April Showers, Boston Flowers

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For a while it felt like spring might never arrive, but it always does, and it always will. Here is the proof for this year. It’s still taking its time, but spring is one thing I’d rather not rush.

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Hunk of the Day: Ryan Guzman

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You’ve got to be pretty hot to make Jennifer Lopez fall for you in spite of your onscreen under-age-ness, and Ryan Guzman seems to fit the bill (if not his shirt). He’s the Hunk of the Day, and there’s nothing else to say.

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Returning to the Floating World

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I must say I find it hard to understand how any man who values his self-respect would wish for long to avoid responsibility for his past deeds; it may not always be an easy thing, but there is certainly a satisfaction and dignity to be gained in coming to term with the mistakes one has made in the course of one’s life. In any case, there is surely no great shame in mistakes made in the best of faith. It is surely a thing far more shameful to be unable or unwilling to acknowledge them.” ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World

For indeed, a man who aspires to rise above the mediocre, to be something more than ordinary, surely deserves admiration, even if in the end he fails and loses a fortune on account of his ambitions… if one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try, there is a consolation – indeed, a deep satisfaction – to be gained from this observation when looking back over one’s life. ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World

I suspect the reason I couldn’t celebrate the floating world was that I couldn’t bring myself to believe in its worth. Young men are often guilt-ridden about pleasure, and I suppose I was no different. I suppose I thought that to pass away one’s time in such places, to spend one’s skills celebrating things so intangible and transient, I suppose I thought it was all rather wasteful, all rather decadent. It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity

But I’ve long since lost all such doubts… When I am an old man, when I look back over my life and see I have devoted it to the task of capturing the unique beauty of that world, I believe I will be well satisfied. And no man will make me believe I’ve wasted my time. ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World

I have learnt many things over these past years. I have learnt much in contemplating the world of pleasure, and recognizing its fragile beauty. But I now feel it is time for me to progress to other things… it is my belief that in such troubled times as these, artists must learn to value something more tangible than those pleasurable things that disappear with the morning light. It is not necessary that artists always occupy a decadent and enclosed world. My conscience… tells me that I cannot remain forever an artist of the floating world. ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, An Artist of the Floating World

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Hella Cute

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A simple story like this is sometimes enough to bring a tear to the eye and re-affirm my belief in humanity. A very cool straight guy, Jacob Lescenski, just asked his best friend Anthony Martinez, an openly gay guy, to the prom. This would have been unthinkable when I was prom age, and it’s thrilling to see it happen in my lifetime.

Friends ask friends to the prom all the time – hell, I once took a girl to her prom when there was clearly no romantic interest on either side, and it was one of the best nights I ever had – so to see a gay guy/straight guy friendship take such a matter-of-fact turn is some way no big deal. In another way, it is huge, and it has me grinning from ear to ear. Thank you to Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez to showing the world what it means to be a friend and an ally.

A straight ally is a heterosexual man or woman who has contributed in some way to fostering equality for all human beings, particularly in regards to battling homophobia, ending discrimination, and supporting marriage equality. A straight ally fights for human rights, especially those denied gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, with the knowledge that to deny equality to one segment of the population is to diminish all of us as human beings.

It’s not enough to stand alone, because no matter how tall one may stand this sort of social revolution will not be accomplished by one person. It will take a collective effort from all of us – gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, male and female – and change ~ true, lasting, meaningful change ~ can only begin with understanding and kindness, friendship and love.

We stand on the precipice of something great – a moment that matters. We have in our reach the power to make a difference, to make a change, to make the world a better place – whether that’s in something as simple as a shared laugh, or as deeply felt as a new way of thinking about what you may hold closest to your heart.”

 

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I Won’t Shed A Tear

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If you’re lucky enough to watch a classic movie when you’re the same age as some of the protagonists, it can be a life-affirming moment. There are three examples of this for me: ‘Adventures in Babysitting,’ ‘The Goonies,’ and ‘Stand Be Me.’ The latter is probably the most moving of the three (even if ‘Goonies’ will always be my favorite.) I was reminded of its greatness when Tracy Chapman performed this wondrously stripped-down version of the Ben E. King masterpiece:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No, I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me
I think it happened around this very time of the year. My brother and I had spent the day and the early part of the evening playing an epic game of hide-and-seek at a friend’s house. Exhausted but not sated from that adventure, we popped in a video and hunkered down into a fluffy bed to watch. ‘Stand By Me’ began, and Rob Reiner’s take on Stephen King’s coming of age novella instantly entranced us. Back then, we were lucky enough not to have been touched by the themes of loss that now seem so apparent to me. We only cared about the adventure – the freedom of being away from your parents, your hometown, your school, and all the social boundaries that came with them. We courted and craved similar excitement and similar freedoms. It was easy to long for such thrills when you had a more or less safe childhood.
If the sky, that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
And darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me
Stand by me
The movie was also a subtly-complex treatise on boyhood friendships – the ones that lasted, and the ones that didn’t – and always the importance of those shared moments. To this day, I remember that night with a friend I’ve long since lost touch with, and a brother I sometimes wonder if I ever knew. I mourn and celebrate a childhood that was ordinary in so many ways, average in ways I often wish it wasn’t, and extraordinary at just a few sacred moments – and that night was one of them.
The television glowed in the room, the only light as midnight approached. My brother and our friend had drifted off to sleep. We’d kept up some small-talk and chatter during the start, but it had petered out as we more closely followed the boys’ journey along the train tracks. Eventually, their measured breathing and lack of response to a quiet question indicated they were both asleep. I watched the scene where Gordie, awake first, watches a deer walk by. He was alone, and he kept the moment to himself.

It didn’t move me enough to cry then, as it sometimes does now. I was too young to feel that kind of pain. For that I remain grateful. As for my boyhood friendships, none has lasted (except for one girl). Perhaps because of that, I hold my close friends a little closer.
So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now, stand by me, stand by me
Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me
Oh stand by me, oh won’t you stand now, stand
Stand by me
Stand by me

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Hunk of the Day: Jakub Stefano

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Hailing from the Czech Republic, this male model is our Hunk of the Day. Jakub Stefano has worked with such photographic luminaries as Lewis Payton, Mark Lynch and Dylan Rosser. Those guys know how to capture beauty, and Mr. Stefano knows how to give good face. And good ass, as these pictures will attest.

This post continues a string of male model Hunks, starting with this guy, and most recently this guy. Who do you want to see next? Requests are always entertained.

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Subway Check-In

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Every now and then I’ll be riding the subway in Boston and I’ll catch a glimpse of my reflection in the dirty, smudged glass of the window. In-between the passengers sitting across from me, I’ll watch myself lean to the side a bit and stare back at my own visage, slightly puzzled to see myself in such a fashion. (Most of the time when we look at a mirror we are by ourselves, so seeing oneself in a sea of strangers, and from a distance, is always somehow jarring.) It used to be a young man with a nameless backpack, then it was a guy with a Jack Spade bag, and now it’s just a middle-aged gentleman in a simple black t-shirt with a few more lines and wrinkles on his face, even in the forgiving dirtiness and filtering scratches of the subway window. These check-in moments on the T are markers of time ~ not altogether unwelcoming, but not exactly hopeful either.

Next to me is a much-younger guy with a hat that holds longer locks of hair. He reminds me of my friend Chris when he was younger. I think of us in college, and on some crazy spring break in San Juan, then fast-forward to where we are today. Outwardly we’re adults, with homes and families and jobs that make it look like we have our shit together, but sometimes my heart still riots. The passing of time ~ there suddenly like the arrival of a subway train that seems to take forever then is gone in a flash. We hurl so quickly to our next destination and we don’t ever realize how fast we are going. Sometimes there is nothing but a stranger to hold onto, but that would be weird so I fold my hands in my lap and watch the blur of the subway tiles rushing by.

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Rita Hayworth, Gave Good Face

“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”

― Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasons

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Hunk of the Day (Again): Andy Cohen

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He’s been a Hunk of the Day before, and more importantly he’s released not just one but two entertaining tomes (‘Most Talkative‘ and ‘The Andy Cohen Diaries.’) Recently, he was in Miami on his tour with Anderson Cooper, where he hit the beach with his toned and tanned beach body (all the working out that took place in his Diaries has definitely paid off). This is Andy Cohen, who’s being honored as Hunk of the Day one more time because, well, he is.

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A Premature Project Preamble

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It begins, as most majestic things do, with the tiniest seed of an idea. Sometimes it’s a feeling, sometimes it’s an injustice, and sometimes it’s something you have to do or you know you’ll die inside. In the beginning, then, is the quietest rumbling, like a distant train in the middle of the night. You sense it before you really know what it is.

Fortunately, I’m a little beyond that early stage of a new project. At this point, that train is loud and insistent and about to arrive, and nothing is going to stop it. There’s exhilaration in that, but exhaustion and weariness too. Above all else, though, it is a labor of love, and I can’t wait for this train to really take off.

For now, there’s the merest whisper of turning wheels, the faintest light from afar, and the lightest wisp of smoke from an engine that can simply be sensed, within a vehicle that can barely be felt, on a voyage whose outcome can only be surmised.

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Hunk of the Day: Lucas Bernardini

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It pains me to say this, but the Hunk of the Day, Lucas Bernardini, was born the same year that Madonna’s ‘Truth or Dare’ was released. I was sixteen years old. It was 1991. And Lucas was just being born. Oh time, you always win. But for now, Mr. Bernardini has the upper hand, because beauty is timeless. From San Paulo, Brazil to New York City, Bernardini has already made a splash on the modeling scene in just about two years. Good thing, because male models have to make their mark and money quickly. According to one portfolio, “he enjoys surfing, running, doing yoga, and meditating in Central Park.”

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Doing the Ditalini

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It’s amazing what such a little piece of pasta can accomplish, and how it can fill such a large bowl when used en masse and plumped with water and warmth and a bit of EVOO love. Though the close-up on this cup of pasta misleadingly magnifies the size of the tiny noodles, trust me that in their dry form they are small and insignificant. Only in their quantity do they amount to much. I like the lesson of life inherent in that metaphor. One small part, no matter how small, can make a difference when it’s not alone.

This pasta plays a part in another delicious recipe from Lidia Bastianich – a classic Italian dish, Pasta e Fagioli Veloce – which relies on a cannellini bean base for thickness, into which the ditalini goes to retain all of its starchy goodness. Hand-crushed tomatoes and freshly chopped parsley add pizzazz to the hearty dish – perfect for those cold nights and showery April days. A bit of grated cheese over the final product, and a rustic baguette for dipping, make it a meal unto itself, or the ample beginning of an evening of delicious sustenance.

Pasta e Fagioli Veloce

  • 3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig, needles stripped
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 cups ditalini
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Method:

In a blender, purée 2 cans of the beans with 1 cup water. Set aside. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic. Once the garlic is sizzling, sprinkle in the flour. Let the flour toast for a minute but not color; then add 3 quarts of water, the rosemary, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, add the tomatoes, 1 cup slosh water from the tomato can, and the bean purée. Simmer until the soup thickens and is creamy and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Add the ditalini and the final can of beans (not puréed), and simmer until the pasta is al dente. Stir in the parsley and serve.

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Hunk of the Day: Erasmo Viana

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Brazilian male model Erasmo Viana has the name of a star and the body to go with it. Burning brighter than most of us mere mortals could even attempt to match, he reaches that unattainable perfection that male models exude with such assumed ease. No further need to mar the scene with my words. Feast your eyes upon our Hunk of the Day, Erasmo Viana.

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A 4/20 Recap: Light It Up

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You know what that means: smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em! While I’ve never been a big pot smoker – or a pot smoker period, I have been known to take a toke on the rare occasion it rears its head. (Mostly this happened in my early twenties, when a lunch break from John Hancock and a circle of towering rhododendrons in the Southwest Corridor Park invited such shenanigans… but I digress.) Onto a much less hazy week in review, where the only smoke was that created by the hotness of a few choice Hunks, and the burning fire of creative inspiration.

First, the Hunks. We got to see the wood-working of Tommy Mac, the son of Dirty Harry ~ Scott Eastwood, the mad musical genius of Diplo, the news reporter Gio Benitez, the man who made something out of his boy band legacy ~ David W. Ross, the comic creation of Will Arnett, and the luminescence of Bright Light Bright Light.

Second, a citrus-based cocktail, to tease the sun out of its hiding spot.

Third, a citrus-tinged chicken recipe that seems to fill the stomach with sunshine.

Fourth, the incandescent maker of a pair of golden shoes that fly on sunlight itself ~ the jocular Jeremy Scott.

Fifth, a coat of sunshine in the midst of Chinatown.

Sixth, a group of nude men.

Seventh, a collection of quotes from a favorite book.

Eighth, a visit to my hometown ~ Amsterdam, New York.

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Hunk of the Day: Bright Light Bright Light

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If he wasn’t chosen as Hunk of the Day for all his cuteness, he’d have been selected for his showbiz name. This is Bright Light, Bright Light – an electronic musician currently taking the world by storm. His website sums it up in this epic introduction:

Bright Light Bright Light is the moniker of Welsh born, London/New York based Rod Thomas who released his debut album ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’ in 2012 year to rave reviews. Starting out as a busker on the London Underground, where he cut his teeth and was first noticed by Q Magazine, Rod has gone on quite a journey.

Honing his skills over the years, and evolving from busker to “the boy Robyn in all but name” according to NME, Rod is performer, songwriter, producer and DJ. His debut record was put together with Boom Bip (Neon Neon), Andy Chatterley (Kylie, Nerina Pallot), The Invisible Men (Jessie J, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea). Hailed by Sunday Times Culture as “a songwriter of extraordinary dexterity”, by Elton John as the hottest new thing in music, and ending up at no.4 in the Guardian Reader’s Albums of 2012 poll, it’s clear that ‘Make Me Believe In Hope’s sparkling electro-pop won the heart of journalists and fans alike since its release.

Not to mention the hearts of artists. Rod went on tour opening for Ellie Goulding, Erasure and Scissor Sisters on their sold-out UK tour. Pet Shop Boys themselves praised his cover of ‘West End Girls’ recorded with Scissor Sister Ana Matronic for US charity Hetrick-Martin. Other Sister Del Marquis brought him into his solo project Slow Knights as key songwriter and vocalist in the live shows. And, unbelievably to Rod, Elton John loved his work so much he joined Rod on duet ‘I Wish We Were Leaving’ which features on second album ‘Life Is Easy’, and signed him up as the support act for his UK and European dates in June and July of 2014 just as ‘Life Is Easy’ hits stores.

As a remixer, his Kelis, Ellie Goulding Erasure, VV Brown mixes and his series of bootlegs have hit blogs and clubs. He made DJ mixes for Ministry Of Sound, Butt Magazine, fashion brands and magazines, DJd at Glastonbury, Bestival, Festival no.6, numerous Pride events, and runs successful London 90s clubnight ‘Another Night’ in Dalston’s Vogue Fabrics.

In the US, he played a string of sold-out Bright Light Bright Light shows, appeared in New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, was Time Out NY’s critics’ pick on multiple occasions, was highlighted by Billboard Magazine as a “bubbling under” artist to watch and was picked ‘Song Of The Week by USA Today for his duet with Elton John which also scored him his first Triple A radio add and #4 most added at RPM College Radio.

From ‘Life Is Easy’, Radio 1 have already supported ‘In Your Care’, ‘An Open Heart’ and ‘I Wish We Were Leaving’ on the Introducing show. ‘I Wish We Were Leaving’ also saw his break into Radio 2 with Graham Norton playing the track two weeks in a row. ‘I Believe’ also scored Norton support in the build up to the album’s release.

While life may not always be easy, Rod’s transition from busker to beatmaker – with a loving and ever-growing fanbase – demonstrates that, with hard work and the right attitude, you can achieve great things.

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