtually invisible. My hero Dare (full name: Darrow Bardoon Miznevet III) thought that upon leaving home he would seek enlightenment. His adventures actually led him to discover the love of his life, another young man, Hosis (full name: Hosis Bar Sun), from a far northwestern country where mammoths were the sacred animals. 

While Dare comes from a land with an openly homophobic culture, Hosis comes from Loonapoore, where all sexuality is so inhibited and hidden that a secret cult that teaches men the Phallic Mysteries thrives. In the course of the four novels of THE MOONTUSK CHRONICLES Hosis teaches Dare those secrets. As Shakespeare said, "the course of true love never did run smoothe," so the young lovers experience all sorts of awful challenges, as well as plentiful erotic ecstasy, depicted in graphic detail. I've never read a case of detailed world-building, good character and plot development, in the high fantasy genre that was also this erotically explicit, so I ended up writing it myself.

One criticism the first book, RENDEZVOUS IN A RUINED CITY, has received is because a woman manages to seduce young Dare before he meets Hosis, and though their relationship is not so explicit, it reflects some of my own early experience. I've always been attracted to my fellow men, but in my youth, some women wanted me, and I surrendered. Well, THE MOONTUSK CHRONICLES are not exactly autobiographical, but in an imaginary way, they are my own story. 

Over the years, I revised these books quite a few times, polished the writing, refined the prose and the details of the characters and the world. Only after I met the love of my own life in 1995 was I able to render the large amounts of male/male eroticism so detailed and realistic. Into this saga I poured all I learned about Mindful Masturbation and Male Erotic Alchemy. In 2011 with the expert editorial help of gay author and scholar Toby Johnson, Book One was published. Over the next few years, its 3 sequels were published, and now I'm working on Book Five, THE WHITE MAMMOTH. 

You can find Book One by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My First Glimpse of Janis Joplin (JANIS & ME Introduction)

Summer 1969: In great excitement and awe, we’ve come with thousands of other people to experience a performance by Janis Joplin. We’re two boys in our middle teens, good friends for some years now, dressed in long white shirts of East Indian style, with headbands about our brows. My pal, Jeff Berg, drove us in his battered green VW Bug from Silver Springs, Maryland, to the concert site in the lush green countryside.

From the parking area we cross gentle slopes, past a pond, to the Merriweather Post Pavilion for the Performing Arts.

The facility is partly outdoors, though the central part of the audience beneath the roof has seating and the stage is covered. We locate a position under the sky on a sort of grassy slope well above, yet close to the stage, at a railing where we can see look down upon the performance area from a side angle.

An amazing group, The James Cotton Blues Band performs, yet we’re ready for Janis herself. We’re totally buzzed with anticipation.

The opening act finishes, and after the stage is cleared, the roadies arrange the equipment for Janis’s set. Finally her band’s equipment is all arranged and connected and some musicians have taken their places, including a small horn section with Snookie Flowers on saxophone. This is the line-up known as the Kozmic Blues Band. A few sounds tests add to our agonized impatience as the last of the daylight fades away.

Everything below us on the stage appears clear and jewel-bright.

When the first loud and rich-sounding chords of music are struck, I’m electrified; every hair on my teenaged body stands up! I’m so focused that my brain records the experience in great detail! The entire evening remains vividly intact in my brain now more than forty years after the event.

Janis actually appears running from the wings of the stage to the microphone that perches on a stand at the middle in the front. How on Earth does she actually run in those heels? Yet she does! She wears what appears to be a purple silk pant-suit with bell-bottom trousers, matching purple and pink and white boas attached to her long, flowing hair. Of course, she sports a mass of necklaces and what must be a million bracelets on the wrist of her right hand.

She grabs the microphone and does a little hop of excitement in place—despite the purple high-heeled pumps. She tosses her head back with a flourish of flying hair and feathers to deliver an unearthly, gorgeous, almost terrifying wail that speaks of not only enthusiastic greeting, but a generous dose of passionate longing, outrage, affirmation, seduction: agony and ecstasy.

More ecstasy than anything!

Her fist goes up beside the mike gripped in her other hand, pushed close to her lips. The fingers of that fist fly open with the next sounds that launch from her mouth, and her rapid, even frantic gestures nuance, seduce, grab, stab, caress, punctuate, rip, ripple, tickle and tease the air in synch with that rich, raspy, and entirely unmistakable, totally astonishing voice.

Is she singing two notes at once sometimes?


It seems as if the entire world is still holding its breath.

It’s “Raise Your Hand,” and actually, at first I do not levitate to the same extent I will with the more familiar songs. Momentarily, I’m stunned at the unfamiliarity, and shaken that I’m not sure I like it as much as her albums. This is one of those songs I do not already know from recordings, still the sheer excitement of actually seeing and hearing Janis at that moment overrides everything else in my existence! Nothing has ever in my life so fully grabbed my attention, as she does…

There she is, alive on the stage, belting it out, and as always giving more than 100% of herself. There are no throwaway performances with Janis, I realize.

Every shriek and gasp and coo comes from her core.

She’s a totally riveting whirlwind before our eyes; a genuine force of Nature!

She gives everything she’s got.

Love mixed with intense gratitude for this special experience pours back at her from thousands of opened hearts.

This is an uncanny experience of what the Hindus call “darshan,” the presence of a holy person that in and of itself bestows grace.

Though that first song does not actually disappoint, the next, “Piece of My Heart,” is the one that first lifts my feet off the ground; I will not touch down again that night.

Later, with an exquisite rendition of “Maybe,” the powerful horn section truly shines brilliantly, and this woman’s ability to match the power of the brass with her voice, reveals a new mystery. At the end of this song, Janis has to extend both hands open, one with the microphone between thumb and first finger, to request a hush from the audience so that she can deliver the last liquid note, which then brings down thunder and the first of many standing ovations.

Of course, Jeff and I have been standing and dancing in place all along.

When the time arrives for Janis to sing one of her most famous songs, like a sort of inevitable, yet humbling and privileged ritual of the throbbing mass of excited humans—comes a total surprise. In fact, we don’t even recognize the song at first! The new instrumental introduction sounds classical. It’s a sort of brassy Baroque horn fanfare, an elegant and sweetly-rambling intro that keeps us guessing—what is this song?

What song can this be?

There is a certain playfulness to this deception.

A sweet, insinuating, piercingly pure and somewhat nasal note: “Ssssssummuh-taaaaahhhhhm . . .taaahhm, tahhhhm-tahm . . .” Her voice levitates everyone present higher than ever with a unique clarity and purity such as we’ve never heard yet. Of course, it’s “Summertime,” not only a show-stopper, but a musical sacrament for the faithful. Strange, isn’t it, how the blues can make you feel so incredibly good!

That voice reaches out unlike anything I’ve ever heard or felt and with unparalleled intimacy Janis opens a door to the heart.

The sound system is incredibly loud and it continues to ring in our ears after the concert concludes following several exuberant curtain-calls. At last after a lengthy and unbelievably profound rendition of “Ball and Chain”… with my friend, I’m stumbling beyond words towards the parking area…

Several times Jeff Berg simply mutters, “Mother Mind-fuck,” and nothing more.

Some ineffable quality now seems to connect the dots of the stars in the heavens above and the atomic stardust within our bodies.

Before we get back to the little green VW Bug, we sit by a pond and stare at the reflections on the water for a time as other concert-goers continue to stream past us. It’s as if we need a speechless spell to process what really cannot be understood or grasped.

Janis may have left the premises, only she’ll never leave my heart.

I’ll never been the same person.

I know it.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

THE HOUNDS OF ELKHORN by Bruce P. Grether, Prologue: Winter 1983-4

Winter, 1983-4

Caretaking with good intentions can lead to some deeply disturbing discoveries, such as things that seem impossible. In this case it began with a single light burning within an immense old building that had been carefully closed up and locked for the season, with its electrical power turned off. Crisp mountain air stood still and quiet about Paul Goodfellow that night, yet a wave of foreboding hit him like a sudden gust of icy wind.

He had dreaded something like this for months, and now his peaceful existence felt violated.

He stood below the dark outline of the magnificent old two-story building saturated by antique secrets and untold stories, and he gazed up at that singularly ominous glow. Hands thrust deep into his coat pockets for warmth, a frown knit his brow: it appeared that a dim light bulb burned behind the tattered curtains of an upstairs room in the north wing of Elkhorn Lodge.

This huge main building of the complex, and all of the cabins had been carefully closed up for the winter, and Paul lived in a smaller, older building of year-round apartments to the east along the driveway. This winter, in return for a reduction in his rent, he kept an eye on the entire place for the owner, who did not fully trust the local manager of the property to watch over it effectively. That was another story in itself.

Now Paul’s heart sank. Someone is in the main lodge! Or someone has been inside and messed with the breaker switches and left a light on. If the wiring malfunctions, it could start a fire

The young man’s horn-rimmed glasses fogged over from his warm breath, a condition he humorously called “Clark Kent’s heavy breathing technique.” Only now there seemed nothing funny about the serious responsibility he had accepted. He was told the electricity to the main building was turned off entirely. Could Mr. Treadwell have forgotten to turn it off and left the light on in November when he departed for North Carolina? No. Paul would have noticed. Not likely, unless it had been covered and an old rotten window shade had broken and fallen to reveal the fact…

That’s how his imaginative mind worked—only he knew that to be unlikely, though many things inside the old building were indeed falling apart.

The only other options were a human intruder, or ghosts. He did not dismiss the fact that the old Edwardian structure, built in 1913, was filled with memories and the traces of countless visitors, which made it seem highly haunted, still he felt far more concerned at the moment about vandals and vagrants who might have broken in. And though his life here at the lodge property off-season was usually peaceful and quiet, now his heart hammered fiercely in his chest.

Enough ambient moonlight shone from behind the cloud cover, that he did not even take the little flashlight from his coat pocket as he marched around the building. He tried to keep his hiking boots from crunching too loudly upon ice and frozen soil. His eyes scanned for any evidence of where anyone might have broken in, and the big building was large enough and intricate enough and remained dark enough that he really could not tell for sure.

There were few lights anywhere in this pocket of night at the western end of Estes Park, Colorado, the resort village steeped in its dreams. Though he sought to carefully inspect the windows, and even the base of the structure for any disruption or damage, he walked rather quickly to get the job done, passing along the lengthy front of the two connected wings with their ornate trim and the three spacious verandas on both the upper and lower levels.

He hastened to avoid the sense that the building itself watched him passing by.

In truth, he also almost hoped his sounds would alert any intruder, that they might flee unseen, as he actually had no desire to confront a stranger here at this late hour, much less a ghost.

Wind lifted its voice and sighed heavily on the evergreen slopes to the south of the main building, where shuttered cabins kept their eyes closed in the shadows of ponderosa pines. Paul passed behind the open area at the back of the two wings, where an old wishing well had collapsed into itself, and when he returned to the north side, the light upstairs was out. He had seen no sign of a break-in.

So—do I call the Treadwells, or not?

He had mixed feelings about this: it definitely indicated some kind of presence in the main lodge that he would really rather not know about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A review of Bruce P. Grether's novel THE PURCHASING MOTHER'S SON

 by Rev., Dr. Kenneth Dobson of Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Purchasing Mother’s Son by Bruce P. Grether is an easy to read novel of an incredibly difficult period in Asian history, made more difficult for immigrants from Europe by the clandestine and mysterious nature of the people’s beliefs and social structure.  Grether takes us there in his daring foray into the spectral darkness.

If your life has never been thought to have been threatened by the demonic Purchasing Mother count yourself fortunate.  But she has been a constant menace here in South East Asia for more than a thousand years.

Bruce Grether grew up here in Thailand and learned how boys in Siam were protected and became invulnerable to her, but through so horrendous an ordeal that few endured it.  So far as Bruce tells, only one foreigner ever did.

Bad as she was, the Purchasing Mother demon was not the only threat in 1767.  The Burmese were ruthless, too, and they were heading toward Ayutthaya which they besieged, looted and burned.  If the beliefs of all the Siamese at that time were based on truth, not a syllable of Grether’s historical fantasy is impossible because the historical events are as carefully related as possible.  Millions of tourists have visited the ruins of Ayutthaya, but Grether takes us there as the appalling destruction was going on, as the demons rampaged.  Some people survived the carnage and wished they had not.  Some loved and were worse off for it.  There were intervals of beauty and moments of ecstasy even in those grim times.

But the Purchasing Mother was never far away.  Her love was the worst and most persistent.

You can purchase the novel HERE.