Seriously, SyFy? Seriously?

“Too many cooks spoil the story.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

Maybe I was a sucker for believing the buzz that this was going to be the next Battlestar Galactica, but after suffering through three nights of Ascension all I have to say is, WHAT. THE. FUCK.

You sir, are no Battlestar.

The premise of the show that SyFy was throwing out was that this was going to be a story of the passengers and crew aboard a Generational Ship secretly launched in the 1960s en route to Proxima Centauri. Instead, at the end of the first night we found out that wasn’t it at all; it was some kind of secret, elaborate, possibly psychological experiment run by some shadowy organization that may or may not be affiliated with the government.

The fact it was cast with a group of B-, C-, and D-List actors should’ve thrown up red flags. But then, prior to the BSG reboot, how many people had really heard of Jamie Bamber, Mary McDonnell, or Trisha Helfer? And speaking of Ms. Helfer, her presence in this production initially led me to believe this might not be a complete waste of my time.

“Hello, my name is Trisha Helfer and I’m only here to lend an air of legitimacy to this production and provide some MILF sexiness to draw in the 16-25 male geek demographic. You know, the ones who have never kissed a girl. And oh yeah…I needed the money.”

Oh, how wrong I was.

Even Six finds herself fighting the urge to shake her head and say, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Mess doesn’t even begin to describe Ascention. Too many storylines. Too much unnecessary soap opera drama that didn’t make any sense in context to begin with. The “ship” has been in “space” for fifty plus years, and sexual dalliances and interpersonal tensions are just now coming to a head?

“You like a man in uniform, don’t you?

“Oh, it looks like we’ve got another one who read the whole script.”

Whadda ya say we blow this joint and go play a few rounds of Penny Can?

Obviously trying to piggyback on the popularity of the Mad Men aesthetic, we have retro 60s fashions and vacuum-tube television technology, but it’s interspersed with LCD displays and advanced MRI imaging. WHAT?

Paging continuity! Please pick up the white courtesy paging phone!

Okay, to its credit SyFy did come through with enough eye candy to at least keep me coming back, even after I felt like I’d been bent over at the end of night one and thoroughly penetrated (and not in a good way). I mean there really wasn’t anything else on…

It’s amazing what you can do on with glue-on facial hair these days.

“Hello, my name is P.J. Boudousqué and you know what demographic I’m here to appeal to.”

And just to make sure the story is current and culturally hip, there’s the requisite lesbian character—but not part of the ship’s complement—because—it was explained that on board the “ship” there are no homosexuals. (It was “launched” in the 60s, after all.) No homosexuals? Have they figured a way to breed it out of the genome in only two generations? Even with the current, very conservative 3% metric, with 600 souls on that “ship” there should be at least 18 boys and girls who aren’t interested in pushing their genitals up against those of the opposite sex.

Oh for Chrissake, just take your clothes off, will ya?

By the time we got around to night three and had learned of the onboard prostitution ring, the simmering class warfare, and the fact that the guy whose father engineered this whole psychological mindfuck (the experiment itself, not the miniseries) apparently isn’t producing results—whatever they might be—fast enough for the shadowy organization overseeing and apparently financing this endeavor. Much drama ensues as it appears he is to be removed and put six feet deep into a cornfield somewhere.

But then BOOM! The “star child” (yes, she was really called that) who somehow knows this is all an elaborate ruse, manifests her power and we learn that this is the whole reason for the 50-plus year charade being perpetrated on the passengers and crew of Ascension.

Really?

How many tired tropes can you stuff in one show, SyFy?

Anyhow, as things start falling apart and apparently the 50 years of peace our “travelers” have enjoyed draws to a close, the lawyer from Ally McBeal (yeah, that guy) regains control of the project just as the shadow organization orders the extraction of the star child from the ship and sends in a standard thug from central casting to bring the girl out.

He’s not wearing the mask for lack of oxygen; at this point in the story the smell of bullshit became overpowering.

More drama ensues as thug-from-central-casting reaches star-child and another semi-important character who was having an affair with the press-on-beard guy’s wife arrives just in time to engage in a bit of rolling around in the muck. Star Child is having none of this and fully manifests her power, making both of them disappear.

Cut to her rescuer finding himself on an alien planet (with a double sun—of course—but apparently not Proxima Centauri), and everything fades to black.

Really, SyFy? Really?

So in short…

I share Star Child’s opinion of this production.

Morning Commute

A gift from a friend. It’s really growing on me.

My first exposure to Bette was (as to be expected) shortly after I came out. I was hanging around with the guy who had been my “first time” (another story for another time) a few weeks afterward in his dorm room one afternoon, and he pulled out Live at Last.

I’d never even heard of Bette Midler (remember, this was 1976 and she wasn’t the household name she is now), and admittedly I wasn’t wowed by what I’d heard (other than the Sophie Tucker jokes), but he let me borrow the album—along with his copy of Bette Midler.  I gave them both an extended listen but still wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally got Bette.

In the intervening years, I’ve followed Miss M through her highs and lows, her various albums, movies, incarnations and reinventions and have loved every minute.  With It’s the Girls, it seems she’s gotten back to her roots and it sounds good.

Quote of the Day

“Look at Marcus Bachmann, Michele Bachmann’s husband. Anybody who has gaydar—anybody who has eyes—looks at him and sees a tormented closet case who has externalized his internal conflict and is abusing other people, doing his reparative-therapy bullshit. It’s so sad and pathetic. A lot of the self-destructive behaviors gay people are prone to drifting into are directed inward, and then you have these shitbags like Marcus Bachmann for whom it’s all directed outward. Marcus Bachmann is the photo negative of the guy on the last bar stool in the gay bar, drinking and smoking himself to death, except instead of destroying himself, he’s destroying other vulnerable queer people in an effort to destroy the queer inside himself.” – Dan Savage, speaking to Playboy.

The Visit

Behold the befuddling, yet enticing trailer for Michael Madsen’s The Visit. Part of the 2015 Sundance lineup, this is the first look we’re getting at the mockumentary that asks how the world would respond to alien life.

Here’s the official synopsis from Sundance:

The Visit / Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Finland, Norway (Director: Michael Madsen) — “This film documents an event that has never taken place…” With unprecedented access to the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs, leading space scientists and space agencies, The Visit explores humans’ first encounter with alien intelligent life and thereby humanity itself. “Our scenario begins with the arrival. Your arrival.” World Premiere (Part of World Cinema Documentary Competition)

Public Service Announcement

If you’ve been considering visiting the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, think twice before plunking down the $12 admission fee.

First of all, when we went this past weekend none of her iconic works were on display, and only a few very bland paintings of her famous flowers were seen. Photography is prohibited in half the galleries, and the few pieces that you might want to photograph in the rooms where you can take pictures are all marked “No photography.”

I guess the museum doesn’t realize there’s something called the Internet, where I can get pictures of what I wanted anyway.

However, if you want to see lots of black and white photographs of the artist, by all means, go and knock yourselves out.

Thankfully, this wasn’t the only reason Ben and I decided to skip town for the holiday weekend. We both needed to get out of Denver and a road trip with a couple nights in a nice hotel was the perfect antidote for funk that both of us had been feeling.

But yeah, the museum was a big disappointment. We were expecting so much more.

Worlds AIDS Day

As I do every year on December 1st I take a moment to remember the men who have touched my life and sadly are no longer with us…


Kent Kelly


Ken Cohen


Steve Golden


Dennis Shelpman


Jim Hagen


Chuck Krahe


Marty Kamner


Michael Nelson


Jim Nye


Kevin Ohm


Rick King


Ron Aiazzi


Grant Neilsen


Ric Hathaway


David Koston


Kim Holstein

Ben Walzer
Ken Borg
Harold Gates
Jim Girard
Keith Roseberry
Tom Farrel
Peter Whitman
Chuck Mayer
Richard Gulliver
Scott Woods
Bobby Farina
Brian Lea
Fred Sibinic
Steve McCollom
John Trapp
Philip Ruckdeschel

To Absent Friends

A lot of people have asked why, after all these years, I still blog. I mean, it’s not really much of a thing anymore since so many have moved on to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a multitude of other venues, but for me it remains a comfortable and familiar vehicle to express myself. I will freely admit that since Obama came to office, I’ve had much less political opinion to express, and Voenix Rising has become little more than a place where I bitch about work, repost funny pictures I’ve found online, and share lots of images of handsome men in various stages of undress. But every now and then I get the bug to actually sit down and write.

As I lay in bed in the dark this morning, after waking up at my usual ungodly time, I reached over and slipped on my headphones and started listening to Röyksopp’s The Inevitable End, an album Ben had been listening to the night before but one that I hadn’t heard from beginning to end.

Almost immediately—and don’t ask me why because I have no explanation—memories came unbidden of a long-departed friend…

Ben Howard Walzer, 1958-1987

It was early summer, 1986. After a rather tumultuous 18 months together, my second partner and I decided to go our separate ways. It was a friendly parting, and nearly 30 years later he remains one of my dearest friends. Even then we knew we couldn’t shut each other out of our lives completely, and since I loved the complex we lived in, when the time came for me to move out, I simply got my own place a few doors away in an adjacent building.

Shortly after I got settled, a very handsome stranger moved in across the courtyard and immediately caught my eye. I’d often see him out walking his two dogs, and we’d exchange pleasantries whenever we passed.

At this point I don’t remember the exact circumstances that led up to it, but one afternoon he showed up at my front door after a run, drenched and smelling of fresh sweat—probably following up on a general invitation I’d thrown his way to stop by sometime (no doubt hoping to get into his pants, but never expecting that anything would ever come of it).

He came in and sat down and we chatted for a few minutes. He asked to use the bathroom. Still not completely sure of which team he played on, I panicked as I had a framed sketch of a naked man in an obvious state of arousal hanging over the toilet.

When he came out a few minutes later I asked if he wanted something to drink. While I don’t remember his exact words now, as he stood there grabbing his crotch through his nylon running shorts, it was something along the lines of, “No thanks, but I would like to fuck.”

Alrighty then!

We were both 28—young, horny, and obviously attracted to each other. We wasted no time getting to it.

Though that initial hot, sweaty afternoon of monkey sex was never repeated, we became good friends. Like myself, he’d recently split up with his partner and had moved into a place of his own. We had much more than our recent separations in common, so it was an emotion-filled goodbye only a few short months later when my ex and I decided to follow through on the plans we’d made when we were still coupled and move to San Francisco.

Shortly after we left Tucson, Ben and his ex reconciled and moved back in together. Naturally we stayed in touch, and when the group of us who’d moved to San Francisco returned to Tucson the following Christmas, I made a point of seeing him.

They’d bought a townhouse and had completely remodeled it. To this day I remember how beautifully it had turned out—and how happy he was.

Several months passed and the calls and letters abruptly stopped. I didn’t think much of this (as I had become horrible at keeping in touch as well, what with a new city to explore and all), but then in August I received a call at work from his partner. Ben had passed away from AIDS complications a week earlier.

I was devastated. Another friend of mine who lived in San Francisco—whom I’d known since my days at the University of Arizona ten years earlier—had also passed only a week before, and I was still reeling from that.

I don’t have a single photo of Ben, and to be honest I have only the vaguest recollection of what he looked like. Tall, dark and fuzzy is how I remember him; a NJB I would’ve loved to have brought home to mother. Shortly after he passed I asked his partner if he’d send me a photo, but I never received one. Years later I followed up with his family with a similar request and also never got a response.

The only tangible record I have of that sweet man was the photo above that I took of his memorial quilt when it was on display in San Francisco a year or so later.