Jaime and Jessie Are Not Together

Photo on 13-03-16 at 9.28 PM

“For the moment, I just wanted to write to you because this night, watching this movie, has been important to me, and you are who I always want to share important things with.” — Jaime, February 16th 2013 from Berlin, Germany

Photo on 13-03-13 at 11.20 AM

“P.S. I miss travelling with you (even though half the time you want to go home).” — Jaime, March 3rd 2013 from Venice, Italy

#EssayMixtape Vol. 1

Long story short, I do what I always do: I procrastinated and ended up with an essay to write over the weekend.

As I finally dragged myself to write the first page, I found myself suddenly singing along to “The rest is still unwritten…” How does the story go? Well, it pretty much wrote itself and resulted in a series of tweets and this blog: the first #EssayMixtape! One song for each completed page! There were 5 pages in this essay (1.5 spacing, WHO DOES THAT?!) so here they are:

1. Natasha Bedingfield — Unwritten

I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned
Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

The rest is still unwritten

2. All Time Low – Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)

I fought it for a long time now
While drowning in a river of denial
I washed up, fixed up, picked up
All my broken things

Something’s telling me to leave
But I won’t cause I’m damned if I do ya
Damned if I don’t

About a year or so ago, I first used this song to describe my relationship with my academic career: damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time there but I can’t really quit midway when I have already started. Same goes with this paper, it makes me feel like crap during the course of writing it butnot doing it was not going to make me feel better.

(Posting this live version instead of the MV ’cause I like this way more than the MV and I loveee the interlude by drummer Rian Dawson and bassist Zach Merrick.)

3. The Dangerous Summer — Work In Progress

The Dangerous Summer always has a way to get to the bottom of things with the simplest and best words.

Tell them all that I’m a work in progress
Pour it out and I will stay out of the way
Fill it up, for what it’s worth I’m harmless
Cut me down and I will live with what I take
….
Take my hands and keep them busy again
I think I’m losing my whole belief system
I get a lot of problems in my head sometimes
And I keep on forgetting
So take my hands and keep them busy again

4. Get Set Go — I Hate Everyone

At page 4 of my essay, I pretty much hated everything.

All the people on the street, I hate you all

5. The Maine — This Is The End

After a night of existential questions while writing an essay, I finished the essay. But the questions, they kept coming.

I’m taking, taking all of my time
I’m dodging words, but she’s saying the right lines
She made me, made me oh so crazy
But this time I feel like I’m doing something right

It made me sick to think about
Everything you put me through and how you left without
(Saying goodbye) And if it’s really over now
Then you can walk away and it would be the last time

….

You had me hanging on your last word
And now I’m feeling a little less than trusting
You had me wishing we were something
But left me here with a whole lot of nothing now

Bonus Track: An Essay by Spongebob Squarepants

I had a friend who saw my #EssayMixtape posts on Facebook and contributed to the cause of my procrastination with this. Being a Books & Media Studies (I study old books), I freaked out a little when I saw that Spongebob is making an initial (those illustrated capital letters). #BooksNerd

I’ll admit that some of these songs came to mind as I’m writing the essay, but some were found after scrolling through my iTunes library and catching fitting titles. Maybe the next one will be less obvious in context. Hopefully.

Dial A for Effort

For a little under 90 minutes, For A Good Time, Call… is an insightful piece of entertainment as a conversation starter, if somewhat cinematically flawed. First of all, it is extremely unfortunate that the majority of its punchlines have already been given away in the trailer. As a result, watching certain scenes unfold became an awkward experience somewhat like being a spouse who has heard the same story at too many parties. Similarly, many of the action are too single-mindedly aimed at hitting the marks of a narrative arch. The only advantage of the highly formulaic plot development was that it was comforting to be able to anticipate how long the drabber scenes would take to be over.

“Strolling in the West Village”, “rent control”, “Gramercy Park”, “Shake Shack” all appeared within the first three minutes, before the opening credits even started rolling. (Or is it just me, living in borderline New York, who is especially sensitive to these buzz wordrs because they are signifiers that feed on their own self-obsession?) The movie would not have been possible if it’s set in any other cityin the United States. Coupled with the enthusiastically pink campaign, it is given that the ideal audience for the movie is either young urban female, or those interested in the lives of young urban female.

But what about the rest of the world who are neither young, urban (or aspire to be urban), nor female? But why should it assume, before the rest of the world has a chance to see for themselves, that only we should be interested in ourselves? The limitation that otherwise insightful female movies (movies about women) have placed on themselves remind me of something Emily Gould has written in response to criticism on her memoir:

If a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition. But people seem to evaluate your work based on how much they relate to it, so it’s like, well, who’s the narcissist?

Similar complaints that mistake introspection for navel-gazing have been made about Sheila Heti’s How Should I Person Be, an inquisitive examination of friendship between two women. The book’s initial publication predates Bridesmaids and Girls, but it is the popularity of the latter that has made the genre of female narrative a triumphant revolt-in-progress against the patriarchic mainstream entertainment because it unapologetically exposes the dynamics exclusive to relationships and interactions among women in contemporary life without the filter of the male perspective. Suddenly, previously dormant aspects of female relationships make a novel and worthwhile branch of the human condition.

But there is no more overwhelmingly feminine phrase in the English language than “female friendship”. What makes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a narrative about friendship, while Bridesmaids, Bachelorette, and For A Good Time, Call… get to be about “female friendship”? What are feelings that female feel towards each other than men don’t feel towards other men? Why do women find extreme empathy in the bond between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but Sean, at the end of For A Good Time, Call…, finds himself perplexed and abandoned in the middle of sex by Katie’s monumental revelation about herself in her relationship with Lauren?

Another dominant feature of these narratives is they seem to thrive on, to an outsider, petty conflicts fanned by surges of emotions. The result is that it makes the “female experience” in cinema seems like things usually only deserve attention when they turn awry. The formulaic story of For A Good Time, Call… makes an emotional fall-out a prerequisite, but is it possible for the fall-out to climax in another way? Is it possible for there to be another kind of female friendship that does not universally lead to an explosive conflict as a result of overdue miscommunication, misunderstanding, or premature judgment? And if these narratives are concerned with some kind of growth at the resolution, what is the difference between becoming a better woman and becoming a better person? It’s not enough to make a movie about two women who share actually funny sex jokes and call it a breakthrough. I know we have to start somewhere, and this is an impressive first step, but until we turn fully away from the temptation to fit representations of female friendship in a box, movies about female friendship will continue to be in danger of becoming a sister genre of chick flick, or worse, a trope — the pseudo-lesbians.

It is telling that at the end of the movie, I found myself identify the most with Sean, Katie’s phone-sex client turned boyfriend, when he finds himself caught awkwardly in the middle of an introspective turning point for Katie that has nothing to do with himself. A light bulb goes off in Katie’s head in the middle of her having sex for the first time, and Katie proclaims in a stream of verbal diarrhea her love for Lauren, to Sean’s utter helplessness and confusion. In a frantic sequence of action, Katie grabs her phone, leaves the bed, and calls Lauren at the same time Lauren is calling her (who just had a light bulb situation of her own.) After a few sharp turns around staircases, street corners, and puns, the two find each other at Katie’s stoop. It is a moment that belongs completely to Katie and Lauren. They have spent 90 minutes showing us what it is like to have a close female friend like they have each other, but in the end, we are shut out of the experience. We can only watch. This, though, at least reaffirms one truth about friendship: Great friendships are great because they are exclusive.

P.S. Immediately after the movie, I did feel self-conscious when I called a friend to meet for desserts and the first words that came out of my mouth were, “Are you coming?”

Jessie went to see “For A Good Time, Call…”

I happened to be on Twitter yesterday when Canada’s major film distributor Alliance Films tweeted about the advanced screening of For A Good Time, Call…, I’m not one to turn down free things…, except I didn’t realize that it was the next day and then I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.

I’m a veteran for attending things alone (half the time I’m also the youngest and/or most awkward person in the room), so what’s another one, right? But hey, here are some perks of being #foreveralone a wallflower though.

I sat between two groups of women who were sharing stories from work and I figured I should pretend to be less like a loner so I did the obvious — I took out my phone and DMed Jaime furiously.

Jaime sent me the trailer a couple weeks ago. We pretty much find any stories involving close friendships interesting (or any women comedies that look promising).

I was glad that the trailer did not show off the funniest bits of the film (some trailers tend to put up the really good punchlines) so the film was still a surprise in spite of the pretty revealing trailer. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the cause of their grudge — drunk Katie’s urine on uptight Lauren when the two first met. I find human excrement in comedies extremely cliched, and more disgusting than comic relief (think Bridesmaids and Ted). You know how there are “trainwreck scenes” which you can sense its impending appearance, but in your head you just do not want to see it happen that way? Well, this film did not have those moments when I wanted to sink into my seat and close my eyes.

The plot is a classic: two people coming together, things are good till they are not, and then the fix. I find the “something goes wrong” part satisfying to watch. Trained by formulaic rom-coms, one could easily expect a super dramatic fight, as in Bridesmaids and Bachelorette (or any other movies involving two female leads). But their conflict was handled smoothly and happened so quickly and best part was that it wasn’t catty (and there was no catfight, either, Amen). Their reconciliation was well-done in a straightforward and enjoyable manner. I believe that scene to be one of the most fantastically written scenes I had ever seen in rom-coms (another one that came to mind is the confrontation scene in Crazy Stupid Love).

(I’m trying my hardest not to spoil the movie.)

And it’s a pleasure watching Justin Long’s Jesse, the gay friend who brought the two together. It’s like the usual Justin Long, but even more awesome, for reasons I couldn’t quite pinpoint until later when it was explained at a Q&A session joined by director Jamie Travis (who happened to be from Toronto), scriptwriter Katie Anne Naylon and actresses Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor.

The reason why Justin Long’s Jesse was a fun performance to watch is because he actually shadowed the film’s gay director Jamie Travis. As soon as he started speaking and I though, “But that’s Jesse!” Later, scriptwriter Katie Anne Naylon said that Justin Long was character studying him, and he mentioned this article:

And while the idea of a straight actor affecting a gay man’s mannerisms may be troubling to some, Travis believes that Long’s interpretation stays on the respectful side: “It was very important for me that Jesse not be an oversexualized, over-the-top gay male stereotype,” he recalls. “Originally the character was envisioned in a different way, and I was so happy when, through the process of casting and rewriting, it became more and more like, well, me!”

So that explains why Jesse was so appealing because it’s actually different from the stereotype.

In the Q&A, I also learned that scriptwriter Katie and actress Lauren Miller co-wrote the film and that it’s partly autobiographical. The two actually met in college and Katie was really a phone sex operator. They also shared about how the two of them were living coast-to-coast after graduation — one in L.A. and the other in N.Y.— which resonated a lot with me ‘cause of my long-distance relationship with Jaime. They said they wanted to write together for a long time but it never worked out because they are always apart. So they finally got together in L.A. and started to write — what else — about what they know.

One thing for sure though, Jaime and I could work the long-distance… thank goodness for Google Docs and technology.

They wrote the script in two months with Ari Graynor (who plays Katie ,while Lauren Miller plays Lauren) in mind. They sent her love letters to get her on board because they have enjoyed her performances. An audience member also asked how did they get Seth Rogen do a cameo, to which Lauren Miller said, “Well I slept with him… he was my then-fiance *pause* and now my husband so…” Yeah #didnotknow.

I talked to director Jamie later and he asked me my name. And when I told him, he exclaimed and that’s when I remembered that Justin Long’s character is called Jesse, like I mentioned, the performance was influenced by Jamie… so there you have it, Jamie and Jesse.

[Top] Director Jamie Travis, scriptwriter Katie Anne Naylon
[Bottom] The girls! Lauren Miller and Ari Graynor

Meeting Again

Day 1, July 21st 2012

Jaime: Another Story of How We Met

Jessie visited me in New York last November so it was my turn to go to Canada, which I had never been before. Taking the overnight bus had the advantage of being minimally intrusive to the natural sleeping cycle. Inevitable boredom was also easily averted this way.

The sky was already dipping in cotton-candy pink when I woke up at the border on Saturday morning. The bus arrived in Toronto two hours later. I only half-expected Jessie to be waiting by the curb at the station — being an hour later than scheduled, I wouldn’t expect this kind of dedication from anyone but myself — and therefore wasn’t surprised to see that she wasn’t there when the bus pulled in. I had better look for a place with chairs.

I noted where the pay phones were in case I needed to call her, even though I had no idea how because, somehow in spite of the risk, I had no Canadian money on me at the time. I then circled outside the station to see if Jessie would be waiting on a bench somewhere. But there were no benches anywhere. I was met only with hawking taxi drivers. Avoiding eye contact with hawkers in a foreign place without appearing uneasy is a life skill worth mastering. If there is anything I am good at, it is pretending to know where I am going. I continued down the length of the station.

As I kept walking, I noticed a Starbucks across the street, and mentally calculated that in the worst case scenario, I could always use its Wi-Fi to DM Jessie. Armed with new-found relief, I circled the station again, this time I noticed there was another terminal, similar to the one I got off at.

I crossed the side street and, seeing movements and a weak fluorescent glow from afar, headed towards what looked like a waiting room. It was full of people, but quiet. Passing through the door, I spotted Jessie near the overhead announcement screen across the room. She was looking at her phone. It was too perfect not to sneak up from behind.

“Where did you come from?!” Jessie, of course, didn’t jump. We are already too old to actually be surprised when we are surprised. Nonetheless, I was still proud of the execution of my little maneuver.

Jessie then told me she had actually been waiting at the curb until five minutes before I arrived ( —there are always two sides to the story). She also said she had also thought about going into Starbucks. A brief moment of unacknowledged disappointment followed as we realized we could’ve had a better story.

Then we went to breakfast because Jessie was starving. I only had coffee because I couldn’t decide what to eat, and stole strawberries from Jessie’s plate.

(Jessie: I was actually trying to take a photo of the girl’s cool lace top :P)

Jessie: Complaints About the Toronto Coach Terminal

Because I’m nothing but a procrastinator, I stayed up until 3AM (or later) to put together my birthday present for Jaime. I managed to wake up and head downtown to pick Jaime up from the station on a bright and early Saturday morning. On the ride downtown, the idealist in me kept thinking about the day’s plan: pick up Jaime, head home, nap, then go out later again tonight. I sincerely thought we would be home by 10AM, except her bus was late.

I had never been to the Toronto Coach Terminal before; I had no reason to. I arrived at 8AM, her scheduled arrival time and walked around the terminal twice before realizing that I was at the Departures side, and the Arrivals should be somewhere else. It took me a while to find the pathway that takes me out of the terminal and across. And there it is, the Arrivals!

And it looks sketchy as heck.

For some reason the Arrivals building was closed — WELL WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE WAITING TO PICK UP PEOPLE SUPPOSED TO GO?!?!?!?!?!?! THE SIDEWALK? Nonetheless, that was where I stood awkwardly for some time until I got too uncomfortable standing in the street, especially considering all the recent shootings in the city. I bought a cup of iced mocha to wake me up from the Starbucks at the corner and sat at the patio where I could see buses turning in. Before walking in, I was actually hoping she would somehow be inside so we could have an epic “I got here early and I was about to steal the Internet to DM you” moment. Because the Internet is always the answers to our problems, it seems like.

In addition to being a procrastinator, I’m pretty impatient. I might have sat there for less than 10 minutes before I decided to go into the station again and see if by some miracle, she had arrived without me knowing. (Okay, I really wish she had because that would have meant we could go home ASAP and I could have my nap.)

I went back to the terminal, where there were people so I felt less exposed in the middle of nowhere, and stared at the bus announcement screen for the longest time, hoping it would shed some light onto the whereabouts of my Internet friend… except it is the most useless thing ever. It doesn’t tell you if the bus is late or has arrived. It only tells you the scheduled arrival time, its origin and which company runs that bus. NOT. REALLY. USEFUL.

Once again, the idealist in me hoped that this is not the dumbest piece of technology in the world and waited to see if it automatically updates when the bus arrives, because it was 9AM and the buses that were scheduled to arrive at 7AM were STILL LISTED ON THE BOARD. Either they were really late or that really is the most frustrating LCD screen in existence.

I believe I was in the middle of editing a photo of the chairs at the station on Snapseed to Instagram the fact that I’m waiting for Jaime, when she covered her hands over my eyes. And the said photo was too ugly to be salvaged in any way. There is simply no way to make that bus terminal look good, not even Instagram.