Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday update

Alright, so it's been a week since my last day on the job - time for an update.

The first four days including the weekend, I pretty much did nothing work-related. I slept a lot, read books, watched TV, movies and a couple of Rockets games, and spent extra time with my family. I taught them some new card games, which everybody seems to enjoy. This week, I've been sending out resumes and I've had a couple calls with recruiters, but I don't really expect anything to happen until January at least. So I'm just doing my best to enjoy the holidays, spend time with people I care about, and keep things as normal as possible.

Tuesday night I went into the city in a bit of a snowstorm to meet with my poly women's group, which was fun. We had a good turnout, even though Penny couldn't come due to a holiday party conflict. Wednesday I had to go into the city again to have some dental work, which was excruciating as usual. The worst of it is they didn't have a necessary component to finish the job, so I'll have to go back in January - ugh! After the dentist, I had some time to kill before a separate doctor's appointment, so I strolled around the nearby MOMA and saw some of the new exhibits that we've skipped in our recent tours of the marvelous Van Gogh Colors of Night exhibit.

After my doctor's appointment, I met up with Penny briefly to walk a few blocks over to the LGBT center for the PolyNYC Holiday party, but I was rather exhausted and in pain from the dentist, so I didn't stay for the party. It turned out to be quite the soiree, as Penny filled me in later by phone, so maybe next year I'll be more in a party kind of mood.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Laid off at work

I found out this morning that I have been laid off at work, effective immediately. There's simply not enough work in the pipeline for Agent K to keep me on, and I understand that. I see what's going on around me, and I'm not the only one who is hurting with the economic conditions. It does kind of suck that it's happening over Christmas, but I was pretty much twiddling my thumbs at work anyway. At least I get to twiddle my thumbs at home for the next month and a half and still get paid. The company offered me a pretty generous severance so I'll be on the payroll until the end of January. After that, the clock really starts ticking.

The upside is that this is certainly not unexpected. I had seen the warning signs for several weeks now as clients slowly faded away, and work began to dry up. So I held off on spending on major items, and I kept my assets liquid so I have plenty of reserve funds to pay the rent while I'm job hunting. Of course it would be ideal if I could find something before Feb. 1 so I wouldn't have to deplete my savings, but in this economy, it might be a challenge to find something suitable. But I've been through this before, under more challenging circumstances, so I know I can get through this. If it's one thing I've learned, it's that life is full of ups and downs, and you just have to keep going and not give up.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas trees, museum and movies

Lots of odds and ends going on in my life, and for the moment, plenty of time at work to write about them, so here we go.

In the category of news of the weird, here’s a post from Neil Gaiman’s blog – apparently Australia has granted human rights to cartoon characters by a court ruling that X-rated images of Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson having sex together constitutes child pornography. This ruling means that every Australian who owns a copy of Alan Moore's Lost Girls (as both Tara and I do) is risking imprisonment for possession of kiddie porn.

On a lighter note, I actually had a great time at the company holiday party on Friday. We take over the sub-level of a nearby upscale Mexican restaurant called Dos Caminos, which has pretty decent food, and outstanding guacamole, even to a Houstonian girl like me. I started the night chatting with some of the senior members of the staff, two people who have been at Agent K more than 70 years between them. They were telling me all the sordid stories of bygone days where office sex and three-martini lunches were the norm, before political correctness and the threat of lawsuits crept in – it sure made the present day sound safe but boring in comparison.

During the prize drawing, I won something for the second year in a row, a Motorola Bluetooth wireless headset so that I too can look like Lobot (I’ll probably just end up using it at home or giving it to Penny). As the party started to wind down, all the young women in my group started to congregate at my table for some reason, making me feel a bit like a mother hen. Most of them went off to another bar to continue the celebration, but I’d had enough at that point and went home to watch my Rockets basketball game.

Tara came over later in the evening and we watched Star Trek: First Contact, continuing our month-long Trek movie marathon, followed by snuggles in bed. In the morning we had our bacon and pancake breakfast, followed by more snuggles, which was kind of a bad idea because you shouldn’t exercise right after you eat, but somehow we managed. Unfortunately next weekend we will not have quite the leisurely time of it because she will be getting up early to go to Hartford for a two-day rehearsal session. Her three-piece band is getting back together after a year-long hiatus to start performing again, and completing their second album.

Saturday night everybody came over for dinner and to help me put up my Christmas tree and decorations, and to watch two episodes of Heroes and a very funny Saturday Night Live (welcome back Amy!) Sunday we went into the city to kick-off the Christmas season by visiting our favorite trees, the Angel Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum and the big tree at Rockefeller Center. While we were at the Met, we toured the newly opened Medieval European galleries and the Italian Renaissance special exhibit, then took the subway to Rockefeller Center to visit St. Patrick's and the big tree there. Bee did her annual project of bringing cheer to the homeless by giving out bags of food to those we saw (we only spotted two because of the cold, but they were very happy to receive the gift bags). The howling wind and sub-freezing temperatures we encountered coming back to the Met was ferociously cold for everybody except Tara (who is half polar bear, half arctic bird it seems) but we managed to arrive with all fingers and toes intact. We drove back to NJ and had a fun and tasty dinner at one of our usual diners because everything else was closed.

Rockefeller Center 2008

Last night Tara and I watched Unforgiven, the 1993 western directed by Clint Eastwood that was nominated for nine Oscars and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director. This has long been one of my favorite movies, and one of the few westerns I like (others are Silverado, Tombstone, The Searchers, and The Magnificent Seven). Unforgiven is a bit different from most westerns I’ve seen in that it’s less of an adventure than a character-driven drama piece, although all the classic elements of the western are skillfully woven in. Happily, Tara enjoyed it very much so it was time well-spent.

Tonight I’m having dinner with Penny and Lori, the first time in my modern history that I’ve spent time with two of my friends at the same time (although my friends have brought their friends to spend time with me before). Given that I can count my local friends on one hand, this is likely to be a rare occasion.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happiness is contagious

Our company holiday party starts in a couple hours, and it’s something I’m actually looking forward to – I’m actually wearing a suit for this. The last few years I’ve been pretty reluctant to attend these functions, but I’m trying to get more comfortable with it, to break out of my shell a little. Even though I’ll always be an introvert at heart, I am a human being and therefore a social creature. It’s just that when you can’t talk about your private life, it makes socializing with outsiders a little uncomfortable.

My co-workers are actually a pretty good lot of people, and I had a great time bowling with them on Wednesday night. I surprised myself by how well I could still bowl. We split into two groups of six and I was the high scorer on my team both games, and the overall high score on the second game (my high score was 119, I think, which isn’t very high at all). I gave a lot of pointers to my teammates, which seemed to help most of them. Bowling is actually a very team-oriented game, because everyone feels good when someone throws a strike. The only issue is that it’s kind of loud to have any conversations.

There was an article in the New York Times about how happiness is contagious, even among strangers. Maybe that’s what the world need a lot more of right now to combat all the downer news is for some people to spread happiness around. I know that part of the feeling of compersion (or frubble, as some poly people call it) is just that - being able to feel happiness instead of jealousy and negativity from seeing your loved one made happy by someone else. From now on, I want to try and focus on being happy and making others around me happy as well. ‘Tis the season, after all.

"Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says" – Dec. 5, 2008

This idea ties in nicely with what I see as a subtle shift in my spending patterns in the last couple years. I think about the fact that my last major purchase was my new flat-screen TV, but before that it was last Thanksgiving, when I bought my video projector and screen. Altogether my home theater probably cost me about $6,000 over the last three years, not including what was lost in the fire of 2007 or what I spend on DVDs and cable TV fees every month. But I think, like the author of this article in the Wall Street Journal, that it was money well spent, because every Saturday night my family comes over and we watch movies or TV together, and that has been the bedrock of my social life for the past year.

"Deals Abound, But Which Offer Lasting Delight?" - Dec. 3, 2008

I think going forward, I am going to prioritize my spending on things that involve my friends and family, rather than things that exclude them, as one expert in the article suggests. I already do this to a certain extent with museum memberships, Broadway shows, basketball games, etc., but I'd like to do more, if my job situation gets a little more stable.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Twilight the movie

I finally went to see Twilight last night with Penny and we had a very nice time, as usual. I’ve been collecting Regal Cinema gift cards at work the past few years because there are no Regal Cinemas in New Jersey where I live, so I have about $60 worth of cards saved up. Agent K gives them out as incentive gifts and for anniversaries, so I was glad to use them.

The movie was good, and extremely faithful to the book. And as a lover of the book, I thought they did a very nice job of capturing almost exactly what the reader would envision when reading the novel. The only issue I have is if I look at the movie as a separate entity, as a person who had not read the book, and if I watched it in that headspace, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much because there are so many meaningful looks and lines that sound corny out loud if you don't know the depth of emotions and unexplained (in the movie) motivations behind them.

Surprisingly, Penny enjoyed the movie a lot more than she expected to, since she is not a fan of “vampires that glitter” (which underscores somewhat our inverted biological/emotional ages, since she is a lot closer in age to the Young Adult demographic than I am). Her idea of a good book is Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, which she’s currently reading, and we're planning to read Tom Robbins' "Skinny Legs and All" together when she's done with that, a book that Bug got me for my birthday. She thought all the actors who played the paranormals were very sexy though, especially the actor who plays Jacob Black, whom she thought would be a good casting choice for the lead character in the novel she’s writing (she just completed the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo last month).

For me, a big part of the fun of watching the movie was hearing how they used the soundtrack, which I’ve been listening to non-stop since it came out a few weeks ago. Hearing Muse’s “Supermassive Black Hole” erupt during the Cullen’s fateful softball game was a blast. In fact, I made my own Twilight-inspired mix on my iPod, since I don’t like every single song on the soundtrack album which incorporates some of Stephenie Meyer’s other picks from the entire series of books and some of my own emo-flavored tracks. My mix goes like this, with non-soundtrack songs marked with an asterisk:

Decode by Paramore
*Stockholm Syndrome by Muse
Spotlight (Twilight Mix) by Mute Math
Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
Go All The Way (In the Twilight) by Perry Farrell
I Caught Myself by Paramore
Eyes on Fire by Blue Foundation
*Starlight by Muse
Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine
*Shadow of the Day by Linkin Park
*The Scientist by Coldplay
*World In My Eyes by Depeche Mode
*In the End by Linkin Park
*Forgiveness by Collective Soul
Decode (Acoustic Version) by Paramore
*I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie
*Creep (Acoustic) by Radiohead
*Brighter by Paramore
*Halo by Porcupine Tree
*Sweet Sacrifice by Evanescence
*Time is Running Out by Muse
*Valentine’s Day by Linkin Park
*My Immortal by Evanescence
*Clocks by Coldplay
*Miracle by Paramore
*Vicarious by Tool
*Assassin by Muse
*Born For This by Paramore
*I Melt With You by Sugarcult
*She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5
*My Heart by Paramore

I’m actually going bowling tonight for the first time in years, the first of two company holiday parties this week. The last time I went bowling was also at a company outing, but with my old firm in Houston. I actually do like to bowl, but it’s hard finding the time and companionship to do so, just like playing tennis and basketball and other things I used to do. So we’ll see how well-coordinated I am after such a long layoff and so many changes over the past few years.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The devourer of worlds

I was going to write something profound and serious about Thanksgiving, and all the things I'm thankful for, but on the whole, it hasn't changed much from last year. I'm thankful for my life here, my family, my friends, my health, and other year of growing and learning more about myself.

In the course of looking at things for my Christmas wish list, I found this awesome poster about one of my favorite fictional characters, Galactus. Classic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

News bits

One of my many obscure interests is precious metals, especially as related to numismatics (the study or collection of monetary objects). The physical properties of currency fascinates me sometimes, the security features, and the designs of foreign currencies and what they say about the culture that produced them.

In today’s New York Times, there’s an interesting story about the launch of a new U.S. gold coin, produced at the U.S. Mint in West Point. The coin is a $20 face value solid gold coin (worth about $900) that is a reproduction of a century-old design called the double-eagle – considered to be one of, if not the most beautiful U.S. coins ever made. When the coin was originally struck, technology was not able to make it commercially feasible, plus the director of the Mint at that time didn’t want to support the design favored by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There are less than two dozen of the original coins remaining, making them among the most prized of U.S. coins, fetching prices into the millions of dollars. For the full story, see below:

"Century Later, Gold Coin Reflects Sculptor’s Vision" - Nov. 25, 2008

Also in my morning media sweep, I found a very compelling debate on gay marriage between Chicago Tribune blogger Eric Zorn and Allan Carlson, president of the Rockford-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society and Founder and General Secretariat of the World Congress of Families. What’s great about this online debate is how both sides are able to make their points in a civilized and intelligent way, without devolving into the name-calling and hysterics that the issue tends to engender among bloggers and their audiences. It’s a very interesting read for anyone who wants to understand some of the core points on both sides of the issue.

The great online gay-marriage debate

Tara came over last night for dinner and we settled in to watch one of my favorite movies, Se7en, directed by David Fincher, who went on to direct The Game, Fight Club and Zodiac. He also directed Alien 3 previously. Like Hitchcock, Truffant, de Mille and other auteur filmmakers of the past, I've admired Fincher's ability to redefine a genre, in this case, the modern thriller movie. I'm looking forward to his take on a different kind of movie next month with the release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The other vampire movie

How ironic that on the opening weekend of Twilight, which as everyone knows I’m dying to see, I ended up going to see a very different vampire movie on Friday night called Let the Right One In, a Swedish film of amazing lyrical beauty. The story is not so much about vampires (although it does focus on an aspect of the vampire legend that is rarely examined in any of the popular art forms) but rather about the relationship between two outcast 12-year-olds Eli and Oskar. The film is in limited release, so it may not be showing at a theater near you, but I highly recommend checking it out when it comes to video. P.S. – if you look at the IMDB link, don’t watch the movie clip, it gives away too much from a critical scene in the movie.

Speaking of Twilight, with its opening weekend of $70.6 million it joined a very exclusive club of Hollywood movies that turned a profit in its first three days of theatrical release (the film cost $37 million to make, and $30 to market). Best of all, the indie movie studio Summit Entertainment announced that it has green-lit a sequel to Twilight based on New Moon, the second book in the series. However, they’re going to have to do some major adaptation work to give the cast something to do, since most of the Cullen family is absent for nearly the entirety of the book, including reigning teen heartthrob Edward, played by Robert Pattinson.

Also on Friday, Polina (I’m going to start calling her by her nickname, Penny) came to see me for lunch at my office, and we shared a plate of eggplant and chicken at the local Chinese fast food stand, then came up to my office to have some of the leftover pumpkin pie from Thursday’s company Thanksgiving lunch. Saturday I took my family into the city for a museum day, which started at my favorite bagel store near my office where we had breakfast. Then we walked a few blocks to MOMA, where we saw the Van Gogh exhibit once more before it scatters back to the European museums the works came from.

We took the subway to Penn Station, and walked several blocks in the frigid wind to CoSM for a last look at the installation before it is shut down on Dec. 31 and moved to its permanent home in upstate New York, 65 miles north of Manhattan. I’d only been here once before on one of my early trips to the city with Tara, and it was a very moving experience to see this space again.

After our trip to the city we came home and had our family dinner, followed by a showing of Wall-E on the big screen projector. Every time I see that movie, I can’t help crying at the end, just like some of my all-time favorites, like A Beautiful Mind, Ben-Hur, and maybe one or two others whose names escape me. I hope it does well at the Oscars next year, as it deserves to.

Sunday I had a rest & recovery day, spent mostly doing laundry and on the couch in front of my 42-inch HDTV, watching basketball games and TV shows on my DVR and old 80s movies on DVD like The Final Countdown and Blue Thunder before my family came over in the evening for ice cream and watching Heroes and Saturday Night Live from the night before. I am so ready for the Thanksgiving holiday to start!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A recovering monogamist

I think one of the toughest things to deal with in my life right now is what I call the "poly/mono schism" between Tara and myself. We continue to make progress, one small, painful step at a time, and last night and today we made a pretty big step by making a decision to try and focus on being peaceful with each other. Aside from love, cultivating peace is probably the most important factor in building a sustainable relationship. Some people like the drama and fighting and making up - I don't think we are those people. We're like hobbits after a long quest - we've both had enough drama to last a lifetime.

I'd also like to show you an article published by one of my online friends who is a freelance writer for The Truth Quarterly. She wrote an article on her exploration of polyamory with her husband titled "Rethinking the Conventions." It's a nice introduction to polyamory from the viewpoint of a recovering monogamist, as she calls herself. The article starts on page 18 of the e-zine.

The Final Issue of The Truth Quarterly

This Sunday was the last of my burlesque dance classes with Agnieszka, and it was on glove and stocking peels. We're both a little bummed the class is over. After getting back from the city, I met my family at the movie theater and we saw Quantum of Solace, a first-rate James Bond movie. I was struggling with my toothache (I need a root canal repair on an infected tooth) but I still had a good time.

Afterwards, we came back to my place where I made dinner for everyone and taught them to play poker. Bee came out the big winner thanks to a smooth bluff she made on me - I came in second. Once everybody gets comfortable learning the order of the hands and betting rules, we might expand our repetoire to include some other games besides five-card draw.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"The Emperor is dead!"

Driving to the train station this morning, I heard this story on NPR about the mysterious death of China's second-to-last emperor, Qing Guangxu.

"Who Murdered China's Emperor 100 Years Ago?" - November 14, 2008

Modern science has now concluded that he was poisoned by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who followed him in death a mere 22 hours later, leaving five-year-old Pu Yi (a distant ancestor of mine) to ascend the throne as China's last emperor. This part of the story is told at the beginning of the movie The Last Emperor, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, which swept the nine Oscars that it was nominated for in 1988.

Some of you know that my family history dates back more than 800 years in China, and includes a distant link to Pu Yi - my father's people were from Manchuria, what they used to call the northern part of China, and I am a quarter Manchurian by blood. Pu Yi was the first emperor from Manchuria - you can find a synopsis of his true story and tons of references at this site:

I've been trying to find time to watch this movie since I bought the four-disc Criterion version several months ago (it's almost four hours long in an expanded director's cut) and this new revelation has made me want to see it very soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The war against love

Something that my women's poly group talked about last night - I've never watched Keith Olbermann before (except on ESPN SportsCenter long ago) but this is the most heartfelt televised news commentary I've ever seen. Ever. And a compelling argument that I fear will fall on deaf ears.

Here is another facet of the debate that was featured in an op-ed in the New York Times recently - the attack on gay rights to raise children that could have far-reaching consequences beyond the issue of gay marriage.

"Anti-Gay, Anti-Family" - November 11, 2008

Plus, here is an interview in the Wall Street Journal with a constitutional law professor from the University of Southern California (Pearl's alma mater) about what's next in the aftermath of Proposition 8:

"Gay-Marriage Ban Sets Up Host of Battles" - November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Absolute Sandman

I was shopping on today, getting my fourth and final installment of Absolute Sandman and I came across these delightful bookends of Dream and his sister, Death. Fantastic!

Only two problems: first is that the set costs $345, which is a princely sum of money, even for me. Second is that I don't have any room for bookends on my shelves because they are too full of books. In fact, I'm about ready to buy a new DVD cabinet to handle the overflow of DVDs that are taking up bookshelf space, but I don't have much room in my apartment for a new shelf of any kind. Must think on this some more.

Speaking of books, I've been tracking my books on GoodReads for the past few weeks so people can see what I'm reading and what's on my bookshelves. Unfortunately, the site does not support comic titles, which make up a large percentage of my reading material, but oh well. You can see my profile and current reading materials by clicking on this link (you don't need to sign up to see this).

Monday, November 10, 2008

A museum weekend

I took the day off on Friday to celebrate my friend Polina's birthday - she had invited me to her party Friday night but I wasn't able to go, so we spent the day together instead. We met outside Penn Station in the middle of the tourist crowd and walked up to 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal to meet Laura, one of her friends who also came in from New Jersey, probably about the same time I came in on my train. Interestingly enough, Laura lives in North Haledon, which is very close to where I live.

The three of us headed uptown to the Museum of Modern Art, and we sat out in the courtyard so Laura could interview Polina for an anthropology project for school. After that was done, we took a short break in the cafe before visiting the marvelous Van Gogh exhibit that I saw a few weeks back with my family ("Poly public relations" - October 5, 2008) and viewing some of the contemporary art galleries. Since it was getting late and it was starting to get crowded because of Free Friday Nights at MOMA, we took off to do some shoe shopping so I could buy Polina a birthday present. We went to two stores and she picked out a pair of black Timberland hiking shoes, which will hopefully keep her feet dry this winter without having to resort to using plastic bags.

At one of the stores, we met up with another one of her friends, Patrick, who is a visual arts student and aspiring cartoonist. The four of us went to have a quick dinner before they had to take off to Brooklyn for the party, while I went home for my Friday night date with Tara. We finished our Hannibal Lecter mini-marathon with a viewing of Red Dragon and had our pancake breakfast in the morning, which unfortunately was marred by some difficult conversation.

Saturday was also a miserable day weather-wise: cold, drizzly and windy. I got my usual errands and grocery shopping done, and also got a manicure, since my dark purple polish was chipping off, and my nails were getting too long anyway. In the evening we had a nice dinner followed by a quick lesson in poker - five card draw and Texas Hold'Em - in preparation for watching Casino Royale, the last James Bond movie in advance of Quantum of Solace, which we'll go see this weekend.

I'm hoping we will have a full night of playing poker someday soon so I can play all the game variations I used to play with my old poker group (Pearl, Amy, Dominic and Little Vic) like Five Card Double Draw, Follow the Queen, Guts (or Balls, as we called it), and so many others. Good thing I wrote all these games down in a notebook that survived the two fires or else I'd have forgotten them myself. I'll have to poke around and find that.

Sunday we were planning to visit Alex Gray's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors but unfortunately we found out that morning that it's closed on Sundays. Then we wanted to visit the Picassos at Aquavella Galleries, but that too was closed - bleh! So we strolled around Central Park outside the Met and saw Cleopatra's Needle, a five-story high granite obelisk covered with hieroglyphics before going inside and touring the Philippe de Montebello tribute exhibit and the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art.

Busy long weekend, but lots of fun. Plus, I'm so happy that the weather is back to being cold and dry.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Love in the present tense

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've been thinking about my theory of unconditional love that I blogged about back in September ("Theory of unconditional love" - September 24, 2008) and how walking the talk is proving to be something of a challenge for me. Also, I just finished reading Jonathan Carroll's "A Ghost in Love," and that gave me even more to chew about on the subject of love.

What concerns me is that I find myself thinking about the future more than I should, and letting it affect me in the present. This must stop. I've proven adept at letting go of the past, but for me, that's easier than for most people. Thinking about "what might be" should not be allowed to determine the choices in how I live my life today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The f-word

Some of my readers know that I have a peculiar interest in the f-word. I'm sure I don't have to explain what word I'm talking about - even my younger readers aren't that young.

Anyway, I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal today about the Supreme Court hearing a case involving U2 band front man Bono and his run-in with the FCC at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, where upon winning an award, the singer exclaimed on live TV "This is really, really f---ing brilliant!" The FCC declared his remark "shocking and gratuitous," and a threat to "the well-being of the nation's children." You can read the full article here:

"Don't Read His Lips - You Might Be Offended" - Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4, 2008

Sometimes I look back on the past few decades of my life and marvel at how acceptable the f-word has become. I still remember a time when it was absolutely taboo to say it in the workplace. I grew up in a family and community that is much more genteel than my present surroundings - I can't recall a single instance of my parents using that word, for example.

But I still remember one night about a year ago when I was walking into the mall here in New Jersey and there was an older woman dropping f-bombs literally every sentence in a conversation. Of course, my family uses it frequently, but I think they try to restrain themselves around me.

Personally, I'm not offended by hearing the f-word, and I've been known to let one slip maybe once a month. I just feel that if the FCC is right, that the word is "one of the most vulgar, graphic and explicit" words "in the English language," maybe we should save it for when it's really justified instead of wearing it out like a favorite pair of shoes.

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Decode" video premieres

Lots of Twilight-related stuff, since as some of you know, it's so addictive!

The Wall Street Journal on Friday ran a story on the front page of the Lifestyle section about the evolution of vampires in literature, from Bram Stoker to Stephenie Meyer, going from monster to sensitive alpha male. It's quite interesting.

"Real Men Have Fangs" - Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2008

The video for Paramore's "Decode" from the soundtrack premiered today on - nice forest scenery, and some new clips from the upcoming movie.

Also, here are two TV trailers for the upcoming movie - unlike the book, Bella gets a little frisky in her undies (which one fan comments is wrong because Edward would tear them off with his teeth if things got that far).


Check out this video: Event

All for now - back to work.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Samhain at the Met

It was a wonderful Samhain for Tara and I, and we did a little of everything. We woke up together and had our breakfast together, to the strains of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. Then we drove into the city where I surprised her with a tour of Acquavella Galleries, which had a special exhibit of Pablo Picasso's Marie Therese, a series of colorful and erotic paintings inspired by the painter's chance encounter with 17-year-old Marie-Therese Walter. The artist, then a 45-year-old father, was instantly enthralled by the young, voluptuous blonde girl, and for the next nine years, she was to be the artist's greatest love and inspiration.

After the quick tour, we went back to the car and got our baseball gloves and played catch in Central Park. Then we walked a few blocks to Papaya King for some of their famous hot dogs. Kids were trick-or-treating at the stand, and instead of hot dogs, they were giving out small, unripe oranges (much to the chagrin of the kids, if not their parents).

We came back to the Met and found it blissfully uncrowded, and it was pure heaven to walk through some of the galleries all by ourselves without the usual weekends crowds. Tara took lots of pictures, including this one of me in one empty gallery:

Samhain at the Met

We finished at the Temple of Dendur, which looks spectacular in the dark and mysterious when it's empty of crowds. Then I dropped her off at home and finished my basketball game, a second win in a row for the Rockets, a good start to the season.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Poly advice column

Last week in my routine media monitoring activity, I picked up an item from the Guardian, one of the major daily newspapers in the UK, about a woman seeking advice from a cheating spouse who claimed he was "polyamorous" to explain his relationships to two other women. Unfortunately, he was also being deceitful and disrespectful of his spouse of 15 years. Guardian readers were invited to offer advice to the reader for the following week's column, and several wrote in explaining the concept of responsible non-monogamy, and how this was not it. I also helped my Polyamorous NYC group draft a response from the president, but unfortunately it was not used in the column, which you can read here:

Private Lives: Is his 'polyamory' just an excuse?

And here's the response that I wrote for the president to submit:

Your partner is giving polyamory a bad name by deceiving, dishonoring, and disrespecting you. Polyamory is consensual and responsible non-monogamy, and as president of Polyamorous NYC (, one of the largest such organizations in the world, I can say it is possible to have multiple relationships successfully. My advice is to find some polyamory support groups in your area or research the term online so that you can better express what you want and need from the relationship. Once you and your partner realize there is a better way to pursue a polyamorous lifestyle, you can make an educated decision on what's best for both of you.

It's unfortunate that no one gave the advice we advocated, which is to learn more about polyamory so she could explain why her spouse is doing it wrong and better express what she wants out of the relationship. But at least the columnist gave the advice that is one of my cornerstone tenets, that we are each responsible for our own happiness. I particularly liked the way she phrases it:

In order to be happy, it's not necessary to have a partner or to have any particular person or thing at all. It is, however, necessary to assume responsibility for your own happiness, and to establish principles for the kind of life that will make you feel proud of yourself.

The upshot to this is how polyamory is becoming, if not acceptable, at least understandable to a larger audience than ever before, and there is at least some balance to stories like this. In the past, I wouldn't have expected a single respondent to offer anything other than "your spouse is cheating on you - leave him." While in this case it was a pretty clear case the husband was being abusive to the reader, at least there was some acknowledgement that polyamory can be done a "right" way and a "wrong" way. That's progress, methinks.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bear Mountain

After a dreary Saturday fighting tropical storm-like weather close to home, Sunday dawned clear and brilliant and my family went out in search of adventure. We found an Oktoberfest festival at Bear Mountain State Park in New York, and even though none of us drink beer, it seemed like a fun thing to do in a place that we all love to visit.

We drove north for about an hour to Bear Mountain and drove to the top of the mountain first to take in the scenic views. Afterwards, we went down to the park at the base and looked at the craft fair listened to a few polka songs from the live band. Here's a photo of me taken by Bug with the Hudson River Valley behind me:

Hudson River Valley

Here is a photo from Perkins Tower at the top of the mountain, showing all the fall foliage:

Bear Mountain

And here is a photo of the crystal-clear Hessian Lake where we sat and ate Belgian waffles and ice cream:

Hessian Lake

It seems like this weekend has been so short - I'm not ready to go back to work, but alas, I must. However, I am thinking about taking off Samhain (Oct. 31) to spend the day with Tara celebrating the pagan new year. I have a surprise destination near the Met in mind that I hope will delight her on Friday.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I went to see Wicked on Broadway Tuesday night with Lori, and it was spectacular. The untold story of the witches from the Wizard of Oz strikes me as a musical version of the way The Mists of Avalon tells the story of the women behind the legend of King Arthur. It was funny, charming, and a visual cornucopia, especially the flying effects at the end of Act One ("Defying Gravity"). I had checked out the soundtrack from the library months ago and put it on my iPod, not intending to listen to it until I'd seen the show, so I listened to it on the train ride home - how's that for instant gratification?

The songs are really starting to grow on me, and you can hear them online at the Web site's Music Player. One duet at the end of the show has a particularly poignant lyric that makes me think of Tara and what we've been through the last four years - the song is called "For Good" and the first part goes like this:

I've heard it said that people come into our lives
For a reason, bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them and we help them in return

Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
Because I knew you I have been changed for good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Staying put

I got some bad news today - my biggest client, the one I spend the vast majority of my days working for, has decided to terminate the account because of the recent financial meltdown. This actually has quite a trickle-down effect for me, as I'll explain briefly.

As you know, I've been planning to buy a house next year when my apartment lease runs out. In August, I was talking seriously with my family about the possibility of all buying one together, but it didn't get very far because I don't think we're ready for that yet. So I was pretty much ready to start looking for a house for just myself, so I can get away from annoyingly noisy neighbors and start building some equity instead of paying ungodly amounts of money for rent that I'll never see again.

However, as everyone knows, in September we had the Wall Street disaster, which is still lingering in the form of tightened credit markets and stricter mortgage requirements. In a nutshell, buying a house these days requires a larger downpayment and more security in the form of co-signers or large cash reserves that I simply don't have. Consider this story in the New York Times about young couples getting help from their families to buy real estate:

"Mixing Money and Family" - Oct. 20, 2008

Now, it is entirely possible that the market can turn around, but I'm not betting on that to happen anytime soon, despite the efforts of our elected officials. Add the fact that I have a Certificate of Deposit expiring at the end of this month that I was going to use as part of my downpayment, but at this point it seems wiser to renew it and just stay in the apartment for another year. I would have to give my intention to vacate in January if I was going to leave in March when my lease is up to avoid breaking my lease, and I just can't feel secure enough with my job and the economy to make that leap.

Besides all the hard financial realities I'm dealing with, there's also the instability of my family situation. I don't know what's going to happen with all of us, and it seems unwise to make any big decisions when things are so unsettled. While I don't feel like I need to wait on them per se, in the face of all the other issues, it seems best to delay the decision until everything else improves and I'm really ready to make the jump, and then reevaluate where I am with my relationships and life in general.

I try not to worry too much about the future, but I really hope I don't have to starting looking for a new job on top of all this - that would suck. I've never been a job-hopper - my last two jobs averaged about 7 years each, and I've been here for 2 years and three months so far. I might be getting worked up for nothing, but always best to be prepared when the signs aren't favorable.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I have quite a potpourri of stuff to talk about, and very little time to do it, so I'm just going to do a stream of consciousness kind of post, omitting some of the formal language I usually employ. Please forgive the brevity.

First of all, proud to say that my alma mater, the University of Houston, is the first school in Texas to offer a gay-lesbian minor concentration in their undergraduate degree program. I'm sure this is at least partly the result of HGTA members at UH, but I forget their names.

"Lessons in diversity" - Houston Chronicle, Oct. 20, 2008

Had an interesting day yesterday - went to dance class with Agnieszka, where we learned the finer points of stripping out of different types of street clothes. Then I rode the subway up to the old Yankee Stadium to meet up with my family and take one of the final tours before they demolish it. Here's a photo Tara took of us in the dugout - Bug is taking my picture behind Bee.

Yankee dugout

Then rode the subway back downtown to South Street Seaport to meet a new friend, Polina, for a presentation of short films at a LGBT film festival. Polina and I have both been going to Polyamorous NYC meetings for several months now, but only actually met each other at the Poly Pride rally earlier this month, where we were both volunteers. Since then we've been getting to know each other and have gotten quite close, despite spending only a total of a few hours together. What's interesting is that she's the first person I've met who falls under three of my umbrella characteristics: pansexual, polyamorous and transgender (she identifies as gender fluid, meaning she alternates between masculine and feminine presentation). There's definitely the beginnings of attraction on my part, but we'll have to see how things turn out.

Speaking of characteristics, I recently took a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator profile for work, and what's interesting isn't so much the type I scored (INFP, for those interested). The interesting thing is that my type has changed since the last time I took the test at my old job in Houston, four or five years ago. Your type is not supposed to change throughout life - it's supposed to be your innate preferences. In my case, I swapped a "T" (for thinking) for an "F" (stands for feeling), which makes a lot of sense to me, considering the changes I've gone through in the past few years. Despite my tendency to overthink things, I'm much less of a thinker than I used to be in my previous life, and much less reliant on logic and objective analysis. Now I primarily make decisions based on my values and subjective evaluation of person-centered concerns. My description of my complete type, which I think is pretty accurate, goes as follows:

· Sensitive, concerned, and caring
· Loyal to people or a cause
· Guided by an inner core of values in decision making
· Focused on contributing to their own and others' inner development and growth
· Committed to a strong personal belief system
· Likely to enjoy reading, discussing, and reflecting on possibilities for positive change
· Usually seen by others as sensitive, introspective, and complex

Kind of sounds like prerequisites for being poly, among other things, doesn't it? Hope everyone had a nice weekend, and I'll be back soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The science of hugs

Here's a little tidbit from a new book called "Hug Your People: The Proven Way to Hire, Inspire, and Recognize Your Employees and Achieve Remarkable Results" by Jack Mitchell. I found this in my Cuddle Monsters newsletter today. Hugs are something we should all be practicing, so consider this a public service announcement.


Most times, at least here in the U.S., when we go in for a hug we go towards the person's right cheek. Maybe this is because most of us are right handed, but it seems to be the norm. If you do the muscle testing after this hug, you'll find that your muscle is weaker, meaning your energy level is down. However, when we hug left cheek to left cheek instead, the muscle testing shows that we are stronger, or that our energy level is up.

Why is this?

When we hug on the right side, we're connecting liver to liver. Our liver is where we hold our anger, so we are actually sharing our anger with each other for a brief moment. That weakens our energy. On the other hand, when we hug left to left, we connect at our heart centers, where we hold our love. So for that brief moment, we are sharing our love from that place in our hearts. Try it, and see if you can feel the difference!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Followers unite!

I've added a Followers widget to my blog on the left side in my navbar, so if you'd like to use it to stay updated with this blog, be my guest.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Third anniversary

Lots of good stuff happened this weekend. Tara stayed over Friday night and we had a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast to the sounds of Yes instead of our usual classical soundtrack. It was the first time in a couple weeks we've had one of those. Also nice is that she's getting a little more used to sleeping in my bed, which is considerably softer than hers. I try to do my best to make her comfortable when she's at my place, but there's not much I can do about the bed.

Saturday night we had dinner and watched The Rock as a little break since we're out of new Heroes episodes now. It's rather funny watching such a testosterone-fueled movie with a roomful of girls. If the movie wasn't so loud, you could probably hear the eyes rolling in our heads. However, I did balance that out with a solo viewing of The Notebook earlier in the day, which of course made me cry my eyes out.

Sunday I went into the city with Agnieszka for the start of our series of burlesque dance classes. There are 13 or 14 women signed up for the class, one other that we recognized from our last class. Sunday's class was actually the exact same class we took before, but this time we weren't 30 minutes late, so we learned feather boa technique that we had missed last time. Our teacher, Jo, invited us to stay for the following class on dance movement, so we did that class too, before Agnieszka went to see a play with another friend and I went home to eat dinner.

Then yesterday I took Columbus Day off work to celebrate my third anniversary of meeting Tara here in New York. The actual date is Oct. 14, 2005 - an important date in my personal fairy tale. As such stories usually do, it took place on a dark and stormy night, and so many things went wrong, from me oversleeping and missing my flight to her getting soaked in the city all day waiting for me. But miracles do happen, and we were able to meet right where we wanted to, in front of the Tiffany window in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, barely 30 minutes before closing time. Our first meeting, our first kiss, and the start of this amazing journey together.

To celebrate, I took her for breakfast at my favorite bagel place near my office, then we rode the tramway to Roosevelt Island (her first time) and walked around the south end of the island (which in hindsight wasn't the most picturesque part, but it was also more private).

After we got back from the island we stopped at the tri-level Dylan's Candy Bar, which is a much bigger version than the one in the Houston Galleria. We got some Wonka bars and Tara tried some of their signature Belgian milk chocolate, which she loved. I took a small piece since I was breaking my diet anyway, but I have lost 15 pounds to this point, so I'm not too worried about it.

We took a train up to the Met looked in on some of our old favorites. We also went to the roof to see the Jeff Koons sculptures, a first for me. These whimsical figures seemed to delight the many children at the museum most of all.

Jeff Koons

We left the Met and had dinner at a new place for both of us called Burger Heaven, which turned out to be a very satisfying place to eat near the Museum of Modern Art. I had a reuben burger and fries, and Tara had a plain burger with a baked potato. Then we took the subway down to Tribeca for a book signing by author Jonathan Carroll for his new book, The Ghost in Love. I've never read any of his books, but the story sounded very interesting from his reading of the first chapter, and I was intrigued by the fact that Carroll wrote another book called Bones of the Moon which was the same story as "A Game of You" in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. So I bought a copy of the new book and had it signed - Tara brought her copy with her from home. He signed mine "Michelle's First - Hopefully it will not be your last."

Jonathan Carroll

Happy anniversary, my dearest Tara - thank you, as always, for being in my life. I love you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day 23 of South Beach Diet

It's been three and a half weeks since starting my diet on Sept. 15, and I'm pleased that I've lost 10 pounds so far. The results are definitely starting to show. My co-worker commented yesterday that she could tell I'm losing weight - she said I looked sleeker. Today for the first time, I'm having to wear a belt on my "fat" pants to keep them up. But don't worry about my wardrobe, I've got plenty of stuff to wear on my way down the scale.

The attention reminds me of when I did this diet in 2004-2005 when I created quite a stir in my office. My appearance changed so radically - it was like I went from middle-age to college age in a few months. I still chuckle at the time a grocery clerk mistook me for my ex's offspring or younger sibling rather than spouse. Granted, I am younger than her, but by less than a year.

Anyway, I'm still groovin' on Paramore - I bought the album I was looking for yesterday and ripped it to my iPod. I also love this song off their new album, Riot! and I bought it last night on iTunes. I'm pretty sure I've seen this video before somewhere, but I can't remember when. It's hard to miss Hayley's shocking red hair.

That's What You Get

I also love this review of the new album on Amazon:

Ah, youth: the exuberance, the energy, the blistering highs and bottomless depths. It’s an ideal breeding ground for true rock & roll belief. Hence, the youngsters of Paramore unearth geysers of loud, sugary angst on Riot!, their major label debut and follow-up to 2005’s All We Know Is Falling. Small-town musicians who have played together for years, Paramore boasts the appeal of an emo-pop blast developed out of savvy songwriting and musicianship. The sweet spot the band hits--somewhere between Avril Lavigne and All-American Rejects--comes naturally. Lead singer Hayley Williams, barely 18, has big-time vocal depth and genuine charisma besides, and while her singing can sound a little contrived, she delivers with such end-of-the-world conviction that it’s an easy flaw to forgive. Bright and catchy melodies abound, but songs like "Misery Business" and "Miracle" also feature razor-sharp cadences and ultra-clean transitions. Too clean, actually. The production is crystal clear, which accentuates the stumbles (mostly on the ballads) and robs these whippersnappers of the messy highs they surely achieve playing live. But some things can’t be entirely glossed over, and while the more aged among us will sip our Scotch and make fun of their adolescent shenanigans, we’ll also be surreptitiously listening on our iPods after we put the kids to bed. --Matthew Cooke

Also, after much ado yesterday, I found a nice hardback copy of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris which I've been reading in paperback, but I hate the paperback cover, which is a tie-in to the HBO series True Blood (showing a close-up of a female vampire's lips, fangs and tounge). The hardback cover is so much nicer, a pretty painting of the vampire Bill and heroine Sookie Stackhouse flying over their town, wrapped in a glittering cape together. I'm much more interested in the romance than the blood-sucking, as with the Twilight books.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Twilight music

The track listing for the movie soundtrack to Twilight has been officially announced, as follows:

Muse - "Supermassive Black Hole"
Paramore - "Decode"
The Black Ghosts - "Full Moon"
Linkin Park - "Leave Out All the Rest"
MuteMath - "Spotlight" ("Twilight" mix)
Perry Farrell - "Go All the Way (Into the Twilight)"
Collective Soul - "Tremble for My Beloved"
Paramore - "I Caught Myself "
Blue Foundation - "Eyes on Fire"
Rob Pattinson - "Never Think"
Iron & Wine - "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"
Carter Burwell - "Bella's Lullaby"

I've read in other sources that Muse will re-mix the first track for this release, which is cool because this song is actually my #1 Most Played Song on my iPod right now (in fact the top 3 are all Muse songs, probably fueled in part by Twilight fever).

Also, I've totally in love with the first track by Paramore, another emo band with a 18-year-old lead singer named Hayley Williams who has a really big voice. You can check out the new song, Decode, on their MySpace page or on Stephenie Meyer's Web site, where the song debuted last week. While you're there, you can see the new movie poster for Twilight (which I don't like as much as the first one, but oh well). I might go out at lunchtime and see if I can pick up Paramore's first album, All We Know Is Falling from the bookstore.

The Linkin Park song is already one of my favorites from the Minutes to Midnight album I checked out from the library. And I think we can all agree that Collective Soul is a pretty cool band, even if you've been rolling your eyes at everything else in this post. Hey, at least I know I listen to cotton candy!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Transgender survey

A quick note from the office: one of the speakers at PolyPride Weekend was a representative from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and spoke about the following survey. I invite anyone who falls under the transgender umbrella to participate.

Task Force on the way to gathering largest sample in U.S. history

In the wake of one of the most violent years on record of assaults on transgender people, and at a time when we are building support for a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have launched the first time ever comprehensive national survey to collect data on discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in housing, employment, public accommodations, healthcare, education, family life and criminal justice. Already over 2,000 people have taken the survey.

Do you identify as gender non-conforming in any way? Take the survey! Record your experience and be a part of this historic effort. We want the survey to capture the full spectrum of gender expressions in our communities and record how prejudice and discrimination starts and then affects that very broad spectrum of people. Forward the survey on to others who'll want to participate!

Poly public relations

As you all know, Saturday was the Poly Pride Weekend rally on the Great Hill in Central Park, and I had so much fun mingling with my poly friends and meeting new people. I arrived about a quarter to 11 to help set up the tents and signs, and it was looking pretty glum because of the wet, cold weather, but by noon the sun was out and the day turned out beautifully.

Once things got started there was too much for me to do, so I hung out with Lyndell and some of the other volunteers backstage, occasionally helping to facilitate media interviews throughout the day. As many people remarked all day, this year's event had an unprecedented amount of media coverage, both before and at the event, including stories in the New York Post, Village Voice, TimeOut Magazine, and the big kahuna, the front page of the Style section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times.

"Hopelessly devoted to you, and you and you" - October 5, 2008

I don't think it can be overstated how important this story might become when we look back on the history of the polyamory movement, and I'm proud to say that I had a hand in making it happen. I write case studies all the time for work, and here's my little personal case study on making this important story possible.

We got the lead on a writer interested in doing a story on polyamory from the event's keynote speaker, Tristan Taormino, author and columnist for the Village Voice. The PolyNYC president asked me for some advice on how to approach the writer to pitch the story. I researched all the stories written by this reporter in the past several years, and found a common theme - each one began with a personal anecdote on a real live subject. Based on this observation, I recommended that the president write the pitch offering someone's personal story, and it was Diana Adams, PolyNYC's vice president and poly attorney, who stepped up. This is what I do for a living - advise clients on how to gain positive media exposure, and for once, I'm happy that I've had a chance to do it for a cause I believe in.

I had a chance to meet Cunning Minx, who produces a weekly podcast on poly issues and who happens to also be from Texas, so we spent a few minutes talking about the Lone Star State. I also met Linda, one of the members of my women's poly group, who was there with her lover and his other partner. At one point I counted about 150 people there, which I'm sure was the largest gathering ever of poly people I've ever heard of. Some people recognized me from our monthly meetings, and it was nice sitting down and chatting with them informally, which we rarely do at meetings.

It would have been nice to go to the after-party, but I wasn't going to miss my family's Saturday night dinner and the finale of Season Two of Heroes, which ended on a somewhat unsatisfying note due to the Hollywood writer's strike. Still, it's all good stuff, and the SNL this week was way above par from the past two weeks.

Today I drove into the city yet again, this time with my family in tow so we could check out the new Vincent van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. On the way to the museum, we saw these huge Hello Kitty statues made of painted bronze in the public atrium of an office building:

Hello Kitty

We also walked through a street fair on Lexington and the Polish Pride Parade on 5th Avenue on our way to MOMA. The van Gogh exhibit was fascinating, and we were also surprised to see that Salvador Dali's painting, The Persistence of Memory was back on display after a long hiatus. It's so much smaller than we expected it to be, only about the size of a sheet of paper.

I think everyone but Tara got a combination of museum fatigue and onset of illness, so we had to cut the visit a little short, but we all loved the exhibit and we had a good time together. Personally, I feel like I might be coming down with a sinus infection, but the next day or two will tell for sure.

Friday, October 03, 2008

New Twilight trailer Oct. 9

As noted on Stephenie Meyer's Web site, there will be a third and final trailer for the Twilight movie released Oct. 9 exclusively on the Twilight widget that I've now installed on the left side of the page. It will be playing in theaters starting Oct. 10, but I'm not planning to go to the movie theaters next weekend. Doesn't it seem like there's so much more interesting stuff being made for TV than movies these days?

Speaking of TV, we are two-thirds of the way through Season Two of Heroes and still loving every minute. The only problem is that it seems everybody but the titular Japanese character is turning to the dark side. And please, if you have to comment, please don't reveal any spoilers, since we haven't gotten to Season Three yet (but they are recording each week in HD on my DVR).

I'm very excited about PolyPride Weekend this year, which starts tonight with the Supermassive Cuddle Party. I went to this last year and met my friends Lyndell and Simon but didn't go to the picnic in Central Park and rally. This year, I'm skipping the cuddle party but attending the rally tomorrow - in fact, I volunteered to be the PolyNYC president's assistant, which I guess means being a gofer for the day.

Lyndell is the producer behind the whole weekend, and I've been helping her with media relations, which is, of course, my stock in trade. The president, Birgitte, actually invited me to co-facilitate the National Polyamory Leadership Summit on Sunday, but I had to decline because we're going to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art Sunday afternoon. Still, I was flattered that she asked me, since I'm not an officer for the group.

I found out that Tall Girl, the clothing store, is shuttering its store in White Plains, north of Manhattan, so I think I might pay a visit before the end of October. There's a train that runs up there from Grand Central Station, so I can go directly after work and still make it home at a reasonable hour, since it only takes about 40 minutes each way. Maybe I'll do that next Friday, since it will be a long weekend with me taking Monday off.

Speaking of clothes shopping, I had a quick visit to Loehmann's on Seventh Avenue this week and bought a suit, since I only have one suit and I've been wearing it pretty regularly going to court for my client. Now I can send the first suit to the cleaners and not be worried I won't get it back in time for when I need it. Apparently, Tahari is one of the few designer brands that makes suits in large misses sizes (14-18) because both of my suits are that brand. Just a quick trip to the tailor to alter the pants and it will be ready to wear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Theory of commitment

It was a long, restful and pretty uneventful four-day weekend for me, and thankfully my first day back to work has been slow, leaving me time to blog. Things could pick up quickly this afternoon though.

Thursday was, of course, Bug's birthday, which started out with presents. Along with the plethora of TV show DVDs (The Addams Family, Spaced, Two Fat Ladies, Birds of Prey), books and an Eagles Greatest Hits CD, she also got a cute little Fender guitar amp and a wooden sword made of red oak for her tai chi practice. I miss having a sword in the house - I haven't replaced the one I lost in the fire of 2005. I've never been that much into the martial arts, but I do appreciate the symbolic meaning of blades in Asian culture, as well as pagan practice. Watching Heroes probably puts it even more sharply into focus.

After presents we went to Palisades Center Mall, the tenth-largest shopping mall in the U.S. Bug led us on a tour of all her favorite stores - the Japanese book store, the Asian tea house supply, the Lego store and the Disney store, plus Barnes & Noble, of course. I took a break when everybody gravitated toward the chocolate and candied apple store since I was still on my diet and didn't need the extra temptation. We had a nice lunch at The Cheesecake Factory - it was the first visit for everyone but me, and yet no one had any cheesecake. After all, we had birthday cake waiting at home.

After lunch we played around in the Dave & Buster's game room for a couple hours, playing skeeball, video games and trivia contests. Then it was home for cake (I had a tiny sliver) and watching one of the movies Bug received, Mysterious Island. The movie was fun in a corny, pulpy way, which everyone seemed to be in the mood for. Since it was late, and we were so tired from the day, Tara and I decided to take a raincheck on our planned sleepover, since we were going to get up early the next morning.

Friday I picked up Tara at 10:30 in the morning, and we took the train into the city, whereupon we split up - she took a cab to the Met for an extended solitary visit, and I took the subway to Chinatown for a hair coloring appointment. After about two-and-a-half hours in the salon, my hair is now once again very close to my natural dark brown color, but with just a hint of highlighting in shades of deep russet and ochre in direct light. I made my way uptown to the Met to meet Tara and we had a bite to eat at the museum cafe and a quick look at some of her discoveries before getting back on a rush hour train home. Then in the evening everyone came over to start watching Season Two of Heroes.

Saturday I ran my usual errands, buying lots of carb-friendly food for my diet, and then we had our usual dinner in the evening, followed by a showing of Howl's Moving Castle, which is becoming my favorite Miyazaki movie, displacing Spirited Away, then Saturday Night Live (which unfortunately seems to be losing its spark again after a promising start this year). Sunday was very restful and lethargic, as I didn't leave the apartment at all, even so much as to take out the trash. Even though I was in my pajamas all day long, it didn't bother me the way it used to in the past. I'm learning to enjoy and appreciate my alone time instead of getting melancholy, which is much healthier for me. I cooked food for this week's lunches, watched a lot of TV on my DVR, and one of my Chinese movies I'd checked out of the library, 2046.

On this movie, and a related one that is one of my favorites, Un Coeur En Hiver (A Heart in Winter), it occurs to me watching the protagonists (both male) that there is a fine line separating someone living a polyamorous lifestyle, and someone who has simply closed off from any possibility of a committed relationship. It occurs to me that pursuant to my post about unconditional love that some people might read it and conclude that I don't believe in commitment, since I didn't specifically address it. The answer to that is quite simple really - I believe in a relationship model where you can be equally committed to more than one person at a time. Why is it so hard to understand this, yet people easily grasp the fact you can love more than one child at the same time, or more than one sibling. So what's the difference?

One word - sex.

The root of a monogamous culture is based on taboos and ideals about sex, and by extension, procreation of the human race, which is certainly an important thing. However, they have little meaning for someone who can't have children or chooses not to have children, or someone who can simply view sex as just an extension of all the pleasurable acts we engage in when we love someone. Once we choose not to put such an unjustifiable significance on the sexual aspect of a relationship, it becomes easier to see that multiple romantic relationships (whether they involve sexual relations or not) have just as much validity as multiple familial relationships.

People also talk about how there are only so many hours in a day to devote to yourself and your significant others, and how does one manage to juggle multiple partners when one seems to be more than a handful? Again, I invoke the offspring example. People might talk about how they can't afford another child, but you will rarely hear someone say they don't have enough time or love to bring another child into their family. Of course having everyone under the same roof produces efficiencies that are not always possible with multiple romantic partners, but the concept is largely the same. Every child is considered a blessing - so should it be with new love, if approached with the same level of sensitivity and care as one would employ when bringing home a new baby. And like with those who love children, loving someone should not be considered a burden, but rather something that brings joy and positive energy to your life.

So how to juggle the demands of multiple partners? I really can't answer that authoritatively since I've never actually done it myself. Maybe I never will. But going into any new relationship with a poly mindset will at least give me a good starting framework.

Not that it has anything to do with all this, but Tara and I both had dreams Saturday night where we were either married or getting married. We haven't talked about such heavy, future-related issues for a while, so I'm not sure what those dreams are trying to tell us. They weren't "happily ever after" kind of dreams either - mine was pretty drama-laden involving my estranged birth family, and hers was just surreal. I guess anything's possible in the unknowable future, but I'm not going to spoil the present thinking too much about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Bug!

Today we are celebrating Bug's birthday (not going to say how old she is) and the day is getting ready to start. We'll start with presents and then we're going to the big Palisades Mall in Nyack to do some shopping, hang out at Dave & Busters and eat at the Cheesecake Factory. I'm sure there will be some fish on the menu that I can eat.

Bug is such an interesting person that I can't really do her justice in such a small blog entry. She's an artist, an author, a graphic designer, a chef, and so many other things. She and I actually share a lot in common, and we have similar temperaments and interests. I remember the time I was talking about a beautiful and rare book about unicorns that I'd lost in the fire of 2005, and she went to her room and produced the same book from her bookshelves. We often joke that we were twins separated at birth, since my biological birthday is actually the same as hers, today, although I celebrate mine in July.

Bug has been part of Tara and Bee's family for more than a decade, and in the three years I've known her, she has always been a pleasure to be around. She is the most loyal, trustworthy and drama-free person I know, which is surely something to admire.

Happy Birthday, dear Jennifer - love to da Bug!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

On a much lighter note than my last post, I had a lovely time on Sunday hiking at the Delaware Water Gap, which is about an hour's drive west from where we live, on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My legs and ankles are just hitting the peak of soreness from the climb, which was child's play compared to some of the ones out there that go up to the top of the mountain.

We followed a stream into the forest for a while, then started the climb up, higher and higher, until we could no longer hear the babble of the water. This part of the trail is part of the much longer Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. At the higher altitudes we saw lush gardens of forest ferns dappled with sunlight, and unfortunately for me, a lot of pesky bugs. Winding on the loop back, we passed through the other side of the stream and made a couple of water crossings, luxuriating in the shady coolness as the afternoon wound down.

We also finished Season One of Heroes on Sunday night, but I'm not allowed to talk about it :) Season Two starts this weekend, and Season Three is recording on my DVR for later.

The diet is going well. I've lost about 5 pounds the first week, so I'm right on target to lose my 8-15 pounds at the end of the second week. At that point I'll have the option of going to Phase Two, where I can start adding some of the good carbs (fruit, whole grains) back into my diet. I can definitely tell the difference in the mirror with my waistline, it's very encouraging.

Theory of unconditional love

Several events in my life recently have intersected to make me think about writing this post. Basically, it’s kind of my non-conventional theory of love, like one of the stories in Plato’s “Symposium.” Some of these events are well-known, like my blog post about the Broadway musical “Rent” closing, some are not, like my comments on other blogs and letters written to friends. But they have all been related to the topic, so like pieces in a puzzle, I’m trying to fit them together to create a unified theory, like the elusive Theory of Everything but just related to love.

So as everybody knows by now, I’m following a polyamorous lifestyle and involved in a poly relationship at the present time with my girlfriend Tara, who also has a committed relationship to Bee. Before I go further, let me share the newly included definition of polyamory that was just entered into Webster’s Dictionary:

Polyamory: the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.

The key word of course is “open.” Poly people don’t sneak around. We are open about our wants and needs, and the people who are fulfilling them. We live authentic lives; we don’t pretend things are or are not going on. If we find someone attractive, we are free to express it. We can be open about the desire for sexual variety without feeling guilty. If our needs are not being met, we ourselves take responsibility for meeting them without expecting it from others.

Okay, enough poly propaganda.

As I’ve written before in my “Rent” post, I live my life by three core tenets - be true to yourself, live for today, and love unconditionally. Now, what do I mean by “love unconditionally”? It means I don’t place expectations from those I love, and if they don’t love me or are unable to give me as much as I want from them, it doesn’t invalidate the love I feel for them. It just means I have to take responsibility for looking elsewhere for the love and affection I need for myself instead of expecting it from them. Without expectations, there can’t be any disappointment, as happens with a typical unrequited love scenario.

Love is not always an even exchange - in fact, it rarely is. Loving unconditionally means being able to love someone without expecting an equal amount of love back, like the way you can love an infant child. Part of loving without limits is to not limit yourself to loving only those who you deem can love you back the way you want them to. Love cannot be forced - it has to appear organically when the right people come together in the right conditions, without our desires as to what we want to happen getting in the way.

This is a point that is sometimes difficult to grasp. We can all say we are “looking for love” but I don’t believe you can "find" love - it has to find you. That is, it has to appear unbeckoned when the time and situation is right, like any other natural phenomenon, like a lunar eclipse or the aurora borealis. The best we can do is be open to loving someone if the right person and situation comes along, because if we are not open to it, we will miss it if love appears. That’s one of the big problems I have with monogamy - by definition, it closes us off from being open to love. I can’t subscribe to a belief system that curtails the ability to communicate honestly and openly about your true feelings and forces you into a role where you define yourself by your relationship to another.

Obviously monogamy has its supporters, and they are legion. I’m not saying that monogamy is wrong. It certainly has its benefits, and for most people I’d say, it’s the better option. But just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t make it the only game in town. Polyamory is simply another option for people who struggle with monogamy.

The part of loving unconditionally that’s been hard for me until recently, as I’m sure it is hard for most people, is the recognition that we have no control over being in love. Once we recognize that, we can stop beating ourselves up that we’re not experiencing it. It would be like being disappointed that the sunset is not as beautiful as we’d like it to be. Each relationship is different and unique, and tends to develop as a product of the individuals involved; much like a baby becomes whatever kind of person through a combination of their parents' combined DNA and upbringing. Sure, we have an influence in the relationships we create, but we are not solely responsible for how they turn out. Whether a person becomes an acquaintance, a friend, a f**k-buddy, a secondary lover or a primary partner is not going to depend on what we WANT out of them. They will become who they are supposed to become - the only thing we can do is show up and see what direction things go.

I recently quoted Thomas Merton in my blog during one of my down periods with Tara. He said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” I think only by allowing others to be truly authentic and not projecting our own expectations on them can we build loving relationships that endure. Of course, one of the hardest things to do is to show your true authentic self, warts and all, to the object of your affection and hope that you don’t scare them away. But the alternative is that you always have to be on guard around them, keeping things hidden. For me, that’s not the way to love someone, but we all decide for ourselves how much we’re willing to bend to be with the people we’re attracted to.

The key to all this is acceptance. We have to believe that things happen for a reason, and accept that the world does not always give us what we want from it. If I find someone attractive, I’ll pursue them, get to know them, and some kind of relationship will form - or not. Whatever the relationship is, it will be something that’s comfortable and works for both of us. It might even change over time, but we will deal with it each and every day. I’ve become much more adept at dealing with my changing relationship with Tara than I used to be, back when I thought about the future a lot more than I should have. We simply try to be good for each other each day, and whatever happens, happens. The important thing is that we can be authentic with each other, and not put expectations on our relationship that neither of us is prepared to fulfill.

One final note - one blogger I follow was recently confronted with a situation where she was in love with someone who was in love with her partner. She felt that it was unwise to pursue the new person because she didn’t want to interfere with her partner’s advances. Personally, as a polyamorist, I don’t believe in the whole “one true love” theory. Obviously we can have loves that are greater and lesser than others, but I don’t believe that we have to stop loving once we’ve found someone we love very, very much. We as humans have an unlimited capacity to love, and all love brings something very special into our lives. Ultimately, love is the only thing that’s worth living for.

Just my opinion of course, for what it’s worth.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update on busyness

I've had a post brewing in my head about my philosophy of unconditional love, ever since I wrote that post about Rent closing on Broadway. However, I haven't been able to get enough time to put it to paper because of the catastrophic events on Wall Street in the past week that has directly affected my largest client. So I've been having to stay later and even work a little at night and on weekends to keep up.

Plus, it's also been a busy week outside the office as well. Tara and I had a quiet date night on Monday watching Big Fish on my Big Screen. Tuesday night I had dinner with Lori at a diner in New York (which was rudely interrupted by a New York cockroach crawling on her side of the booth). Then we went to Barnes & Noble and I bought a couple of adult vampire books (Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton - I just finished the two-part graphic novel and loved it - and Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, which inspired the current HBO show Tru Blood). Then last night was my PolyNYC meeting where we had an excellent speaker who is a poly psychologist and talked about poly compatibility.

Hopefully I will have some time soon to get back to blogging more regularly, but for right now, I'll probably have to curtail this a bit. Also, big hugs and sympathy to my Houston friends and readers who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I hope everything gets back to normal soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

South Beach Diet - Day 1

Today I started my long-awaited South Beach Diet with which I hope to lose about 50 pounds over the next several months. The last time I tried this diet, I lost 60 pounds in only six months, so I know it works for me, and I know 50 pounds is an achievable target.

When I did it before, it was during the most emotionally tumultuous period of my life in 2004-2005. My life today is much more stable by comparison, so I'm hoping it will actually be easier for me to stick with it. Part of the reason I think I gained back a lot of the weight I had lost before was that I was decompressing from riding out that time period in my life when things were so turbulent and uncertain. Basically, I celebrated a little too long that I'd made it through. I also had a year-long recovery from major surgery that made my diet a secondary concern.

Now that I've pretty much arrived at a place in my life where I'm reasonably stable, happy and not anticipating any other major emotional or physical turmoil, I'm looking at this diet to help me achieve my target weight and stay there for the rest of my life.

Speaking of beaches, Tara, Bee and I sent to the beach yesterday in an improptu search for adventure. The water was pretty cold, but we eventually succumbed to the waves and were floating past the break zone on our boogie boards. I had one good ride onto the beach, which had been swept clear of all the shells we encountered on our last visit earlier this summer from the recent storm activity from Hurricane Gustav. After our swim, Bee and I flew her dragon kite while Tara took some pictures. In a last hurrah before starting my diet, I had White Castle for dinner - 10 little sliders with A-1 sauce, onion rings, and an Oreo sundae shake from Burger King. That kind of excess is why I need to get on this diet, to enforce some discipline in my eating habits.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pearl the pop star

Longtime blog readers probably remember my friend Pearl, who was tremendously influential to my life in the early 1990s. Her parents are one of my family's oldest friends, and for a period of time after college, she and I grew very close as friends, although I am 15 years her senior. She has two older sisters, and the middle one became a huge pop singer and actress in Taiwan (and still is) and Pearl followed her to Taiwan a few years ago to chart the same path.

Apparently she's succeeded - she and her older sister are now like the Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears of Taiwan. As you can see from the cover above, Pearl just released her debut album last year (under her stage name Ivy), and there are videos of her on YouTube singing with some boy band, reminiscent of Mariah Carey singing with Boys 2 Men in "One Fine Day."

I have to say, it's weird seeing my little friend all grown up now. I've known Pearl since she was five years old, and the last time we saw each other was in 2005 at the Galleria with our mutual friend Amy. I still have a photo of her blowing soap bubbles when she was about 7 or 8 years old on the bookshelf in my apartment, along with a figurine she gave me long ago. I hardly recognize the girl I've known for most of her life in this made-up, artificial pop star that's been created in her place. I just hope that she's found the happiness and fulfillment she's been seeking in the glitz and glamour of the Taiwanese pop scene.

I found Pearl's sister's Friendster page and found some other photos that are more reminiscent of the Pearl I know. She's grown into such a lovely young woman.

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