Tag Archives: Gay

(ON TOPIC) How to Survive a Move

I was already halfway through Beyoncé’s latest album when my phone started flashing. A series of signals were triggered in my brain that in turn started some neurological process involving chemical neurotransmitters and synapses and yada yada yada. In short, my phone was trying to tell me something: I had eight new texts and six new podcasts to listen to. Add this to the two movies I’d downloaded on iTunes, the new Hello Mr. issue, three new books, and 47 new emails. It was enough to send me under the covers of my air mattress with a pillow locked tightly over my head, temporarily paralyzed by the media hurricane that wouldn’t let me sleep. (How does Queen Bey do it all?)

It was the night before I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and I was trying to distract myself from figuring out how all my personal possessions, now sitting before me in an organized pile of boxes and bags, would ultimately fit in my newly acquired 2000 Toyota Camry. As I welcomed the angelic sounds of Beyoncé into my ears–driver roll up the partition, pleaseee–I wondered whether if what you own, the stuff of your life, signifies the stage of life you’re in. What does it mean that I don’t own pots and plates but have purchased, assembled, and disassembled IKEA furniture since freshman year of college? (Learning about sites like TRNK makes me want to be grown up and living in my dream flat in London, populated by “pieces” that each have a story. Can ya feel the pretension, y’all?!) But before I had an answer, I was in Los Angeles after a six-hour drive full of Beyoncé tracks and tears.

Here’s what moving feels like to me:

Hey! Hi! Hello, friends with which I’ve spent years cultivating a meaningful bond! Hello, city that is the most geographically interesting place I’ve been in years and whose streets make me feel like Dorothy in Kansas, ruby red slippers and all! Hello, apartment that has the most beautiful natural light I’ve ever seen and roommates who don’t annoy me and a perfect puppy who licks me and then falls asleep next to me and subsequently becomes the model for my future boyfriend! Hello, you all! Okay goodbye.”

BOOM.

Moving, in that respect, seems so unnatural. But my most recent move from San Francisco to Los Angeles felt a bit different. My post-move slump was a lot shorter than usual and, in truth, I’ve found myself in many moments of, well, joy. And I think I’ve figured out why.

1) Entertainment

In the opening of Pixar’s Up, an eight-year-old Carl Fredericksen sits in a movie theater, mouth agape and goggles on head as he stares at his idol on the silver screen in front of him. To me, that single image best encapsulates what moviegoing feels like. With very few exceptions, there’s nothing I’d rather do on any given day than sit in a movie theater and watch a movie. Since moving to LA seven weeks ago, I’ve seen nine movies: Very Good Girls, Begin Again, Free Fall, Test, Obvious Child, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The Fault in Our Stars, The Normal Heart, and Stranger by the Lake. I also went to the LA Film Festival and attended a program called I See Music, during which they screened Beyoncé’s entire visual album followed by a Q+A with some of the people who know her best. (I talked to her cousin afterward and somehow managed to keep my fanaticism at rest.) The list would be longer if I had more time, money, and the ability to accept the fact that I’d be compromising my physical and social well-being.

I often go to the movies by myself, which, for me, creates a significantly different moviegoing experience than if I bring a friend along. I like processing a movie on my own after I walk out of the theater, so sometimes it’s nice to exit without a friend asking, “So what’d ya think?!” Bringing a friend also excuses you from the remarks of snickering teenagers who think it’s funny you’re seeing a movie alone, as was the case when I saw The Fault in Our Stars by myself on a Saturday afternoon. In any case, there’s something that feels different about seeing a movie in LA. Maybe it’s the history of this town, where the movie studios born in the early 1900s have since given way to the industry of which I’m now a part. I go into the theater to watch a movie, and then I leave and could very well be walking in the neighborhood where the director or writer or actors live. I watch 500 Days of Summer and then take the Metro downtown to Bunker Hill where Tom convinced Summer that, in spite of popular cultural belief, LA is kinda sorta beautiful. Everything feels just a bit closer to home.

"500 Days of Summer" - Tom & Summer's Bench

But there’s more to Entertainment than just movies. For one, I just finished Season 2 of Orange is the New Black. Did you know that TV is getting good? Because it is. I read an article this month called “Queer as Friends” by Max Mosher and was reminded of how much we truly believe in TV. I’ve had particularly memorable experiences losing myself while watching Sex and the City and Six Feet Under. I came out to my parents the night after the fictional David Fisher came out to his mom and listened as she expressed her frustration over the fact that she was the last to know. Most recently, I finished watching Sex and the City in its entirety because I was too self-conscious as a “straight boy” to watch it when my mom did during its original run from 1998 through 2004. I couldn’t always connect with Carrie Bradshaw’s shopping habits or interior monologues, but there were moments when I truly believed that she lived in that beautiful brownstone–that I, as a NYU student living in Manhattan, could’ve spotted her gracefully exiting her apartment one evening to catch a black car with Mr. Big. “We believe because it makes life easier,” Mosher writes.

2) People

I promise I’ve done more than just consume movies and TV by myself since moving. (It was really hard to write that sentence.) There are people out in the world, too! (It was even harder to write that one.) One of the first social events I attended was a cocktail reception hosted by the NYU in LA Alumni group. I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces and was quickly reminded of how special it is to be a part of a bicoastal creative community.

I’ve also found myself on a handful of “friend dates.” I have friends from my previous homes in New York and San Francisco who have good friends living in LA, so I asked them to set me up with them. At least once a week since I moved here, I’ve been meeting these friends of friends for dinner and/or drinks.

A few weeks ago I found myself with four new friends, all women. (Not the first time this has happened.) Two were gay, and two were straight, and conversation consisted mostly of their LA horror stories. We spent two hours talking about dating. Whether the date was with a man or a woman, from Tinder or from OKCupid, they all echoed the same sentiment: dating in LA is depressing. In the age of dating apps, everyone is seemingly shopping around for the next best thing. One woman mentioned that she quickly grew tired of women who were on their Tinder app during their date. Others expressed frustration over their ostensible requirement to withhold emotion while dating–over receiving a, “Woah woah. We’re just hanging out,” if they, by some miracle, reached a third or fourth or even fifth date. I couldn’t help but wonder (said Carrie in voiceover)…are we growing increasingly resistant to commitment? Do we even know how to date anymore, or is a fundamental rift forming in this Digital Age of romance? All of these dating apps may not necessarily be working against us, but they’re certainly changing the conversation. The “Don’t ask how we met because you know we met on Grindr” face is my personal favorite manifestation of this evolution.

We noted how Sex and the City our conversation was, but quickly laughed and pointed out how terribly unrealistic that show was and how our lives were thankfully a bit more grounded in reality. As we paid our bill and exited the restaurant, one woman said she’d like to see a show called No Sex and the City, which would feature all the men and women–the heroes–behind the lives of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte who made their lives look oh so slick and shiny. Who cleaned their apartments, for example, and what were their lives like when they went home to a land that was assuredly void of Versace couture dresses and blue satin Manolos?

As I fell on my bed at the end of the night, I couldn’t help but think about how the Entertainment in my life had become inextricably tied to the People–that these two separate things had joined to become the tunnel through which I’d make a smooth transition into life in sunny LA. More important, though, I thought about what would happen if we paid just a little more attention to each other. If we sat down across from someone, silent, ears open, and ready to listen.

I haven’t written a blog post since 2013. As tough and periodically sad as moving can be, it’s got me writing. And for that, LA, I am grateful. May the creative juices continue to flow. For now, I gotta go make a spreadsheet before I fall asleep to figure out which piece of media I’m going to consume next. G’night.

zZz…I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker…zZz….

 

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An Ode to Movies

What’s a Jew to do in December when Hanukkah was, like, so November?

Everybody knows the Jews created the cinema to give their people a home during the Christmas month more widely known as December. (In my own cosmological version of the Universe, the Jews were a little nebulous puff of stardust that popped amidst all that big banging out and said, Let’s film this sh*t.)

This totally works for me, as I’m Jewish and movies are my favorite thing. In truth, there’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting silently for approximately 90-120 minutes and being transported to another world. There’s a subtext to be inferred here: Jonathan, you like movies because you get to escape your life for approximately 90-120 minutes. But, dear reader (Hi, Mom!), I promise I’m not indulging in film as a symptom of depression. I don’t like movies because they distract me from real life. I like them because they illuminate the emotions of real life, particularly the really hard and complex and messy ones.

That Time Someone Sneezed and Workers Left a Factory

Though my aforementioned creation story is unlikely, I think it’s worth mentioning the real history of movies. We’ve come a long way since the carnival novelty that peep-show parlors offered in the late 1800s. From spectacles of the past to full-blown stories of the present day, we’ve changed. A lot.

The history of film in one paragraph. (With videos!) Let’s do this:

The world in the 1890s was full of new things: cities, steam engines, hot air balloons! Motion pictures became a way to capture and record this rapid change. Thomas Edison was one of the first dudes to realize that these moving pictures could attract a paying audience—in April of 1894, Record of a Sneeze premiered in New York.

The Lumiere Brothers then improved upon Edison and showed that logical, organized, minimalist events could reveal a story (e.g., Workers Leaving the Factory)

Editing soon learned the power of a cut (e.g., The Gay Shoe Clerk, Edwin S. Porter, 1903)…

…and then Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Buster Keaton, sound, movie studios, Hollywood, the Great Depression, Casablanca, film noir, TV, and Alfred Hitchcock happened. My film history class only covered origins through 1960, so we have to stop at Hitchcock because I don’t know what happened after that.

Kidding.

Meryl Streep and Beyoncé, the two finest actresses of recent decades, happened.

Sitting Is Boring?

My excitement always peaks when I hear one of my creative heroes talk about the allure of movies. Andrew Stanton, a fellow Pixarian, says movies are at their best when they infuse wonder. Martin Scorsese, who I’ve had the privilege of hearing speak a few times in New York, has a more technical answer:

 Light is at the beginning of cinema, of course. It’s fundamental—because cinema is created with light, and it’s still best seen projected in dark rooms, where it’s the only source of light. But light is also at the beginning of everything. Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light—which means the creation of forms. Which leads to distinguishing one thing from another, and ourselves from the rest of the world. Recognizing patterns, similarities, differences, naming things—interpreting the world. Metaphors—seeing one thing “in light of” something else. Becoming “enlightened.”

Charlie Kaufman says we like them because our brains are wired to turn emotional states into movies. And me (I have an IMDb page, just like my hero Charlie does!)…I think my attraction to movies is constantly evolving. As of late, I view movies as a mirror to the cycle of life. We’re born a blank slate, ready for experience to color us in. Similarly, when those lights in the theater go down, I take a deep breath, clear my mind, and mentally ready myself to be thrust into another realm—to learn a new world, really. Where are we? What’s the time period? Who are the characters? What are the rules of this world?

More important, there’s a deep and profound satisfaction for me in the knowledge that an ending is going to come—to know that I’m going to get a full story, realized from some subjective beginning to some kind of subjective ending. In that way, movies often take away the anxiety of real life in which the future is unknown and scary. Movies, for me, are sometimes more digestible than real life. I feel this way about all of fiction, really—movies, books, theater. They’re like snippets of life, safe and contained within the confines of the screen or page and stage on which they exist. And, for that, I love them all dearly.

A Year of Movies

In January 2013, I started keeping the ticket to every movie I see in theaters. Though I lost a few of them, my envelope is currently filled with 40 tickets. You know how I feel about recommendations, so I offer the following list as just that—a list of what I’ve seen recently and the impressions these films left upon me, starting with two older films that I just got around to seeing this year:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2009 (dir. David Yates)

I haven’t seen this one since it was released in 2009. If you’ve watched all the preceding movies, you may be able to notice something that happens with the actors in this installment: they got good. They’ve all settled into their roles (thank Moses Emma Watson stopped delivering every line with her dramatic huffing and puffing), and it’s really, really pleasant to watch. Plus, the sexual tension makes me giggle.

Stories We Tell, 2012 (dir. Sarah Polley)

Sarah Polley’s documentary is unlike any documentary I’ve ever seen. It transcends its genre as it addresses, in short, the philosophy of truth. The subject is Diane, Polley’s late mother. She’s shown in old home movies; yet, as the story unfolds, the footage becomes questionable and you may just start to wonder what’s real and what isn’t.

Frozen, 2013 (dirs. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee)

“Let It Go.” It’s magic. And totally a LGBT anthem. Just download it on iTunes immediately, okay?

Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013 (dirs. Ethan and Joel Coen)

The latest from the Coen Brothers finds us in the winter of 1961 in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. To watch this movie is to essentially watch Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a struggling musician, as he tries to find a couch to sleep on over the course of one week. The tragedy is that he’s a good musician, but not a great one. What makes me happy: Carey Mulligan (who never smiles), the cat that deserves an Oscar nod for his/her performance, and a young Bob Dylan cameo.

American Hustle, 2013 (dir. David O. Russell)

This one is a story based on the Abscam affair, the criminal investigation of the 1970s in which the F.B.I. called on a swindler named Mel Weinberg to help ensnare public officials. The cast is full of strangers: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence (!!!), Jeremy Renner, and Robert DeNiro. It’s really a work of art. What makes me happy: every scene featuring an F.B.I. supervisor played by Louis C.K.

Nebraska, 2013 (dir. Alexander Payne) 

Payne (Sideways, The Descendents) likes his journey stories. His latest, shot in wide-screen black-and-white, follows old man Woody (Bruce Dern) and his son, David (Will Forte), from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. What makes me happy: the scene in which the men lounge around and watch football. It just feels so damn real.

Blue is the Warmest Color, 2013 (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)

The NC-17 Palme d’Or winner from this year’s Cannes Festival. A 179-minute exploration of Adèle, a high school student learning what it means to love and to be loved. She dates guys until she meets Emma, a girl with blue hair who changes her life forever. What makes me happy: Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) who act with their faces instead of their words, resulting in two of the most mesmerizing onscreen performances I’ve seen this year.

12 Years a Slave, 2013 (dir. Steve McQueen)

Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) is easily one of my favorite directors. His latest is said to be the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery. There’s a scene I’ll never forget in which Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freeborn African-American kidnapped into slavery, hangs from a tree with a noose around his neck, supported by only one foot as it barely touches the muddy ground. Lupita Nyong’o plays Patsey in a performance I can’t describe with words. This movie didn’t make me happy, but it did leave me thinking about the thousands who never knew freedom.

Other 2013 notables: Blue Jasmine (for Cate Blanchett), Cutie and the Boxer, Spring Breakers (for James Franco), Don Jon (for Julianne Moore), Fruitvale Station, The Great Gatsby, About Time (for the lovely message about what it means to be a father and a son), The Way, Way Back, and Monsters University (for the DVD bonus features that I got to be in with my Pixar buddies!).

My first Hollywood movie premiere.

My first Hollywood movie premiere.

The End

So why tell stories? 12 Years a Slave offers an answer: because we can. The above films are film at its best. When I left the theater after watching each of these, the world seemed just a little bit heavier. In a good way.

Life for me, as it seems, has really become a series of moments that exist between whatever movies I happen to be seeing that week, month, or year. Movies have changed my life, and I hope that never changes.

I found this picture in a photo album at home in Maryland. The caption read, "Which way to Hollywood?"

I found this picture in a photo album at home in Maryland. The caption extending from the top of my white hoodie read, “Which way to Hollywood?”

(ON TOPIC) My Big Gay One-Year Coming Out Blog Anniversary

Two blog-worthy anniversaries are happening this week. One year ago I wrote my first post on this blog. One year ago I also told my best friend Chelsea that I’m gay, marking the beginning of my “2010 Coming Out Tour.” With those achievements in mind, a celebratory blog post seems fitting.

I think these pictures speak from themselves, but I offer them as a visual answer to the question, “When did you first know you were gay?” Or, in other words, “How did anyone not know I was gay?!”

Enjoy!

Rainbow colors for a very straight rainbow drawing.

Purple and pink reinforcers

I would like the colors of the rainbow.

Assignment: Draw a self-portrait.

“The Rainbow Series” (1994)

Suggestive imagery

Yup.

I told everyone I was going to marry her because she was “cute.”

Yup.

So gay!

Letter swirls

My bedtime buddy would be a banana.

Gymnastics and Beanie Babies? Yup.

Cheers to reinforcing gay stereotypes!

-Jonathan

(ON TOPIC) My Final Animation Project (Or, a Lesson in Sports)

In January, my Introduction to Animation teacher told my class we’d all have to make twenty-second animation shorts in May as our final projects. I let out a laugh suffused with skepticism because 1) I didn’t know how to draw and 2) I didn’t know how to animate and 3) I didn’t know how to draw. The video doesn’t really need any explanation, but Tina Fey convinced me otherwise.

Tina Fey, you see, is one of my creative heroes, so I decided to turn my journal into a memoir à la Elizabeth Stamatina Fey’s Bossypants. I figure it’s better to write about elementary school now when I’m closer to it than I will be when I’m 50. I say 50 because I’m giving myself until then to actually achieve something that’ll justify my writing a memoir. Pray to Beyoncé I don’t die before then out of literal and figurative annoyance upon discovering that one more person in this Digital World is addicted to Angry Birds.

So, 32 years in advance, here’s the first page of the first chapter of my memoir:

CHAPTER 1

Matt

(Or, A Lesson in Heteronormative Expectations)

What follows is the funniest joke you’ll ever read and later recite to friends and family and strangers:

Sports.

Now that I have your attention, let’s get serious.

I don’t actually think that sports are a joke. Sorry I lied to you, dear reader(s). (Please keep reading?) While I can wrap my head around people wanting to play sports for recreational and communal purposes, they’ve largely been a confusing thing up in my brain place. For one, they happened to plant the very first seeds in my mind that I was gay, even before I learned the meaning of the word “gay.” Nevertheless, this isn’t necessarily why they confuse and/or anger me. (See chapter entitled Why Sports Confuse and/or Anger Me for further explanation.) But let’s get contextual.

My earliest memory of feeling “different” than my heterosexual male classmates was in the fifth grade when people were asking each other to the school dance. There was this highly anxiety-provoking thing called “recess” where boys reinforced their gender stereotype by playing sports and girls reinforced theirs by braiding each other’s hair on the sidelines. By definition, then, I had to be on the field. But all I wanted to do was run over to Becky and say, “Becky you crazy sonofabitch!!! Stop murdering Nakita’s hair!!! She doesn’t have flowing blond locks like you do you little cream puff!!!” (Life Lesson #1: Black hair is different than white hair. My dad owns a beauty supply store that caters to black women so he taught me this. Elaboration provided in chapter entitled A Goddess Among Men.)

Then one day a girl in my grade asked me to ask my friend Matt if he’d go to the dance with her. This made me feel sad. I wasn’t in love with Matt so much as I was innocently obsessed with the idea of Matt. He’s who I wanted to be—straight, good-looking, and athletic. It seemed he was created according to the way boys were “supposed” to be made, which allowed him to follow life’s “rules” without really trying. He kind of had it easy this way. In other words, he was really lucky and didn’t even know it. (Life Lesson #2: Luck is awesome when you have it and sucky when you don’t. In other words, luck is a little bitch.)

If you’ve accepted my over usage of double quotation marks and parentheses, I now welcome you to turn to page two…