Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar roundup

I had a really fun time this weekend at the movies with Piper, watching seven Best Picture nominees in a row – Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, The Kids Are Alright, True Grit, The Fighter, Winter’s Bone and Black Swan.

I met Piper at the theater at 10 am for Toy Story 3, which I thought was the best movie of the day in terms of emotional impact. Maybe it’s because I’m invested in the characters after two excellent prequels; maybe it’s because I’m such a fan of The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real as a subject matter. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes that movie would be a strong Best Picture Oscar contender in a weaker field, and if the Academy didn’t handicap animated and foreign-language films by putting them in their own subcategorical ghettos for awards. There really should be a “Best Drama” and “Best Comedy” to balance the playing field if they are going to keep those categories.

Anyway, we both thought 127 Hours was a really hard film to watch. I think Danny Boyle is a great director in the sense he has such a unique style and flair, but the subject was a killer. Not to mention that decapitation and other bodily mutilations appeared in four of the nominated movies (five, if you count Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead having their body parts pulled off by screaming daycare toddlers).

The Kids Are Alright had its funny moments, which was a welcome change after sitting through 127 Hours. It’s hard for me to watch movies like that because of all the issues I have with birth families, compulsory monogamy and what might have been if I’d been allowed to make different choices during my transition. But it was definitely the lightweight movie of the group – only the superb acting by the leads makes it BP worthy, and Julianne Moore was robbed of a nomination in a strong field this year.

True Grit was surprisingly good, although I’m a fan of westerns to begin with. I am not, however, a big fan of the Cohen Brothers, but they made this remake into a very accessible film, and Hailee Steinfeld was amazing! Fittingly this year, she’s the most inspired debut performance of a young actress I can remember since Natalie Portman’s debut in The Professional.

The Fighter also took me a little by surprise. Christian Bale was fantastic – I really didn’t recognize him; he lost himself so completely in the role. It was better than I expected, but didn’t quite reach my standards of BP winner. Million Dollar Baby reduced me to a blubbery puddle of goo, and this was no Million Dollar Baby.

After The Fighter, Piper left because she’d seen everything else except for The King’s Speech, which wasn’t until 7 am Sunday morning, so I watched the last two with Rebecca, who was sitting next to us throughout. Winter’s Bone was an interesting movie, but unfortunately it suffered from two things – my highest expectations and that I was distracted by the noisy couple next to me, talking and eating food from noisy plastic wrapping. It’s the kind of movie that I’d have to watch again to fully appreciate, and it’s too bad that this little indie film didn’t pull off any upsets Sunday.

Finally, Black Swan started at 11:45 pm, also a very hard movie to watch, as Darren Aronofsky’s work sometimes is. I don’t like scary movies much, so near the end I spent a lot of time with my eyes covered – I’m such a marshmallow. The ending was good though, and that’s important. As a mind-f**k, it doesn’t hold a candle to my all-time favorite, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

The final three movies in the marathon were Inception, The Social Network and The King’s Speech, but since I’d seen the first and third, I didn’t feel like sitting through Inception just to see The Social Network. Perhaps in hindsight, knowing how many awards it would pick up, I should have. I’m glad that Inception got its due in the technical categories, although Chris Nolan should have gotten a directing nod over Tom Hooper (the eventual winner). Just my opinion, of course – I didn’t think The King’s Speech was that great.

In between True Grit and The Fighter, Piper and I went to Shake Shack to grab a bit to eat – it was my first time there. They only sell burgers and hot dogs as entrees, but the frozen custard was really good. The burger was like a fresh In ‘n’ Out Burger, but smaller, so a good choice if you’re not too hungry. And since they provided us with $20 gift cards for the concession stand, I also ate a fair amount of movie food, which was pretty gross but convenient.

One more busy week at work and then I should be winding down a bit. There’s also an OLNY leadership meeting on Wednesday to talk about how to clean up Poly Cocktails, so I’ll be going back to Diana’s place in Brooklyn for that. Plus, I'm looking forward to seeing Puck Tuesday night as they pass through New York back to school from visiting Ryan in New Jersey.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The rent is too damn high!

In the last few days, I’ve been watching a lot of movies because I’ve been watching them on my laptop on the train, and there’s a lot of good stuff on TCM and AMC leading up to the Oscars this Sunday. I saw a bit of Amadeus the other night, and also watched Copying Beethoven on DVD – arguably two of the greatest movies ever made about classical composers and the nature of the divine spark in humanity.

These kinds of movies always remind me of my time with Tara, because she is the only true artist I’ve ever known personally, in the sense that she did it professionally and never aspired to be anything but an artist. She would be the first to say she’s lucky she has people around who love her and take care of her needs, because otherwise she would starve. As I’ve said before, her family lived very much like the bohemians of Rent, living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes not knowing if they could pay the bills each month. While I admired and tried to emulate them and their way of life, I could never quite bring myself to fully commit to that.

Speaking of rent, can you believe it’s been almost a year since I moved into the city? My lease is coming up due at the end of March, and of course, they are jacking it up $100 per month. I tried to call and negotiate, but they shut me down. Guess I’ll have to curtail those spa visits to make up for it. But it does make me think that maybe in a few years, if the rent keeps going up, and once Polina is out of school and traveling the world, maybe I will buy some kind of property nearer to wherever I’m working at that time. It’s kind of outrageous to be throwing away money on rent and then have that uncertainty of it going up every year. I should start saving up for my down payment.

I’m so glad it’s Friday! It’s been a tough week at work after my busy weekend at Wicked Faire, and we had Open Love NY this week too. I’m looking forward to sitting in the theater all day tomorrow with Piper and whomever she's bringing. Then Sunday night, the Oscars, which I haven’t seen in a few years, but I used to be a huge fan and I’ll have seen almost all the Best Picture nominees this year. It’s nice to get back to things I used to enjoy doing but kind of got lost in the shuffle of transition.

I watched Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps last night, and there's a scene when Jake and Winnie break up. It made me think about Bonnie, and how there's a point for most people where they know unequivocably that a relationship is over, when love is over. I knew it the day I had that awful phone call with my ex-wife while she was in California, but that's the only time I've felt it. My other two breakups have gone not with bangs, but with whispers.

I really should be more protective of my heart, but what is it good for if not to be consumed, to be used as a vessel of joy, passion and happiness? My heart is an organ of fire, not of stone. I refuse to let fear rule my life. I think I've forgotten that and I need to remind myself from time to time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wicked Faire!

This weekend I had a great time at Wicked Faire in Somerset, NJ with Puck and a bunch of our mutual friends and acquaintances. We stayed in a hotel room with four other people including Puck's friend Eric, so it was a bit crowded, but we didn't spend much time there anyway.

The theme of the event was "Fairy Tales Gone Wrong," and I loved the massive balloon structure of Rapunzel's Tower, which stood about 20 feet high in the lobby:


I arrived on Friday night after work and ran into Ryan and Beth shortly after I arrived. Puck came in later with Eric, who picked them up from Penn Station. The first presentation I attended was one on BDSM toys (floggers, paddles, whips, etc.) given by Dark, another of Puck's acquaintances. I knew him because they told me about him, but he didn't know me yet. He was accompanied by several women who served as test subjects for the various implements of pain. I've heard Morpheus' BDSM 101 presentation, so it wasn't all new to me, but Dark really knows his stuff.

Puck and Eric arrived in the middle of the presentation so I went out to meet them and organize our room situation. We went around looking at the vendors for a while because Puck wanted to buy some steampunk goggles, a vest and a few other things. We ran into Leon and Ardella from Open Love NY, and Roy and Michelle, who run the NJ poly group. It was everybody's first time at Wicked Faire, which I found rather comforting.

Beth, Ryan, Puck and I joined a small group in the gaming room to play a tabletop RPG called Deadlands, something I haven't done since the 1980s, when Dungeons & Dragons was new. Ryan played a crazy Russian hunter, Puck played a South American gaucho (cowhand) and I was a spy pretending to be a teacher. I can't remember what Beth's character was, other than he was named Mr. Smith. In the game we encountered a giant bear-gorilla in the woods of Washington State during the Civil War era, and we managed to defeat it. Ryan's character was almost killed, but I saved him by drawing the creature's attention with a daring attack on horseback.

Beth and Ryan went home after that, and Puck and I went to Dark's suite for my first kink play party. Puck put a box tie harness on me with rope, their first ever solo bondage scene tying someone up. I flogged one of Dark's subs, an Egyptian woman named Yasmine, which was a first for me. It was a nice crowd of people, and having gotten to know them at bit during the day made it more comfortable for me in the evenings. And of course some of them Puck knew from going to other parties in the past.

Saturday we went out to a nearby diner for breakfast with Eric and his friend Magdalene, and then came back to dress in our full costumed regalia. Puck dressed as a forest spirit and I dressed into my Renaissance Faire outfit. I teased and sculpted Puck's hair with hairspray, and they used my makeup to dramatic effect.

In costume

Later Puck bought a green leather mask that completed the costume nicely.

Puck's mask

I stayed in the lobby to watch Leon in a grappling match where he dominated two other martial artists in a 10 minute match. This included a vicious body slam on the first guy, who then had to be replaced by someone bigger, but who didn't fare much better. I'm thankful Leon would be on my side in a street fight!

We also saw in the lobby a whip demonstration that included a four-crack move by this whipmaster:

Later, we met up to listen to Dark's performance of bluegrass renditions of popular music by Lady Gaga, Sir Mix-A-Lot and songs from the Joss Whedon-verse (Firefly, Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog).

One of Dark's entourage, Piper, served as the house girl for both late-night parties and was in sub-space all weekend. She was working at a toy booth Saturday afternoon and I was looking at a flogger while Puck and Ryan were having some alone time, so I got to test it out on her. It's a lovely toy, made from a carved wooden bedpost as the handle and long straps of red leather, so I bought it (my first one ever). Puck bought some sharp metal claws from the same booth, and got to try them on several different people.

Saturday night I went out to dinner at a sushi restaurant with Leon, Ardella and a couple new people, Alissa and David, while Puck went back to the diner with Ryan, Beth and other friends. Later, at Dark's party, Ryan and Beth brought out their extensive collection of toys and played with almost everyone in the room. Puck and I left for a while to try and see musician Voltaire perform on the main stage, but the prior band ran long so we just listened to them. They were really good though, very original stuff.

The claws come out

When we got back there was all sorts of kinky stuff going on, but I was feeling pretty tired, so I went to bed early. Ryan and Puck did a kinky scene together with rope later that night and he brought Piper into the scene since she was serving as the house girl. Puck told me about it the next day and it sounded pretty hot.

Sunday was a much more subdued day, as it usually is at the end of cons when everybody's leaving. We went to the diner again for breakfast, then came back to watch Ryan and his friend Murphy demonstrate rope bondage on Puck and a female wrestler named Ginger:

Rope wrestling

Murphy is quite the wizard with rope. He made this intricate rope swing, suspended from a custom frame he named "The Blue Raptor."


He was also playing some really cool mashup music by Robin Skouteris, who takes popular hits by Madonna, Britney Spears, Linkin Park, Nirvana, Michael Jackson and others and mashes them together to a dance beat. I really liked the one of "Circus" by Britney and "Numb Encore" by Linkin Park and Jay-Z. So he was nice enough to copy all those tracks to my flash drive for me.

As we were saying goodbye to Dark and his crew, it turned out that Piper needed a ride back to New York, so she rode with us as we went through Staten Island, stopping for tea with Puck's parents, then out to Stony Brook to drop Puck off at their dorm room, then back to Manhattan, where I dropped her off before coming home.

It was interesting getting to know her on a more personal level and it turns out we have some things in common - we are both journalism majors (she graduates from NYU this spring), and film buffs. So all in all, this weekend was certainly a big step in being fully acclimated to the kinky space and finding something fun and fulfilling in it for myself.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

Puck surprised me on Sunday by stopping by in the afternoon and finding an excuse to stay the night and go back to Long Island in the morning, so my Valentine’s Day treat was getting an unexpected morning waking up with my love in bed (even if we had to wake up at 6:30 am). They was coming back from NJ and missed their connecting train to Stony Brook.

So instead of just a quick stopover before the next train, we decided to color their hair again – we had just been to Edison’s salon last weekend, but the color was a little bit light so they wanted to darken it to a richer red color. It was the first time I’d ever colored anyone’s hair – it’s actually kind of fun. It doesn’t smell as strongly as the chemicals I remember when I was a child, watching my mom color her hair. It turned out pretty well, although maybe not as red as we’d have liked.

One of the bestest things about living where I live is opportunities like this, the unplanned days of spending time together. I absolutely made the right decision to live in the city. I love the energy of walking through Times Square, especially when the air is clear and it’s not too crowded. If I lived in NJ, I might be closer to work and save money on commuting and taxes, but then I would spend most of my weekends feeling very isolated. And frankly, the majority of my time at home I do spend alone, but it doesn’t feel so alone knowing I could walk out my front door and into one of the great crossroads of the world. If I lived in NJ, I probably wouldn’t go to Poly Cocktails as often, I wouldn’t be able to host meetings for OLNY, and I certainly wouldn’t see Puck as much as I do, which is a joy.

I’m thinking about living locations today because my best friend Lori called me yesterday to catch up, and I found out she’s buying a co-op in Elmhurst, Queens, where Hiba and Bonnie live. Apparently she and Erik can’t stand living together, so they are going to live separately but still be a couple. Hopefully everything goes well for her and she will move in April. I’m excited for her, and it will be nice to have an excuse to go to Queens and try more of the wonderful and authentic Asian foods to be found there.

I don’t know that I’d ever buy a home again. I guess a lot depends on my working situation and other people who may come into my life. I’m happy where I live, even though it’s a long commute. Ultimately, I want to be where my friends and the people I love are, and days like Sunday make it all worthwhile.