(ON TOPIC) Meet My Roommate, Johnson!

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeves.

Monica Geller and Rachel Green.

Mork and Mindy.

Lindsay Lohan and Raven-Symone!!!

Roommates. Those cohabiters you can’t get mad at for leaving the toilet roll empty because, in truth, they make your monthly rent affordable.

Or, in my case, a guy called Johnson. He talks during the day and at night!

I’m still finishing the final touches on it, but I wanted to give everyone a little sample of what’s to come in my new book The Book of Johnson: The Diary of a Sleep Talker: Part 1: Breaking Dawn.

Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Sleep Talk

Somniloquy, or sleep-talking, is a sleep disorder that refers to talking aloud while asleep. It occurs in approximately four percent of adults and involves a variety of sounds, ranging from extended speeches to short outbursts.

A few examples from Johnson lie below, all recorded between the hours of two and five A.M.:

  • No! I don’t want to go!
  • Shut up! I’m going to kill you!
  • Grrrsxxvcvns$%#!!!
  • Do Transformers…get life insurance…or auto insurance?

Chapter 2: Day Talk

These need no introduction. Let’s do this:

  • Mailman. Ha. That’s redundant.
  • Kewlbeanz!
  • This guy who cut my hair used to work at Pixar. He’s, like, “Buzzcut” Lightyear. Ha. Ha.
  • Perfect-a-roo-ni!
  • You’ve got to be kitten me.
  • I thought about that in my head before I said it.

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(ON TOPIC) Dear Gossip Girl…

 

Dear Serena, Blair, Nate, Dan, Chuck, and all those other pretty people you share that TV/computer screen thing with,

Something happened to me two weeks ago. A transformation of sorts. You see, friends, co-workers, and strangers on the subway introduced me to you all in 2009. “They’re just SO gorgeous,” I remember one preteen saying as she straightened the gaudy headband intruding on her golden locks. (In retrospect, this accessory was totally a Blair Waldorf homage.)

“I, like, feel like they’re my virtual friends,” my friend in the real world (that’s where I live!!!) once said.

In 2009, you also filled hogged the sidewalks around NYU, transforming my classmates into paparazzi while en route to class. (See picture below. And while I have you in this parenthetical aside, is it cool if I refer to “you all” as “you”  from now on? I don’t mean to compromise or deny each of you as individuals. It’ll just be fewer words for me to type!) In any case, your presence at my school made me mad because 1) you’re distractingly pretty and 2) I really wanted to get to English class to talk about our readings from Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia but instead found myself thinking about how you’re, well, so distractingly pretty. GAH.

You still with me? Good.

So when my roommate started Season One on Netflix two weeks ago, I claimed a seat next to her on the couch with a dramatic scoff. We already had a history, you and I. “There’s no way this can be good,” my brain place told me as the familiar helicopter shots of a buzzing Manhattan flooded the screen. Then the Kristen Bell voiceover began, and I, along with a gaggle of privileged prep school teens onscreen, learned that Serena van der Woodsen was back in town. And damn did she look better than ever.

My infatuation had been born.

Over the past couple weeks, you filled snatched my treasured free time each weeknight after I got home from work. You filled stole several Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, and Sunday nights with your texts, underage drinking (YOU’RE ONLY 17 EVEN THOUGH YOU LOOK 27!!!), and childish fights that were always the same but had me gripping my roommate and shouting things at the screen like “BUT SHE DOESN’T LOVE YOU, NATE!” (And while we’re on the subject: Nate, you’re so above Jenny. Glad that’s over can I get an AMEN, what what?!!!) I think these screenshots from my phone sum our recent relationship up well.

Case Study #1, a text to my roommate on September 29, 2012.

I didn’t go out later. And finally, Case Study #2, a tweet sent just minutes after the aforementioned text on September 29, 2012.

I really don’t want to drag this on, but I just…well I just felt compelled to write to you to tell you that I finished Season 2 this weekend and…deep breaths. Deep breaths. I’m over you. All of you. I’M SORRY. I’m sorry. I just can’t do this anymore.

I’VE GOTTA be released from your sugar-coated grasp. You understand, don’t you? It’s important (read: necessary) that I reclaim some semblance of normalcy and stability in my free time. It’s a need, not a want, you know? Do you know the difference between those two things? Like, you need to pay your credit card bill each month, but you don’t need to buy that $120,000 Hermes Crocodile Birkin Bag. That’s called a want. Ugh. I fear I’ve lost you. Basically I’m saying it’s me who has the issue here, not you.

I know you’re probably pouting at this point in the letter, Blair, but please don’t. Dorota is baking your favorite pie tonight!!! All will be well soon.

Now that that’s outta the way, I feel like there’s only way to close this post.

Spotted on a couch in San Francisco. An emotional young twentysomething brings a Netflix addiction to an end. Did you think this would go down without a fight? JSH gave it a chance, but he’s moving on.

Xoxo, GossipGirl

An Ode to Telluride

Imagine a place where elk roam free, where majestic mountains and glowing orbs called gondolas hug a quaint town replete with restaurants and friendly “Hello’s.” A place where people choose movies over sleep, and where celebrities and muggles are one and the same. A place where people who like movies transform into cinephiles who love film. (And where nobody will think you’re pretentious for calling yourself a “cinephile,” or for using the word “film” instead of “movie.”)

This, dear reader(s), is Telluride, Colorado. Or more aptly named, Heaven.

I was one of 50 students to take part in the Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium over the past five days. After writing an essay on the movie of our choice, we were invited to the festival as recipients of the royal Kardashian treatment, ushered through 14 movies and 12 intimate Q+As with many of the festival’s esteemed artists.

On the plane back to San Francisco, I tried to think about how to write about my experience, but then I fell asleep. I don’t really like writing reviews because they’re incredibly subjective and, if you don’t know me, you’ll have no basis on which to judge them. This reservation doesn’t really apply here though considering the audience of this blog consists of my family and my best friend Claire.

In any case, I’d like to pass along a summary of my favorite films. They made me feel things, so if they do the same for you, let’s talk. I want to re-live the drama, starting with my two favorites, “Rust & Bone” and “Frances Ha.”

“Rust & Bone” (France, 2012)

  • The Director: Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”)
  • The People: Marion Cotillard (“La vie en rose,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises”)
  • The Dish: The story of a chiseled street-fighter, his son, and a free-spirited whale trainer. It’ll have you dancing, then crying, then smiling. I saw it three days ago and I’ve been thinking about it every day since.

 Frances Ha” (U.S., 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer, but check out the IMDb page for now…
  • The Director: Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”, “Greenberg,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox”)
  • The People: Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “No Strings Attached”), Adam Driver (Adam from HBO’s “Girls”)
  • The Dish: That new black-and-white Noah Baumbach movie set in present-day New York. Feels like the movie version of “Girls.”

“No” (Chile, 2012)

  • The Director: Pablo Larraín
  • The People: Gael García Bernal (“Y Tu Mamá También,” “Motorcycle Diaries,” “The Science of Sleep”)
  • The Dish: Follows successful ad exec René Saavedra during the 1988 campaign in Chile to overthrow Pinochet. Shot on a video camera from the 80s and featuring a jingle that’ll never leave your head.

“Everyday” (U.K., 2012)

  • The Director: Michael Winterbottom (“24 Hour Party People,” “The Killer Inside Me”)
  • The People: Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in “Harry Potter”)
  • The Dish: Family drama filmed over the course of five years. Features four incredibly talented child actors who are real-life brothers and sisters.

Wadjda” (Saudi Arabia, 2012)

  • The Director: Haifaa Al Mansour
  • The People: You won’t recognize ’em, but you’ll love ’em.
  • The Dish: First film shot entirely on location in Saudi Arabia and the first by a Saudi woman. Saudi women avoid public interactions with men and aren’t allowed to drive, so Mansour had to direct some of the scenes over the phone. In short: an optimistic story through the lens of a spunky, manipulative 11-year-old trying to buy a bike.

“Ginger and Rosa” (England, 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer, but there’s a Bookface page!
  • The Director: Sally Potter
  • The People: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening
  • The Dish: It’s 1960s Britain. Ginger’s parents have a really sucky marriage and the world might (read: will) blow up. Oh and her best friend Rosa is sleeping her way into the family.

“The Act of Killing” (Denmark, 2012)

  • The Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
  • The People: Paramilitary leader Anwar Congo and his lackeys
  • The Dish: A documentary unlike anything I’ve ever seen or felt. Josh spent seven years in Indonesia, asking the leaders of the 1960s genocide to make fiction films reenacting their killings.

The Gatekeepers” (Israel, 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer. See Facebook.
  • The Director: Dror Moreh
  • The People: The Five former heads of Israel’s Secret Service, Shin Bet
  • The Dish:  These five men talk openly for the first time about maintaining security in the Gaza Strip. Shot like a spy thriller with stock footage that’ll make you cringe.

Others I saw but didn’t feel like writing about: “Something Wild,” “The Sapphires,” “Midnight’s Children,” “The Marvelous Life of Joan of Arc,” and some flick about corn/racing featuring Zac Efron’s eyebrows.

So what’s the purpose of all these moving pictures? Some of the artists at the festival had answers for us during our discussions. Peter Sellars said they’re a record of community and truth in an era of lies, things that creates space for the artist to discover who he/she wants to be while allowing his/her audience to do the same. Or maybe they’re dramas of actuality (Michael Winterbottom), or studies in the relationship between emotional reasoning versus intellectual reasoning (the luminous Sally Potter).

In any case, think about what’s happening when you buy a movie ticket for $13.50+ and take your seat in a movie theater. On film, 24 individual frames are shown per second, placed one after the other to create the illusion of movement. (An explanation of digital projections is a little less romantic.) We sit, wide-eyed, all witnesses to a technological miracle that subsequently has the power to produce a powerful emotional reaction from within—happiness, sadness, confusion, empowerment to create change, helplessness when change in the world may be needed.

It’s this marriage between the world of technology and pathos that I feel so lucky to be a part of, particularly when it produces important films like “The Gatekeepers” and “The Act of Killing” that illuminate the tragedies unfolding beyond the walls of the theater. Film is my passion, my politics, my religion, I guess. I don’t always know what I believe in, but I know I believe in film.

K gotta go. It’s time to look into housing and flights for Telluride 2013. Hope to see you all there! I’ll probably be the one enjoying a burger in front of the New Sheridan, sitting quietly at a table next to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner while bursting loudly inside that I’m five feet away from the cutest parents ever.

(ON TOPIC) The OKCupid Profile of Every Gay Guy in San Francisco Ever

My self-summary                                                                                                  How can I sum myself up in just a few sentences? In short, I guess I just really love traveling and soaking up new cultures. Je suis un nuage, dans le ciel immense.

*Translation: I’m dope at French, bet you’re not LOL.

What I’m doing with my life                                                                               I’m a recent West Coast transplant working in the tech industry while freelancing as a graphic designer for an organic food startup.

I’m really good at                                                                                             Reading people. Call it a sixth sense, if you so dare. 😉

The first things people usually notice about me                                       This question is silly. Look at my pictures, and YOU tell ME!

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food                                     

  • Books: Food, Inc., Brothers Karamazov, Harry Potter
  • Movies: I have a boner for Wes Anderson.
  • Shows: Do we really have to put National Geographic/Travel Channel here, or is that already a given?
  • Music: Impossible to narrow it down. Tchaikovsky?
  • Food: Anything gluten-free, sulfite-free, cholesterol-free, yeast-free, sugar-free, pesticide-free (organic), and/or vegan! Nummy nummy.

The six things I could never do without                                                      Friends, family, traveling, love, oxygen, creation/expression.

I spend a lot of time thinking about                                                                 The impossibility of capturing my nonconformist mind in this text box. And YOU. Yes, you. 😉

On a typical Friday night I am                                                                          Trying to embrace the moment, and letting it embrace me back.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit                                               Google commercials make me cry.

You should message me if                                                                               You’re real, fresh, dynamic, and a wholehearted supporter of kale as the (one and only) way to reach Foodie Nirvana.

The product of one of my favorite OkCupid dates.

A (Poetic) Ode to the Chipotle Burrito

Pixar gave a voice to the inner life of toys. After working at the studio for six months now, I find myself thinking a whole lot more about what may be going on in the hypothetical brain place of everyday inanimate things and stuff.

So what’s going in the brain place of a Chipotle burrito?

The Last Bite of a Chipotle Burrito Has an Existential Crisis: A Poem

I.                                                                                                                                         I have made it to the end.                                                                                             How pleasing!                                                                                                                          A remaining tortilla scrap                                                                                                  Is my pillow.

A noise from above.                                                                                                            This is it. El fin.                                                                                                                    Into darkness, I shall pass.                                                                                              Holy hope of happiness reigns.

II.                                                                                                                                  Frick. Still here.                                                                                                                 This last piece of cheese clings to my side                                                                    like a synthetic hormone.

Cold air creeps,                                                                                                                      As it digs silently                                                                                                                  Into my ever-weakening back.

Despair.

III.                                                                                                                            Where do I come from?                                                                                              Organic, local produce?

Bullshit.

Am I being driven?                                                                                                              Or am I driving?                                                                                                              Think too much, life goes by.

I feel the bottom will be forever                                                                              pregnant with silence.

IV.                                                                                                                                        Wait! Movement, from above.                                                                                      Dark, dark is taking over.                                                                                               Muted Mmmms fill my body.

This is it. El fin.                                                                                                                      Into darkness, I pass.                                                                                                   Buenos noches, my amigos.                                                                                               Or should I say, Buenos días?

Is this the end
Or the beginning?

Gulp.

V.                                                                                                                                        ?!!!

(ON TOPIC) The (Passive-Aggressive) Disneyland Jungle Cruise Tour Guide: A Short Script

EXT. ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE – DISNEYLAND RESORT – LATE AFTERNOON

PLUCKY THIRTYSOMETHINGS called “Boat Loaders” help eager families into a jungle cruise boat. A small band of ANGSTY TWEENS straggle behind.

A SKIPPER (28, all tan apparel and hat), speaks over an intercom.

 SKIPPER

Okay, folks! We’re out of here like a bad Los Angeles baseball team!

The tweens roll their eyes, in sync.

SKIPPER (CONT’D)

Why helloooo everyone and welcome aboard the Jungle Cruise. My name is Insert Name Here…just kidding. It’s George like the Jungle, and I’ll be the best skipper, guide, social director, and dance instructor you’ve ever had because you strangers all deserve the perfect Jungle Cruise Experience with a Capital E, am I right?!

But first, everyone turn around and wave good-bye to the folks back on the dock. They may never see you again. No seriously. Ha. Ha. Only joking.

The boat makes its first turn.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

As we leave the last outpost of civilization, we travel deep into the mouth of the Irrawaddy river of Asia into a tropical rain forests, where it rains some 365 days a year. Many of these tropical plants get their nourishment simply from the air. Get it?! The air. Well no worries, folks, nobody in the history of my long life has ever gotten me!!!

 Tween couple scoffs and starts making out.

 GEORGE (CONT’D)

On the left, a friendly group of native traders.

George continues with a string of indistinct, culturally insensitive words.

 GEORGE (CONT’D)

Ukka Mucka Lucka…Wagga Kuna Nui Ka. It’s a good thing I speak their language!

George turns to FANNY PACK MOM (30s, American flag tattoo).

 GEORGE (CONT’D)

Sounds like they want to trade their coconuts for your husband! Good luck though, ma’am. They’re a picky bunch. My girlfriend flirted with another guy once so I tried to trade her off, if you know what I mean.

George winks. Mom grips child tighter.

GEORGE (CONT’D)

Next up, beautiful Schweitzer Falls is upon us again. The overhanging rock formation will afford us a different view this time. I have a special treat for you, folks. You may never have seen this before…There it is! The backside of water!

After passing a toucan, the Rapids of Kilimanjaro, some python/water buffaloes, and Trader Sam, the boat finally pulls back into the dock…

 GEORGE (CONT’D)

Okay now rise like bread folks, no loafing around. I know my jokes are stale and crumby.

And this is the end of the ride, kids! Please step carefully to your right. I’m going to stay on because I loved it so much and want to ride it again and again and again. Ha. Ha. Kill me now. But only if you want to!

The passengers exit swiftly. George looks left…then right. He reaches under the steering wheel and pulls out a flask.

George sneaks a sip, but stops as he locks eyes with an animatronic hippo.

 GEORGE (CONT’D)

Hey. It’s the yeast I can do.

 CUT TO BLACK.

 ———————————————————

**BONUS!!** The Best Amusement Park Drinking Game Ever

by George “of the Jungle” Minkowitz

Drink every time you…

  • See a grown Asian woman with sparkly Minnie Mouse ears
  • See a highly intellectual group of young twentysomethings quizzing each other on 17th century literature while in line for Space Mountain
  • Say “Sure, I’d be happy to!” or “But I was only joking!”
  • Create a memory

 ———————————————————

(ON TOPIC) “To Infinity and Beyond”: An Application Essay for the 2012 Telluride Film Festival

Not writing every week makes me feel like Spider-Man did after he succumbed to the flu and temporarily lost his powers. It’s disorienting. I mean…I’m not, like, so delirious that I’m going to roll up to a party and reveal my true identity as a superhero, but you catch my fictional drift, yeah? (Can you believe Spider-Man actually did this?! Google a summary of “The Amazing Spider-Man #87: Unmasked At Last.”)

Anyways, as I try to find some time to write about two of the main things occupying my time outside of Pixarland*, I thought I’d share an essay I recently wrote to get into the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado this fall.

Until next post,                                                                                                                Your Friendly Virtual Spider-Man

*Spoiler Alert: Chipotle and online dating!!!

—————————————————————-

To Infinity and Beyond

I was raised in a household without conventional religion and politics, but with an excess of Dr. Seuss and Pixar instead. I let their stories inform my view of the world because when you’re raised in a small town in Maryland, books and movies are your world—your religion and politics, really. I distinctly remember seeing “Toy Story” in 1997, one year after its release on VHS, and it did something to me. If “surreal” had been in my vocabulary as a naïve seven-year-old, that’s the word I would’ve chosen to describe that viewing Experience—surreal, otherworldly, novel. First, I turned inward, finding relief in seeing things on screen that had been in my head. This is what life would be like if toys could talk. Second, I turned outward. To infinity and beyond. This is what life might be like beyond the boundaries of my town.

It seems appropriate, then, to choose “Toy Story” as the film I’d take with me into the distant future, as it gave me a future to dream of from a very young age. I can only conjure up in my head what the “distant future” will look like. Will my family and friends be alive? Will I be the sole survivor in a post-apocalyptic planet, struggling valiantly against a hypothetical artificially intelligent species? Will there even be a movie industry? Will I even remember what movies are?

For both personal and historical reason, “Toy Story” would therefore be an important film to bring with me as a reminder of the role that art played in the 21st century. “Toy Story,” in short, is a paragon of Art, of the expression and application of human creative skill and imagination. It was the first animated feature film made entirely with CGI, and it sparked interest in numerous industries after its release. The world of robotics, video games, and personal computers experienced significant paradigm shifts as they started considering the technological implications of machines that could render characters lifelike and “real.” It was exciting, groundbreaking, and surreal. Like my first viewing of the movie. I’d want to remember this exciting time in the distant future.

More important, though, “Toy Story” was Pixar’s first feature film. It marked the beginning of Pixar, which is an undeniably invaluable American icon when you consider its contributions to the world and the people in it. Stories perpetuate culture, and Pixar is one of the century’s masters of Story as it continually preserves culture through the medium of animation. And “Toy Story” was the beginning of this, a model for how animation can illuminate the truths that deepen our understanding of human emotion and potential. The bond between boy and toy. An even more imaginative bond between a jealous toy and another toy that comes in and just wants to feel useful. “Toy Story” is Pixar at its best, promoting our most sacred stories and in turn preserving what is best about the human race as it exists today. I’d want to remember this, too, in the distant future.

In 2005, “Toy Story” was selected into the National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I was 16 at the time, and independently of its achievement, I decided I wanted to work for Pixar. Six years, two universities, and ten internships later, I was there. I’ve been interning at the studio since January, and I know—now more than ever—that “Toy Story” must be appreciated eternally for its beauty and emotional power.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place in Pizza Planet. Buzz climbs into the claw machine, standing knee to face in front of dozens of vulnerable aliens. “A stranger,” Alien #1 says. “From the outside,” Alien #2 adds. When visitors arrive at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA, they’re greeted with a smile and a name tag that reads this very line: “A stranger from the outside.” I can imagine myself in the aforementioned distant future, wearing this name tag as a stranger on another planet. It’s dark and dusty, things askew, as I creep toward indistinct figures in the distance. It’s an unknown race that I’ve only seen fictionalized in movies and books. But now it’s real. I approach cautiously, pulling a “Toy Story” Blu-ray DVD out of my backpack and placing it on the ground in front of me as a peace offering. I grab a sticky note and a pen and walk away after leaving a short note behind. It says, “This is my world. Talk soon.”