As spring has progressed, I have made an exciting, insightful, and terrifying discovery; I live in a place popular for film shoots. It all started two months ago, when a film code named “Iron Side” was scheduled to be shot in my very own apartment building. Another movie had a shoot in my neighborhood later, called Animal Rescue, which apparently has Tom Hardy and other stars, and there have been shoots by Adidas. All in all, there’s been a film or photo shoot here for something very well known in my neighborhood — literally using the road in front of my apartment building and the surrounding streets — every week for over a month.
Having so much filming originally seemed like it would be amazing; who doesn’t want to live near the center of Hollywood action? Iron Side ended up being the phrase that the Spider Man 2 team was using so it wasn’t so well known where they were. But there have been issues, especially for myself and my roommates, people who live on the top floor of the building that apparently is the must-film location of the summer!
Spider Man 2 caused the first problems as soon as they began filming, because they filmed on my roof (AKA my ceiling). They started at about 6:30 AM and had no qualms with being as loud as they pleased. They slowly packed more and more stuff into my hall until they literally blocked my door that afternoon, because they had no idea anyone even lived there, and my friend had to tell them politely to make a path.
A few weeks later, I got home in the afternoon and decided to take a nap, only to discover that another, smaller movie was filming on my roof, this time with a chainsaw. Needless to say, my only solace was slamming pot lids together to irritate them (I’m so mature).
This last Saturday, Spider Man 2 returned to filming. The good news is they were not on my roof this time; the bad news is they were blocking off the street in front of my building since it’s apparently so photogenic, and they had taken all the parking spaces in a three block radius. When I made my way down the street towards my apartment that morning, a woman in a green coat with a radio asked me to move out of the road. I simply walked out of the road but didn’t acknowledge her, clearly a bit perturbed, but my boyfriend looked her squarely in the face and said that people lived here and she was disturbing them. She said nothing.
We left again a bit later for a walk around the park near my home, and when we returned they were still filming. As we approached my building the same woman was there, and, this time, with a little less enthusiasm, she told us that we couldn’t use the street. Again, I said nothing, and this time my boyfriend said less but made her aware, again, that she and the crew were an unwanted presence.
Throughout the day I watched them below me, and while I tried to remain passive I couldn’t help but let a bit of derision enter my voice whenever I thought of them. These people had come here, without my permission, without asking me, for their own personal gain; envy and hostility were pretty well warranted. When rain started pouring so much that a flash flood alert came up on my phone, and the film crew below scattered to the safety of their tents, I will admit I reveled in their misfortune a bit.
Later that day, I left for yoga and parted with my boyfriend. After I got back from yoga, I encountered a man blocking my street, because, much to my chagrin, filming had resumed when the rain subsided. He tried to stop me feebly, but I cut his, “We’re filming this way” short with a terse “I live here.” As I progressed, that same woman I had seen twice before was there again, guarding the street south of mine. As I passed she feebly asked, “Are you going to 135?” and I ignored her, not making a sound, my face a mask of ice.
It wasn’t until I got inside that my feeling of triumph was replaced by shame; her voice hadn’t had any edge to it, or confidence, it was the voice of someone who was defeated. The truth of, for every person like me — walking by without acknowledging her — there were probably people who verbally berated her for merely doing her job. She was just as innocent and irritated as I was. It wasn’t even the filmmaker’s who necessarily caused this; places like DUMBO offer incentives for people to film there because it makes them more exciting and can help local businesses. The people who own my building probably also got paid directly to have films shot here, and just chose not to inform their tenants or give them any breaks in rent despite making money off our inconvenience.
After hearing the dejection in that woman’s voice, a post that was meant to merely be a cathartic rant has become something I’m much more proud of; it’s a story of remembering that people are people. We aren’t all callous, and when we cause each other grief we generally do care. Those people who make the movies you love — or love to hate — aren’t above you, they’re just as susceptible to be put in bad situations as you are. The proof is in front of my home on a weekly basis. The problem is the people who don’t deal with this personally, who don’t see the people they inconvenience. In the end, lots of people end of being frustrated by an industry that, for all its apparent glamor, is slow, tedious, and trifling.
Despite all this, I think I could’ve forgiven them if I had been offered some ice cream, though.
Ever since coming to New York, I can thoroughly say I’ve become more childlike. The other day as I unpacked my lunch – apples and peanut butter, slices of pepper and carrots, and Goldfish – that many of my meals have turned into what most kids would consider “snack time.”
I’ve often been compared to an old man because I get really excited at animals like buffleheads (see last post), dress poorly, and go to bed early, but all of these stereotypically elderly things are also stereotypical childish. Being grumpy? Yeah, kids do that well. Inability to dress oneself? Mhm. Going to bed earlier than intended because you got unexpectedly sleepy? Greg, you are basically eight.
Given my apparent reversion into elementary school, I would like to highlight some things I could do as I kid I would like to be able to do again:
Fit in cabinets
Eat bags of candy without feeling sick
Be encouraged to take daily naps
Talk to myself and have it be proof that I’m creative and not just proof of my impending insanity
Say inappropriate things and be told that it’s cute*
*Note: as a gay man you sort of get to do this. Like, when a gay man calls a woman a “Stupid b!#$*” it’s considered sassy, witty, and primetime sitcom fun!
This week I’ve decided to revisit a topic I know well: awkward smalltalk. Specifically, I am excellent at awkward smalltalk because I either refuse to engage in it (“So, what are you studying in college?” “Politics.” “Oh?” “Mm.” “Okay…”), but I also know the quickest ways to ask the most important questions. For this edition of how to use smalltalk and seemingly unimportant questions to quickly get to the heart of any matter, even if they make the answerer cringe, I focus on something I’ve been doing more and more of: job interview questions.
Now, the interview process is already generally an awkward experience. The interviewer is trying their best to find out about the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate and the candidate is doing their best to make sure the interviewer thinks they are a flawless human being. In an effort to streamline this process for the interviewer (and any candidate who is asked these questions), I bring you How to Make Awkward Smalltalk: Interview Edition.
1. So… Bacon?
Anyone who’s anyone has an ardent opinion on bacon; that smoky, salty meat is the king of a carnivore’s dreams and the bane of a vegetarian’s existence. Opening an interview with “So… Bacon?” immediately makes them take a stance and defend their position. Do they love it? Hate it? Do they think there would be peace in the Middle East if they could just eat bacon? Regardless, this question forces someone on a side and makes them tell you about their core values.
There is only one true failing answer to this question — though if someone told me they didn’t like bacon during an interview I would make them leave my office with any shred of dignity they could muster — and that is by not having an opinion. If someone can’t solidly think about and reflect on the godliest of meats, how could they ever be a good employee?
2. How would I look in a cravat?
This question is incredibly difficult to navigate for a potential employee; not only does it address their ability to balance honesty with tact, but it is also a good way to judge their tastes. If someone says you’d look “God awful!” you know they’re crazy because – let’s be honest here – that cravat would look pretty snazzy. If they say you’d look “Sooo great!” they’re a suck up, and you don’t just want another yes man.
The one way to correctly answer this question – to show tact, honesty, and good fashion sense – is to say, “I think you’d look good, but it depends on the color.” Not only do they acknowledge your good looks, but they show they can think beyond the initial problem and address other issues, like whether it would clash or not. It takes a truly exceptional candidate to weave through all the aspects of this difficult situation and come out a victor.
3. What do you find appealing about the Amish lifestyle?
Quite unlike bacon, the Amish are often overlooked, to the extent that when you mention them a person might stare off blankly for half a second and try and remember what that word means. Immediately, this means that inquiring about the Amish requires them to have a good ability to recall facts quickly. If they say, “Who?” Bzzrt! They’re out! No passy for them! Other disparaging remarks, etc.
The second benefit to this question is it requires them to stay positive, no matter their true feelings, and focus on the goodness in another group. It also shows you a candidate’s ability to BS, as they might find no redeeming qualities in the Amish lifestyle but can’t answer that or they face metaphorical career flogging. Overall, this question is the most powerful way to end an interview, as it is a strong barometer of their ability to recall facts, stay positive, and make stuff up.
Job interviews are always hard, and they are always awkward. Hopefully this guide will help you make the process a little bit easier, a little more straight forward, and a lot more awkward. Good luck.
In recent weeks my creativity has all been sapped by the labyrinthine trials of finding gainful (note: $$$!) employment. However, I still want to post, so this week I’m going to tell you about what might be the cutest thing ever: the bufflehead.
A bufflehead is kind of like a duck only more adorable. It has shorter feet and a giant head than a normal duck, and it’s just smaller in general. Basically, it’s the Welsh corgi of ducks. You can look at a duck and think, “oh, that’s pretty cute,” but when you look at a bufflehead, especially in person, you cannot possibly think — unless you are some cyborg, perhaps — “That is so cute! I must steal it!”
In fact, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to identify which person in a group is the sociopathic serial killer you only need to show them the bufflehead and see who doesn’t react.
Yes, I have thought about that scenario.
I saw the bufflehead at the Bronx Zoo and there was a baby monkey that was very cute, and my traveling companions attested it was the only animal cuter than the bufflehead. For awhile I said this was true, then I realized something that destroys that argument; baby monkeys turn into adult monkeys, but buffleheads are always adorable.
Yesterday I saw a book about unusual animal pairs, like the black bear and cat that became close friends. I’m 99% certain that if a bufflehead and a baby monkey were to befriend each other it would be so endearing and “aww”-inducing that human civilization would grind to a halt.
This last weekend, I was at a convention for the company I’m interning at. The company? Just Food. Just Food is about providing urban populations with local food, primarily fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on helping underserved communities. As you can guess, the convention was comprised of hippies (one teaching assistant poured me some water into a compostable bowl from a pitcher with the cut of a plant in it, and said, “we’re drinking to celebrate the passion and creation within all of us”) to upper middle class, older progressives.
The crowd, especially the latter group, reminded me of the stereotypical Californian, and a story I had heard but don’t really remember; apparently, my brother was ostracized as a child because he had been born and lived for four years in Los Angeles. See, in Montana, Californians are considered elitists — really, Californian elitists are a pretty commonly accepted group nationwide, but in Montana and the Midwest they are especially well known and despised, to the extent that a politician who drives a Prius (a “California car”) is at a disadvantage.
If Californians are considered elitist, than the people at this conference must surely be elitists, too; everyone there was concerned with waste reduction, fuel efficiency, renewable energy, etc. You know, the same things that Californians are.
In America, we hate the idea of the elite, to the extent that it came to be one of the main talking points in the 2000 election, with Al Gore being that elitist who harped on climate change and George Bush being the champion of guys you’d really like to go have beer with. And the idea of elitism is clearly not even directly linked to money, as Obama was smeared as an elitist even when facing off against McCain, who owned seven homes, 13 cars, and had access to a private jet.
What this spells out is simple: somehow, if you want to help those around you you are an “elitist.” Caring about people who aren’t your family, aren’t directly in your neighborhood, or aren’t a member of your church makes you a member of the elite. After all, why would you want to help those you don’t interact with?
I’m here to say something I am sure I will have to say many, many times in the future: empathy is not elitist. Wanting to protect the environment so that future generations don’t have massive, avoidable flooding, fires, and droughts is not something I should be stigmatized for. Thinking that all people should have access to nutritious food, potable water, and adequate shelter, no matter what part of the world they live in or how economically productive they are, is not something I should feel apologetic for. Thinking everyone should receive a basic education and be free to pursue a higher education if they so choose for free is not something that should earn me ridicule.
These things don’t make me elitist: they make me the exact opposite.
The fact that I think no one should suffer — especially not because of my actions — is not due to some noblesse oblige (the idea that people with power/wealth should take care of lower class people because they’re obligated to). It’s this little thing called I care about other humans. Ignoring people outside your community, your race, your social class, your sexuality — ignoring people at all for any of those reasons – that’s elitist. Thinking others should be fine on their own because you were fine on your own (assuming you actually were ever on your own) doesn’t make you a pragmatic fan of tough love; it makes you an apathetic jerk.
I want to help the poor and the uneducated so one day they are neither poor nor uneducated. I want a safety net that works better and social security that is constantly improving. I want an environment that continues to support both humans and the other species that exist on this planet. You think that makes me an elitist? Then you don’t know what it means to truly care about things that don’t directly benefit you, and that makes you among the most brazenly elitist people I’ve ever met.
Awhile ago, they announced yet another reboot of a franchise I loved as a kid: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And I was pretty thrilled. Growing up, I loved the show, and the games, and gosh darn it if I didn’t view Donatello, the nerdy one with the purple bandana, as my hero.
Then I found out it was going to be directed by Michael Bay, responsible for the Transformers movies, which I can fondly say may very well be the worst blockbuster franchise ever. As you could guess, my thrill was replaced with irritation, dread, and a bit of throw up.
Shortly after it was announced that Michael Bay was to direct it, he joyously said, “Oh, and by the by, they’re going to be aliens, lol!” The fan base of the show was not super pleased.
Then something magical happened: the movie was put on indefinite hiatus. There’s a funny thing about that term: in America, we seem to think “indefinite” means “forever.” Indefinite means, you know, not definite. As in we have no idea how long it’ll last.
Alas, the connotation “forever” would have been very welcome in this instance, but it was not true; a few short months after this, TMNATMT returned to life, and with more bad news: Megan Fox was going to star in it. All of this comes together to mean that TMNATMT will truly be the worst movie ever — just as Vampire High was the worst show ever — for three specific reasons:
1) Michael Bay: Michael Bay is terrible. Let’s just admit this. He has an unhealthy alien fetish, blows up anything in a franchise resembling intelligence, thinks any movie under two and a half hours isn’t worth it, and somehow managed to make Transformers and Battleship seem even more ridiculous than they were. I mean, Transformers was about robots turning into cars and he made it worse.
That, dearest readers, is a pretty terrifying set of skills.
2) Aliens and Robots: Yep, aliens and robots. Michael Bay loves aliens and robots, so now the turtles won’t be mutants, they’ll be aliens, which (GASP!) are indeed different things. At best they will be alien mutants, which seems just a little like overkill, right? That’s like vampire zombies: sure they could potentially exist, but their existence in cinema really wouldn’t improve the quality of, um, anything.
As far as robots go, since Michael Bay added robot aliens into Battleship, which was originally a game about two warring navies — and the robots had a strong resemblance to Transformers — my great worry is that Shredder is going to be a robot. He’s going to be a f***ing Transformers-style alien robot. His new name will be Shred-Tron.
3) Megan Fox: You know, Megan Fox, who was fired from Transformers 3 by Michael Bay because she is apparently such an arrogant wench? Megan Fox, who is considered to be the runner up to Kristin Stewart in the overpaid, emotionless trollop awards? Yep, she’s going to help make sure this dismal movie is truly abysmal. Megan Fox is, in short, the Michael Bay of actors.
Maybe it’s just me, but seeing Megan Fox straddling an anthropomorphic, alien-mutant turtle man — and it will happen in the movie, mark my words– will not make my life any better.
Michael Bay has been systemically, retroactively ruining my childhood for years. He does this by reminding me of the things I loved, magnifying everything bad about them, and then shoving a stick of dynamite up the proverbial orifice of anything that was actually good about them.
The worst part about TMNATMT is that it will be a huge success, if for no other reason than Michael Bay has broken records on the amount of product placement in his movies. This means there will probably be two sequels, perhaps titled Shredder’s Revenge and Revenging of Shred-Tron 3.0. Vampire High at least had the decency to end very, very quickly after people acknowledged it was awful.
And after TMNATMT is done, what’ll he destroy next? My prediction: Candy Land. Princess Lollipop, played by Megan Fox, will be an alien who battles giant, transforming robots with the help of her mechanical candy grenades so that they don’t steal the power source from Gumdrop Mountain.