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Jim Provenzano has arrived in ‘Now I’m Here’

Survival and identity resonate

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Author Jim Provenzano. (Photo credit: Gooch)

In today’s digital world, many book authors take pains to ensure that their work is perceived to be relevant for a generation raised on endlessly streaming, quickly digestible narrative content.

Jim Provenzano, whose latest novel, “Now I’m Here,” is drawn from his own experiences growing up as a gay teen in rural Ohio, is not one of those authors.

“I’m fine being an old fogey who’s still talking about the 1970s and ‘80s,” he says.  “I’m not actively seeking out that audience. If they find me, that’s great, but I’m trying to tell a story that took place before all that.”

Provenzano, who will be reading from “Now I’m Here” on Oct. 12 at West Hollywood’s Book Soup, has built a following with his gay-centric novels, starting with “PINS,” his 1999 book about gay high school wrestlers which found its way onto college reading lists and held its place on the gay best-seller list well into the following year.  His biggest success came with 2011’s “Every Time I Think of You,” which won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance.  Its 2014 sequel, “Message of Love,” was a finalist for the same prize.

With his new book, he has turned away – at least somewhat – from the genre that brought him those accolades.

“That’s a genre where there’s no reality,” he says.  “There’s no reference to anything that puts it in real time and space, and I wanted to go back to that real-world context.  So, this one looks and feels like a romance, but the real world enters into it and it becomes historical literature.”

Set in a fictional Ohio town like the one Provenzano grew up in himself, “Now I’m Here” is the story of Joshua and David, two teenagers who fall in love in 1978.  Their passionate affair grows into a life together in the face of religious intolerance, “rehabilitation therapy,” and – perhaps most significantly – the heartbreak of AIDS.

Provenzano knows he may be alienating some of his fans, but he’s willing to take that chance.

“Some of the readers who liked my last two books – they’re probably going to be upset.  I’m sorry, but this is the actual gay experience.  This is not about happy gays, and romances.  I fell into that category for a while, and I did well by it, but this time I’m writing for older gay men who survived the AIDS crisis.”

“I’m micro-marketing,” he admits. “It might be a downfall for me, but this one is all for the people who ‘get it.’”

He balks at the suggestion that another story about AIDS – whether by him or by anyone else – is unnecessary.

“I’m sorry, but it was a huge pandemic and it’s been shunted to the sidelines.  It’s like saying, ‘We don’t need another Vietnam novel, or another Civil Rights Era novel.’  Well we do need those things, actually.”

“I’m never going to not write about it,” he adds.

“Now I’m Here” also deals with religious intolerance, another subject that remains a continuing source of struggle for the gay community – especially in the small towns of rural America.

“Where I was raised in Ashland, Ohio,” he says, “there were churches everywhere – but I never got into it.” He adds, only half-joking, “I would have crushes on boys, and if they asked me to church I would say, ‘Sure!  But that was the extent of my involvement.”

Even so, religion was an inescapable influence.  “They were all around us,” he says.  “In the book there’s a lot of that – you can see Christian teenagers influencing things that go on in the story, there’s a strange and eccentric radio preacher who gets into the lives of the kids.  It’s woven into the book because it was woven into the culture I grew up in then.”

He’s adamant, however, that no parallels should be inferred with the institutionalized religious bigotry being promoted today.
“Now, of course, they’re so disgustingly overbearing – I don’t want to compare it to now, because it’s so horrifying what they’re doing in the name of politics.”

There is one element of the book, however, that the author hopes will resonate with today’s culture – the subject of music, and that of one certain band, in particular.

The music of Queen plays a significant role for Provenzano, both in his life and in the book.  The two young protagonists have their first date at a Queen concert, and the band’s music is a continual thread throughout their story.  Even the title is taken directly from a Queen song.

“I’ve been thinking about this novel for 23 years, and it started and stopped, and started and stopped – but when the Queen movie was announced, I really got a kick in the butt,” he says.

He adds, with a laugh, “I have to make sure people know I didn’t just jump in on this, I’ve really been working on it for years!”

He’s quick to point out that capitalizing on a coincidence of timing with “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which releases early in November) is not the only reason he’s happy about the inclusion of Queen in his book.

“At the first reading we had, in San Francisco, the Q&A session turned into people communing about what it meant to have had a front man for one of the greatest rock bands on earth who flaunted his gayness, who joked about it,” he says.

“That’s what resonates, I think.”

It’s here that he concedes at least some desire to reach the younger crowd.  “Even if you’re not going to read the novel,” he says, “at least listen to this music. Get an idea that things happened in a time before that were fabulous, and that were different.  That’s what the book is for me, it’s sharing a lived experience, a different life that probably doesn’t exist for a lot of people anymore.”

Apart from that, is there anything else he hopes the modern generation of gay readers will get out of “Now I’m Here?”

“Yes,” he says.  “A good story.”

Jim Provenzano will sign, discuss, and read from “Now I’m Here” at Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood) on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.  Also appearing will be singer-composer Dudley Saunders, who will perform acoustic versions of Queen songs.

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Travel

July 4 travel woes in flight cancellations, record number Americans driving

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per the Triple A auto club

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – As the 4th of July weekend approaches, Americans getting underway to travel are facing heavy delays and cancellations amid staffing strains, weather, among other issues with U.S. air carriers.

On Friday according to tracking website FlightAware.com as of 7PM Pacific there were 27,544 total delays, domestic flight cancellations were 2,975 and international flight cancellations within, into, or out of the United States were 571.

(See the MiseryMap for a live visualization of flight delays.)

CNBC reported that consumer complaints are piling up. In April, the latest available data, the Transportation Department received 3,105 from travelers about U.S. airlines, up nearly 300% from April 2021, and at nearly double the rate during the same period last year.

The unprecedented number of airline cancelations and delays is causing travelers to choose to drive and fly. Delta, American Airlines and United are all trimming their schedules even further to accommodate staffing shortages, despite passenger levels hitting post-pandemic highs.

Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have sparred over who’s to blame. Airlines chalk up the disruptions to bad weather, their staffing shortages and staffing problems at the government’s air traffic control.

Yesterday, the FAA’s acting Administrator Billy Nolen and other top agency officials held a call with airline executives to discuss weekend planning, including the agency’s use of overtime to staff its facilities, traffic and routing plans, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The call was in addition to regular planning meetings with airlines.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks with reporters on Zoom call about flight cancellations and expected delays this July 4th holiday weekend.

U. S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg: “It is time for the airline industry to deliver.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters Friday that, “passengers have high expectations from an industry that we have supported with tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funding through the pandemic to keep it up and running so that it can serve passengers. Now we need them to deliver.”

Concerned about flight cancellation trends, Buttigieg said he has spoken directly with airlines.

“Something I’ve asked them to do so that if you’re selling a ticket, you know you can back that up, that you have the staffing to do it,” he added.

A record number of Americans are expected to travel by car this upcoming July 4th holiday weekend, per a new report from the Triple A auto club.

Screenshot/NBC News

Just in time for that Fourth of July travel, gas prices are continuing to drop from their record high points of two weeks ago as the Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline stockpiles across the country have increased, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

Since Monday, the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline has decreased by four cents to $4.85.

Despite the highest 4th of July gas prices on record, 42 million Americans are driving this holiday.

Travelers Driving This 4th of July Weekend To Avoid Airport Chaos:

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Sports

Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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