Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar roundup 2012

For the second year in a row, Piper and I attended the AMC Theaters Best Picture Showcase (a 24-hour marathon of all the movies nominated for Best Picture). Last year it was 10 films; this year it was nine. And just like last year ("Oscar roundup" - Feb. 28, 2011) here's my impressions on these highly regarded films.

Hugo (in 3D) - This was, hands down, the most entertaining of all the movies, and it's a shame that the presentation was marred by so many technical glitches (it took them two starts to get the sound right, and then the house lights came on due to a fuse breaker in the middle, which required them to tinker to get the film back to where it left off). It was like a combination of two great foreign films, Amelie and Cinema Paradiso, but done with the American pacing of Martin Scorsese. The 3D effect struck a nice balance of subtle and flashy and, once you get used to it, it does enhance the story.

The Tree of Life - This was probably my least favorite of this year's bunch. Although I do admire director Terrence Malik's style at times ("The New World" - Dec. 5, 2010) this movie was a little too convoluted and cerebral for me. It also brought up a lot of unwelcome memories of my previous life because it was set in Houston and suburban scenes were shot in Smithville, a rural Texas town that resembles the neighborhood where my house burned down. For this kind of movie, I much prefer Darren Aronofsky's overlooked 2006 movie The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz ("The Fountain" - Dec. 4, 2007).

The Help - Puck and Piper were telling me about the controversy about the movie being racist and flaunting white privilege, but I didn't really see it that way. The other controversy about ownership of the rights to the story happens all the time in Hollywood (see Alan Moore's battle over Watchmen) and while I'm always on the side of the original creator, I try to treat each work on its own merits, rather than getting caught up in who "owns" it. I liked the acting in this movie better as a whole than any other nominated movie this year.

The Artist - Naturally, as the front-running going into the awards tonight, I was eager to see this acclaimed movie. With such high expectations, I was a little let down. It was such a redo of A Star is Born mixed with Singin' in the Rain that I felt like it wasn't an original story at all. The only gimmick was that it was done as a silent movie. But first and foremost for a movie that is titled "The Artist," I was expecting it to be more creative.

The Descendants - This was probably the surprise movie of the night for me, in that I had no idea what this was about, and I was pleasantly surprised about how good this movie is. George Clooney gives a great starring performance that should net him his second acting Oscar (first was for Syriana) and it was interesting having the movie set in Hawaii. This was 2011's The Kids Are Alright, but the story was actually quite original and engaging.

Midnight in Paris - I have to say that, the more I think about it, I think this movie deserves the Best Picture nomination more than any other nominee. It is quintessential Woody Allen, but at the top of his game. Sure, you could compare it to several of his earlier, lesser works, but this is the one where he brings it all together to create film that crackles with wit, insight, humor, passion and heartache. This was the surprise success story of 2011.

War Horse - I had such high hopes for this film. Steven Spielberg pedigree. A hugely successful Tony Award-winning show on Broadway. And while it was certainly a good movie, it missed the mark in making the best emotional connection with me. Some of the earlier scenes could have been cut because it dragged a bit in the beginning. Some of the best scenes at the end felt a little rushed. Just like in The King's Speech last year, I knew what the director was trying to go for, and I feel that he just fell short of getting there.

Moneyball - I enjoyed this movie and there's a lot to admire here. If you're a big fan of baseball statistics, this is your wet dream of a film. I just felt that the main character's work and family life were not well integrated in the plot. It was almost like they added on the stuff with his daughter as an afterthought to humanize him - it didn't really have anything to do with what was going on at work. Plus, being so grounded in reality with actual Major League Baseball players and teams made it a little difficult to enjoy the story on its own merits.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - I almost have to give a pass on this movie for two reasons. One, I was watching it between 6 to 8:30 a.m. after being up all night, so there were a lot of long blinks while watching it. Second, it was also a bit of a trigger for me because the main character is a developmentally challenged child, like the one I helped to raise in my previous life. At least the events of 9/11 aren't any more of a trigger than they are to most people in this country or else I would have probably skipped it altogether. All that said, I felt like this movie and Hugo had a lot of similarities (young boys in knee-length shorts trying to solve a mystery to bring closure to the loss of their fathers) except I enjoyed Hugo a lot heck of a lot more.

I'm just gonna say too that while this year's field of nominees is probably the weakest I can remember, I'm proud of myself that I was able to make it through the entire marathon for the first time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wicked Faire 2012!

Looking back on last year's Wicked Faire ("Wicked Faire!" - Feb. 21, 2011), I realize it was quite a pivotal point in my life. It was the first time Puck and I attended a con together. It was also my first taste of the BDSM/kink scene (my "sceneversary"), my first steampunk convention, my first exposure to mashup music (courtesy of Murphy) and it was where I met Piper and the beginning of our beautiful friendship.

So naturally, I was greatly looking forward to going again this year, and while the event likely will never have the same impact as the first one, this year was made even better because Piper and Jet shared our hotel room. So unlike last year when we had to sleep on an air mattress (partially inflated by mouth in the hotel hallway at 3 in the morning because my battery-powered air pump ran down) in Eric's room with four other people, it was much more comfortable this year, sleeping in a proper bed in a less-crowded room.

I was hoping to take Friday off to get a head start on the event, but Lori couldn't spare me so I had to work until past 6 pm before I could drive to Staten Island and pick up Puck. Jet and Piper drove separately and we met up at the Agreeable Agony vendor booth, run by Kiernan and Dee, our friends from Massachusetts. That's where I bought my flogger and Puck got their metal claws last year.

We saw more music this year, and one band I really liked was Ego Likeness, a goth/industrial band that we thought sounded like a combination of Garbage and Depeche Mode. I bought all three of their CDs and had them autographed by the lead singer and the guitarist.


Saturday was our full day at the con and it started with a Goblin Market in the morning. Puck went dressed as a fae, using a cotton-candy satin, over-the-top girly, ribboned dress from my closet as a skirt (putting some rips in the mesh for the proper ethereal effect). While they horse-traded secrets, memories and outgrown names with other people in the market and we watched burlesque performances emceed by the Goblin King, I traded an Open Love NY bracelet for a balancing plastic bird with the science geek, who also gave us a sample of chocolate ice cream freshly made with liquid nitrogen.

Here's a picture of Puck in their fae costume, along with someone we met named Vell in a fully decked out purple steampunk outfit:


As with last year, there were some fun exhibitions in the lobby of the hotel, such as the juggling demonstration:

Saturday afternoon, Piper (with Jet's help) led a group discussion about bottoming for rope that included things like demonstrations of different ties (me, Puck and Dee helped to demonstrate different positions), how to talk to a rope top, how to not get arrested while doing rope in public, and how to look good in pictures of yourself while tied up.


All weekend Puck participated in a live-action role play game (LARP) that required us to run around and perform quests and tasks that took us to every corner of the hotel. I didn't want to play for myself, so we just teamed up - I was their familiar, so maybe I was a unicorn (or is that too fancy for to be a familiar?) They did things like try on corsets, get flogged (by me) with a dice flogger, find a sexy male leather jacket, get photos or autographs from certain costumed characters (like Jesus, Severus Snape, the Goblin King) play a card game, etc.


Sometimes we'd run into other players and there would be a showdown of Rock, Paper, Scissors and an exchange of cards. But mostly we did a good job avoiding those battles.

Late Saturday night we saw the same band that we liked last year who again opened for Voltaire, This Way to the Egress. They are described as a steampunk/dark cabaret band, an homage to old-fashioned vaudeville, incorporating sideshow, burlesque and comedy in their own musical mayhem. They had both a ballerina burlesque dancer (who danced en pointe) and the mime performer we saw last year:


Once again, just like last year, we failed to see headliner Voltaire; this time because Puck had to use the bathroom and couldn't get back in because of the massive line to get in. Maybe next year!

Even later on Saturday there was a performance/showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show where Eric performed with a troupe of players. Since Puck has never seen it before, they were herded on stage with other "virgins" to have their "cherry" popped in the form of a balloon held between their legs:


The performers did skits and dance numbers corresponding to the vapid plotline of the movie, including leading the crowd in dancing "Time Warp" and a prelude done to Michael Jackson's "Thriller":


Since I have seen RHPS once before (and that was enough for me) I left after Rocky Horror made his appearance and made my way back to the hotel around 3 am to shower and get into bed. Jet, Piper and Puck made their way back after the movie ended - Puck said they were "underwhelmed" by the movie.

Sunday we woke up bright and early at 10:30 am to get packed up and checked out of the hotel. Puck continued LARPing in a new purple-y, sparkly femme outfit, complete with my over-the-top makeup job.

I took a little break from LARPing with Puck to catch an encore daytime performance by TWTTE and buy their new CD, plus get it autographed by piano player Sarah, who was so sweet and down-to-earth:


All of Puck's LARPing paid off handsomely when they were named the first-place winner of the game, receiving a complimentary admission to the upcoming Steampunk World's Fair event in May, so we're making plans to go to that.

I wanted to get to my weekly yoga class uptown, so we left right after the awards so I could drop them off at home before heading home for a change of clothes and a subway ride to Jonathan's apartment. I used my new Manduka yoga mat and I found it very comfortable, but since it's so thick, it was difficult to balance on one foot. I guess that's a necessary trade-off because otherwise it's too painful for my back, knees and tailbone.

Pre-Wicked update

It's been way too long since I've posted, and so much good stuff has happened. I really do need to be better about updating, or else just take one of my rare breaks from blogging altogether.

The Saturday before last was Open Love NY's CineKink screening of the movie Three by Tom Tykwer, the director of Run Lola Run. As sponsors of the screening, O Man and I got to say a few words to the audience beforehand, so we got a little publicity out of it for Open Love NY. The movie itself was okay, except that until the very end, it wasn't really about polyamory. It was all non-consensual non-monogamy, or cheating, until the very end.

So the best thing I can say about it was that it had a "hap-poly" ending, or a happy ending attributable to polyamory, which would have otherwise been a sad ending for at least one of the characters if poly was not considered a viable choice. Now someone needs to make a sequel in order for it to truly be a poly-themed movie.

Monday night was Poly Cocktails, and one person came up to me to say that my speech at CineKink inspired him to come out after a prolonged absence from the poly scene - that touched me. Puck came for the first time in a long while and they had lots of fun being immersed in the queer/poly/kinky bubble for a while, especially after being with their family all weekend in Vermont.

Normally, Puck and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day, but since this year we happened to be together on Tuesday, we had a little improptu recognition. I gave them a card at Poly Cocktails, and got us some theater tickets to see, appropriately, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" two months hence on April 14. We also went out for dinner Tuesday night at Sosa Borella, an Italian-Argentine restaurant nearby in the Theater District.

Thursday night Piper and I had dinner at the Tick Tock Diner near Penn Station (I'd only ever been to the one in New Jersey, but I have fond memories of it). I had a wonderful Crabcake Benedict, which is two perfectly poached eggs with hollandaise sauce and paprika; one of them on a crabcake and the other on a bed of sauteed spinach. Since my least favorite part of a traditional Eggs Benedict is the English muffin and Canadian bacon, this is a great improvement for me. It's kind of an Benedict-Florentine-crabcake mashup dish, but it works beautifully.

Afterwards we went back to my place to continue our Hitchcock marathon with Spellbound, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. Next up is another Bergman feature and one of Hitchcock's best: Notorious, with Cary Grant.

Funnily enough, it was only 24 hours later when I saw Piper again at Wicked Faire this weekend in Somerset, NJ. This was our "friendiversary" because Puck and I met Piper at Wicked last year. I'll write about this weekend's excitement in my next post, so stay tuned :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Steampunk dreams

I dreamed last night that Puck and I were living in a great house owned by a beautiful and wealthy lady, along with one of Puck’s other partners. The three of us went to the store to buy ingredients for fondue: gruyere cheese, bread, chocolate, bananas, strawberries, etc.

As we drove home, we passed a fine gentleman, dressed as a black knight and riding a great black horse. We got home and went inside to put our groceries away, and a few minutes later, the knight arrived. Our lady came downstairs, all dressed in an extravagant black steampunk ball gown, complete with a jaunty hat.

The knight entered the house on horseback through the tall, double-front doors that opened like gates, hooves clattering on the tile floor in the foyer, and announced his presence. The lady acknowledged him and accompanied him outside. We watched them talking in the garden from the window and discussed whether it would be indiscreet to take pictures of them all dressed in such finery.

Puck laughs at me that I always seem to dream of us living together, as this is the third such dream I can remember. They stayed over last night after a date with Alex on the upper west side, and I typically remember my dreams better when there’s someone else in the bed. Sleeping together seems to naturally segue into dreams of living together.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Porgy and Bess

I saw a curious sight on my way to work – the rear half of a taxicab wedged into a garage doorway too small for it. I wonder why anyone would want to saw a car in half in the first place.

So, because of Newt Gingrich, polyamory and open relationships are all in the news these days. There was a reporter at the Columbia Journalism School who wanted to feature me and Puck in his article, but we turned that down (although we both granted him separate interviews). I also had a lengthy interview with another Columbia grad student who is working on a documentary. And my friend Diana was quoted last week in a New York Times story and might be in an upcoming cover story for TIME magazine. It’s a pretty exciting time to be poly, somewhat like it was in 2008 when I was first came out.

Puck and I have been spending a lot of quality time together and it’s been very affirming for our relationship. They surprised me with a visit on Monday (the 30th) and we had a nice dinner at the Palm which was full of good food and conversation. Snuggles are always nice too!

We’ve also been playing Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe on the PS3 a lot lately. We went through the DC half of the Story Mode to unlock Darkseid as a playable character, and now we’re going through the MK side. Nothing like blood and violence to keep a relationship strong.

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve been working on a visual model to represent the human gender expression. I got a lot of feedback on my first version, so a revision is in the works.

Friday night I went to the MMMM and met a new couple from Philly, Sean and Aurora. Also got to hang out with Beth, Kiwi and Ilan. Saturday night we saw Porgy & Bess with Puck’s family and it was really good. I think I saw it once as an opera when I was little and I remember it being very sad and gloomy. It’s still sad and even horrifying in parts, but seeing it as a somewhat grownup, I enjoyed how jazzy Gershwin’s music is (“I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin,” “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon”).

Puck stayed over the rest of the weekend and Sunday we went to the gym to swim some laps in the pool and have a sauna. It’s about the only exercise they can do right now to start building their cardio back. Then in the evening they stayed home while I went up to Jonathan and Miriam’s apartment for my first yoga class with master yogi and calligrapher Emily Haydock. It was challenging and I’ve gained a newfound appreciation on how strong yoga practitioners have to be. I’m hoping this will be a weekly routine, since it’s very affordable and with familiar people.

I’ve also paid for classes in Japanese sword cutting, as I mentioned in a previous post (“A sword story” – Sept. 12, 2011) I’ve been interested in learning that art for some time. I just have to schedule them at times when I can out of work early so I can get back into the city in time. That may be a difficult thing to do until the annual report project is done in March.

Last night, Kacey invited me to join her and Becker (her bf) out to see aMios presenting Shotz, a series of spontaneous, hilarious and sometimes heart-warming short plays that are fearlessly written, rehearsed and performed within one month. Each one included the famous quote from hockey great, Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” It was in the Under St. Marks theater, where I’ve been before to see a burlesque show a couple years ago. Kacey had a friend in the performance; she played a Barbie doll among a set of three Barbies in a child’s closet – it was hilarious!

Tonight Kacey and I get some alone time to watch a movie and catch up. Wednesday is Women’s Poly Group, and Thursday Piper and I were going to continue our movie marathon with Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, but she's starting a new job this week so we'll try again next week. I miss talking to her at work since her temporary assignment ended, but I'm so proud of her that she got an awesome new job right away! I’m looking forward to us all spending time together at Wicked Faire next weekend.