The Teresa Jusino Experience

Create Like An Activist

Author: Teresa Jusino (Page 1 of 35)

Introducing Pomonok Entertainment

 

 

Me circa 1993. So emo. Also a fan of Color Me Badd and Kris Kross.

Bear with me, this story is totally going somewhere.

I first saw the film Schindler’s List when I was about fifteen. In addition to being blown away by the filmmaking and heartbroken by the story, I was also inspired. One of the main takeaways I had was that there was this dude, a business man, who used his company people. He saved lives, because at that moment in history he came to care more about people than he did about making money. That stuck with me.

At that point I had my sights set on acting as a profession, but I was still a writer. I knew that, no matter what, creating stories was going to be my future. Yet, I knew that wasn’t all I wanted to do with my life.

I wanted to be a great artist, entertain, make money and all of that…but I also knew that I wanted to leave the world better than I found it. I knew that art changes the world. That the pen is mightier than the sword. That a good story can change hearts and minds. But I knew I wanted to do something more concrete than that.

Eventually, I tucked the thought away in the back of my mind, revisiting it from time to time to see if it was still there. It always was.

The thought evolved and grew, and it was something I kept very private for a long time. I was embarrassed by it. The idea eventually got so big and so ambitious that I thought, Who the hell am I to think I could do this? I’m not anybody important. You’d need to have a bunch of money, or clout, or both to make this happen, and I don’t know that I’ll ever have either.

Meanwhile, I started to hear about businesses becoming more socially conscious. The (Product) RED line of products came out in the mid-aughts, and several corporations sold red-colored products under that brand in order to raise money and awareness for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, and they became really popular, raising millions of dollars for the fund.

While there was plenty of valid criticism of the effort, what I took away was: People want to help others. People want to spend money on things they enjoy. People are more enthusiastic about spending money on things they enjoy when they know that money is going to a cause they believe in. 

And I wondered why every company wasn’t donating a portion of their profits to important causes. I wondered why, when they did, it was only one product and not all of them. I thought, this is clearly good business, people are into it, and these companies could be doing so much more good. Why isn’t Apple donating a portion of the proceeds from EVERYTHING they sell if they care so much? Why are they only donating money and not other resources? Why aren’t they doing more to parlay the “awareness” they raise into action with their huge platform?

Hey, I was in my twenties at the time, and hugely idealistic. (Spoiler alert: I still am, despite knowing more about the world.)

Meanwhile, that thought I had when I was in my teens continued to grow and evolve. How can I create stories while also helping others? And then, it occurred to me: a production company. A production company that employs from the homeless community. A production company whose entire reason for existing–other than producing stories people love, of course–is to join the fight to alleviate and end homelessness.

Yet I kept that nugget of an idea to myself for over a decade, because I was scared.

Until now.

My temporary avatar until my official logo is done. Some of my favorite female characters!

I’m starting small, and slowly, but I’m starting. Publicly. Unafraid. Because if not now, when? And if not me, then whom? Right?

Welcome to Year One of Pomonok Entertainment, where nuanced female characters come standard.

Pomonok Entertainment is a production company with a dual mission: create quality, inclusive narrative content (across multiple mediums) while being of service to those experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

While we primarily make narrative filmed content, we want to create a variety. That’s why we’re Pomonok Entertainment and not “Pomonok Films” or “Pomonok Studios.” We want to create content that entertains (and maybe even enlightens) you, regardless of medium or genre. And by “we,” I mean me. For now.

In this first year, my goal is to incorporate the mission of alleviating and ending homelessness into each of my projects through methods including, but not limited to: encouraging an ethos of social activism among members of Team Pomonok; organizing group volunteering at partner homeless advocacy organizations; incorporating line items into our budgets for donations to these organizations; donating surplus craft services to food pantries and shelters; and donating a portion of any profits we make to existing organizations that have expertise and experience in working with the homeless community.

Over the course of the coming year, I want to build relationships in the homelessness industry and in the realm of homeless advocacy, to learn how I can best and most efficiently help. I want to learn more about what’s needed by those experiencing homelessness day-to-day, as well as what’s needed at a policy level to combat homelessness at a local and state level.

I also want to build relationships in the entertainment industry, and partner with producers and executives who also prioritize this issue to see if we can work together toward this common mission, share ideas and resources, and maybe even spread this way of thinking to other production companies and studios. The entertainment industry is one of the largest employers in Los Angeles. How could we all best use that to be of service?

And what would happen to our storytelling if we included the voices of this marginalized demographic?

I purposely didn’t want to start a non-profit. I still want to create stories and make my living that way. I still want to help others tell their stories and make their livings. I want to create something that will eventually be self-sustaining. But I know that there’s more that companies can do to better the world that they’re not doing, and I guess I want to create example of how to do those things.

I suppose this is a bit of an experiment. I want to create a workable model where a for-profit company can create concrete, positive change in people’s lives while continuing to do good business. I want to create a blueprint others can apply to their businesses and the companies close to their hearts. Because it shouldn’t just be me.

I don’t want to be unique. I want everyone to do stuff like this, to prioritize in this way.

Eventually, there will be an official logo (currently in progress), and a separate website. There’s already content in the pipeline. But for right now, here are the best ways to keep up and support Team Pomonok:

  • THERE’S A PATREON PAGE. Check it out for more information on specific projects and plans. And if you’re thinking about joining Team Pomonok, there’s an advantage to joining before 5PM Pacific Time on Friday the 5th.
  • Oh, and hey, there’s a FACEBOOK PAGE and a TWITTER, too! You’ll probably want to follow those.
  • There’s a YOUTUBE Channel. It’s not much to look at now, but this is where most of the video content will go, so go ahead and subscribe now so you don’t miss it. I say most of the video content, because…
  • There’s also an INSTAGRAM, and I’ve already got a little something in the way of content that’s coming out tomorrow, which is specifically created for Instagram. So, if you want to experience Pomonok Entertainment’s first little bit of narrative content, you’ll want to follow that feed.
  • Lastly, there’s a MAILING LIST. If you want not only to keep up with Pomonok projects, but be an active member of Team Pomonok and be made aware of ways you can be of service, this is for you!

I’ve made a career writing about other people’s stories. Now, I want to put more focus on creating my own. Join me.

2017 Year In Review

The word 2017 spelled out on clothespin clipped cards in front of glowing lights.

It was the worst of times, it was the slightly-less-worse of times.

I could easily talk about the scary direction our country’s been going in. I could easily talk about how angry and terrified and freaking exhausted I and others are, worrying about our future. I could also talk about the #MeToo moment. The fact that sexists in my chosen industry are, on the one hand, dealing with a reckoning, and on the other hand, might simply be laying low until this “watershed moment” blows over.

But I won’t.

This is my personal blog, and so I want to focus on the goings on in my personal life, which may or may not intersect with the goings-on in the world, but is most certainly where I’ve managed to find some joy and hope. Things we could all use going into the new year. And as I look back, a lot more good happened than I remembered! So, here we go…

Previous Years in Review:
200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016.

JANUARY MEANT CONNECTION

The thrilling experience of the historic Women’s March on January 21st was surrounded by lots of connecting with the women in my life. Looking at my calendar from January 2017, it’s chock full of hang-outs with friends like Ally, Aurora, Cheryl, Ruthi, Helenna, Heather, Rachel, and Monique. I started having regular “writing dates” with my friend Adam, where we’d get together to each individually work on whatever writing projects we’re working on, just to light a fire under our asses to get stuff done (I also helped him move). I was also in the thick of my Intro to Judaism class, which ended up changing my life.

Trump got inaugurated as President, and that put a pall on the first half of my year. Seriously, I felt like I was walking around shell-shocked for the first three/four months. There was a lot of fight, then a lot of feeling burnt out, then a lot of fight again. There were some conflicts with family. And yet, I also managed to tend to my relationships (and mend family fences), study a new faith and culture, and generally hold on to my sanity. I call that a win.

January Highlights: seeing La La Land with Adam, seeing Hidden Figures with Ada, Heather’s birthday chill-fest, visiting the set of NBC’s (sadly canceled) Powerless for work, Rikki’s postcard brunch (where we wrote our congresspeople, and also had eggs), participating in the “Rant and Rave” storytelling event.

Laurie Hernandez gymnast

FEBRUARY MEANT STARTING TO BATTLE MY DEMONS

It was on February 2nd, 2017 that I started taking action to deal with my compulsive overeating. Spoiler alert: it’s not just about food. It’s about how I deal with life and my emotions, and in February I really started to delve into all of the things, learning better habits, confronting certain issues and flaws. I am so grateful I was able to find the willingness to accept help and take direction. I started 2017 at 295 pounds, and I’m ending 2017 much, much lighter.

February Highlights: writing group pot luck, interviewing Suzy Nakamura, dinner/drinks with Rachel, hanging w/Monique, attending the YouTube/Geena Davis Foundation #ShesGotDrive event, girls’ night at Allison’s, babysitting Mairghread’s son, seeing Get Out with Heather, escape room with Ally, FilmPowered mastermind brunch, sound mixer brunch with Ada, Intro to Judaism shabbaton, Moonlight took the Oscar after all whaaaaaat!

Max Greenfield New Girl Judaism

MARCH MEANT FULLY EMBRACING JUDAISM

My Intro to Judaism class ended in March, and after taking the class, I fully committed to becoming a Jew by Choice. I’m so grateful for our teacher, Rabbi Adam Greenwald, for creating such a wonderful, inclusive and welcoming curriculum that made Judaism feel like a family I could be a part of. I’m also grateful for Ikar, the shul at which my wife and I are now proud members. As of March we’d been going regularly for about a year, and it was then that it truly started feeling like home.

March Highlights: celebrating my wife’s birthday, seeing Logan, Purim at Ikar, interviewing the cast of Orphan Black (except for Tatiana Maslany, dammit!) at their PaleyFest event, interviewing the cast of Westworld (except for Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jonathan Nolan, and Lisa Joy, dammit!) at their PaleyFest event, Cuties Queer Carnival.

APRIL BROUGHT NEW FOCUS, AND STIRRED UP THE OLD WOUNDS

April will always contain the anniversaries of my parents’ deaths. That’s just always the way it’s going to be. This year, however, I did something that I hadn’t done in previous years. I took those days off work. And I was glad I did. I hadn’t before really given those days the respect (and myself the care on those days) that they deserved, and really marking those days by doing things to remember my parents felt right. I will likely be doing that for the foreseeable future.

However, I also got to spend time with my new family through my wife. We went to the DC area to spend Passover with her mom and to visit her dad. So, even as I was thinking about the family I’ve lost, I’ve also found a lot of love in the family I’ve gained.

April also found me beginning to take action on a new focus that you’ll be hearing me talk a lot more about this coming year: working to end homelessness in L.A. (and everywhere). It was also a very eventful month, and it was when I applied for Honeymoon Israel! (Spoiler alert: see December)

April Highlights: going to Wondercon, seeing Colossal and interviewing Anne Hathaway and Nacho Vigalondo, celebrating Passover in Frederick, Sandra’s “dorm room” party, Renee’s annual Titanic screening, volunteering at breakfast service at Covenant House, volunteering at dinner service at PATH, taking Alexandra’s awesome distribution class, going to Marina’s for #WeAreWITI, attending the Artemis Film Festival.

Aya Cash Gretchen You're the Worst

MAY FLOWERS

In May, I had a break-up of sorts. After over a year of working with her, my therapist Tannaz moved on to another job, and I had my final session with her. It was hard, as I’d come to really, really appreciate the way she worked with me. But all good things must come to an end, and I started up with a new therapist, Sarah, who has become a wonderful partner-in-crime in figuring out my brain. Things may or may not be continuing with her due to scheduling conflicts, so stay tuned…

May Highlights: interviewing directors for new Incredible Girl footage, seeing Manifesto with Ada, seeing Megan Leavey with Caroline, seeing 47 Meters Down with Heather (the movie suuuucked, but Heather and I had a great time getting drunk and making fun of it), Queers Coffee and Donuts, hiking with Dana, Jason’s b-day BBQ, celebrating my first Shavuot with Ikar.

Arts Out Loud logo

NEW RELATIONSHIPS TOWARD MY GREATER MISSION

In June, I started two important relationships with two organizations with which I started working intensely as I started to really put energy toward the causes that matter to me. I had my first conversation with Jennifer Heastings, the president and founder of Arts Out Loud, an organization that aims to provide scholarships and mentorship to LGBTQ youth in the arts. That conversation led to me joining my first Board! That continues to be a rewarding experience.

The other relationship I started was with L.A. Family Housing, an advocacy organization for those experiencing homelessness in L.A. It’s basically a hub that serves the homeless population, providing everything from housing, to food, to job placement, and everything in between. I got to know the organization through their L.A. Family Housing Week, during which I got donations of supplies they needed for their residents, and volunteered in their kitchen. I plan on working with them a lot more in the new year.

June Highlights: seeing Wonder Woman!!!!, Cuties Queer Bazaar, L.A. Dyke Day, volunteering at Union Station Family Center’s dinner service, going to Julia Kaye’s art show, Trans Pride, Ikar Pride Shabbat, casting our leads for Incredible Girl, seeing the play Why We Become Witches (directed by Kate Motzenbacker), hiking with Adam, participating in the “Back Story” storytelling event, dinner and games at Sam’s, interviewing for Honeymoon Israel.

USHERING IN MY 38TH BIRTHDAY ON THE ROAD

July was all about travel and connecting with the people nearest and dearest to me, as I went on two big trips this month. First, to Portland to celebrate the wedding of Ada’s (and my) cousins Adina and Caitlin, which was so much fun. My birthday happened to be the same day that we were flying back to L.A. from there, so I celebrated my birthday in the air. Actually, I celebrated my birthday the following Saturday, with brunch, the beach, dinner, and Baby Driver.

And then there was my trip to New York at the end of the month, where I attended my 20 YEAR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION (why yes! I AM that old!) which was way more fun than I was expecting, and had my yearly re-charge with my best friends during our annual “Shady Pines Convention” (Liz even made commemorative shirts!). Got to see family and dear friends. It was an awesome visit.

And in between all that, we shot some new footage for Incredible Girl! That footage is currently being edited.

July Highlights: Portland, New York, my birthday, dinner with Ada’s dad when he visited L.A., shooting new Incredible Girl footage (missteps, drama and all), celebrating Renee’s birthday.

Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph "Bridesmaids"

STARTING TO PLAN OUR “REAL WEDDING”

As you may or may not know, when my wife and I got married in December of 2016, it was a bit of an “emergency wedding” that we threw together in two weeks, with most of our loved ones needing to livestream it in order to witness it. Trump had just been elected, and we wanted to make sure to make it legal before his inauguration.

However, I was not yet Jewish, and we wanted to have a full Jewish ceremony (which we didn’t the first time), and have a “real,” larger wedding that our family and friends could actually attend. So we started our planning in earnest in August and began looking at venues. We currently have our venue, DJ, and photographer all picked out, and we’re going to continue with the rest of our planning after tomorrow. The big event is scheduled for July 2018!

August Highlights: first Arts Out Loud board meeting, game night at Sam’s, brunch with Adam and Caroline, seeing our friend Erica rock it out in an experimental play, attending that month’s WIMPS (Women in Motion Pictures Salon), seeing Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (brilliant!), choosing our wedding venue, attending the Half Foundation short film festival.

Bella Heathcote Luke Evans Angela Robinson "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" Toronto International Film Festival

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN TAKES OVER MY LIFE

As I mentioned above, I thoroughly LOVED Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and was grateful to get to do press for the film for The Mary Sue. What I was not expecting was for Annapurna Films to fly me out to the Toronto Film Festival to cover the film’s premiere! Swank hotel? Check. Press junket where I got to interview the cast and director? Check. Attending the world premiere of the film after having already seen a private screening? Check-check. Also, I got to finally go to Canada, which I had never done before. Sadly, because it was a work trip, I didn’t get to see much of the actual city, but I had a great time, and was happy to support such an awesome film however I could.

September Highlights: traveling to Toronto, seeing and covering the press junket for Battle of the Sexes (and getting to do a one-on-one interview with Natalie Morales!), celebrating my first Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as an almost-Jew, hiking with Adam and Caroline, helping Heather move.

OCTOBER WAS A VERY MIXED BAG

And theeeen….there was the car accident. Thankfully, Ada and I weren’t hurt, but the car we share was pretty banged up when, on the way to a tax prep appointment (we’d gotten an extension. Yes, I know it’s October) we were hit by a twentysomething who didn’t slow down when other cars did as we were turning into the parking lot, because she was looking at her phone. That was not a fun experience, and the car was out of commission for a while, putting a financial strain on us we didn’t need. But, it all worked out in the end, and thankfully, the rest of the month didn’t suck quite that badly.

October Highlights: attending that month’s “Writers Who Love Writers” meet-up, presenting my “Create Like an Activist” workshop for the first time for the San Gabriel Valley Women Writer’s group, celebrating Sukkot, coffee with Alessandra, working on my first freelance video game writing gig, guest-hosting on Supergirl Radio, discovering Star Trek: Discovery (and loving it!), celebrating Simchat Torah, finally seeing Diani and Devine Meet the Apocolypse (and loving it!), including my teensy cameo!

Honeymoon Israel

THE BEGINNING OF MY HONEYMOON ISRAEL JOURNEY

So, remember back in the spring where I interviewed for Honeymoon Israel? Well, Ada and I were accepted! That meant that we would be going on a 10-day, 5-star trip to Israel (heavily subsidized – we only paid about $1800 for both of us!), and November was when we first met all the couples with whom we’d be traveling at a Honeymoon Israel brunch!

November also marks the official beginning of my journey as a Jew, as I had my first meeting with my sponsoring Rabbi, Rabbi Nate at Ikar, who’s walking me through the conversion process. Yay, Judaism!

November Highlights: seeing Thor: Ragnarok with Ada, Adam, and Caroline, Lexx’s baby shower, choosing our wedding DJ, crowdfunding for Arts Out Loud scholarships, working on our Incredible Girl pitch with Aurora, Geena Davis Institute panel with Dawn, game night with Josh and Lindsay, Honeymoon Israel orientation.

ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL

Our Honeymoon Israel trip this month changed our lives more than I could ever express in a blog post. We made 34 new friends who are all wonderful. We shared the experience of seeing an amazing country. We had lots of feels. We were exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. Traveling to Israel was not only the highlight of my December, but quite possibly the highlight of our married life so far. It was a wonderful way to celebrate our first year of marriage and our fifth year as a couple.

December Highlights (other than Israel, if that’s possible): hanging with Helenna, starting my relationship with the producer of Homeward L.A. (a theater project I’ll be co-producing, which you’ll be hearing more about next year!), celebrating my Paper wedding anniversary with my best friend, celebrating Hanukkah in Israel, attending the first WIMPS of Color salon, fully observing Shabbat for the first time, ending the year 70 pounds lighter than when I started it.

And now, I’m off to ring in the New Year with my wife and some good friends.

I’m so glad I did this. For all that we’ve been saying “2017 sucked” on auto-pilot, the truth is: a lot of good happened to me this year.

Here’s to a 2018 full of joy, peace, and hope for all of us. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

2016 Year In Review

In large part, 2016 was a shit sandwich on garbage bread. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that wonderful things didn’t happen, too. We’ve lost a lot of brilliant weirdos and amazing artists this year. We’ve also lost the United States to an orange demagogue whose administration may well mean the end of many hard-won liberties for several marginalized groups.

But hey, the Cubs won the World Series, amirite? Was all the rest of this the trade-off? #justkidding

As for me personally, looking back on my year, I realize a lot of good happened! I mean, I started off the year newly-engaged, which isn’t a bad way to start. So, let’s look back at what 2016 bestowed upon me.

And this is a long one, so strap in!

Previous Years in Review: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

The Election

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election was the event that colored everything else this year. After an over a year-long campaign that laughed in the face of unapologetic progressiveness, and then laughed in the face of anyone who thought it possible that a woman could win the White House, Donald Trump became our President-elect in the most devastating election to happen in a long time.

Some have said that this is no different than when other Republicans have won elections and will dismiss opposition to the election’s results as “sour grapes.” Were it any other election, they might be right. But I’ve been on the losing side before. I volunteered for both the Gore campaign and the Kerry campaign. I know what it’s like to work hard and have your candidate lose. This was not that. This was not that, because unlike George W. Bush, whose politics and administration were abhorrent to me, but who nonetheless had been the Governor of a state before and came from a political family, Trump was not only completely inexperienced and ignorant of the duties of the President, but he was, and continues to be, vocally racist, sexist, and xenophobic. He’s appointed an actual white supremacist, and equally inexperienced members to cabinet positions. He ran his campaign with a sexist and anti-LGBTQIA candidate in Mike Pence. He’s out and out talked about the ways in which he plans on chipping away at our civil rights in the press. That is, when he deigns to talk to the press at all, as opposed to shutting them down with an eye on taking away their power, too. Oh, and then there’s the fact that Russia hacked us and manipulated our election, and yet Trump is totes BFFs with Vladimir Putin, who lives to quash freedoms in his own country.

This loss was very different, because it not only had to do with Trump winning the Presidency, but that far too many people in this country turned a blind eye to his hatred, either because they are openly racist, or tacitly allowing racism by prioritizing corporations and the economy, as if issues of social justice and economic advancement aren’t intertwined. As if an economy can thrive if the lives of members of the work force are restricted because of their identities or beliefs.

What was especially infuriating was the idea that people in marginalized groups don’t care about things like jobs, insurance, and “putting food on the table.” As if the very things that cause them to be marginalized aren’t also the things keeping them from jobs, insurance, and “food on the table.” So, what Trump voters are saying, in essence, is that jobs, insurance, and “putting food on the table” only matter if they’re going to the right people. They might not “mean” to say that, but that’s what they’re saying when they say that they voted for Trump “not because they’re racist,” but because the economy and jobs are “more important” than things like civil rights. You might not consider yourself racist, but you just did a racist thing. A homophobic, transphobic thing. A sexist thing. I won’t put a label on a person, but I sure as hell will put a label on an action.

This election cut me to the core, and I wasn’t the only one. I spent most of November depressed, as it felt like much of the country had turned its back on people like me and my wife: women, LGBTQIA people, Latinx, Jews, those riding the poverty line. I sit at the intersection of all those things, and that intersection was obliterated in a single day. People insist that I should “get over it and move on.” It won’t get that bad. And yet, with every passing day, it’s already getting worse, and he hasn’t even officially been sworn in yet.

I can’t understand the mentality of people who could so easily overlook Trump’s abhorrence enough to vote for him, and so yes, this has affected my relationships with people. Even some people in my own family. These are people I don’t want to lose. And at the same time, I can’t look at them without thinking, You cared so little about people like me, and hell like us (Puerto Rico is suffering under the thumb of corporate greed, and yet some of my family members have no problem supporting an opportunist like Trump because he’s managed to convince them that he speaks for “the common man”), that you voted for Trump because you were scared about putting food on your own table. I was fighting for us, and you were fighting for you. 

That’s the difference.

And so there are a lot of people I don’t look at the same way. Even if we’re still talking. Even if we’re friendly. Even if we make polite conversation. I don’t look at them the same. How can I, when they’ve made it clear that I don’t matter to them? That my wife doesn’t matter to them? That my life doesn’t matter to them?

And so in 2017, I’ll be a woman on a mission, fighting the only way I know how. Through my writing, my ability to communicate. And I will do my best to act from a place of love.

From “The Fiancee” to “The Wife”

Speaking of love, 2016 began with me being proposed to…and ended with me getting married! That’s right, The Fiancee became The Wife this month, and I’m so, so grateful. Now, this wasn’t the original plan. We were planning on having a long engagement with a wedding ceremony in 2018, but when the Cheeto-elect got elected in November, and the possibility of an administration like his having four years to chip away at freedoms for women and LGBTQIA folks, we decided to fast-track our nuptials to ensure that we were legally wed before the inauguration.

This caused a lot of freaking out! Both over wedding plans (we pulled together a small ceremony in about 2 weeks) and over the fact that I didn’t have the two years I thought I was going to have to process the idea of becoming someone’s wife. However, as the day got closer, I realized this was my only choice. No matter how scared I was, I didn’t want to risk not being able to marry this woman. She’s my heart. And sure, the ceremony was rushed, but that just meant I got to marry this wonderful person faster! 🙂

We had a truncated Jewish ceremony at Beth Chayim Chadashim and were married by the lovely Rabbi Heather Miller, who was just amazing and gracious (and proceeded to marry us even though her wife had just gone into labor!), and we were lucky enough to have some very special people there even with short notice. The Wife’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law were there, as well as some dear friends of ours. Heather, Adam, Caroline, and Hal: thank you so much for being there for us! And a special thanks to our friend Lexx, a supremely talented make-up artist who made us look amazing for our special day!

The rest of our loved ones on the East Coast (and anywhere else, really) were able to watch our ceremony via live stream! The Wedding of the Future! 🙂 It meant a lot to us that we were able to share our wedding with family and friends across the country, especially since we know that they were heartbroken that our impromptu plans prevented them from coming to celebrate something they otherwise would’ve made arrangements for. HOWEVER, we still plan on having our larger ceremony (complete with ketubah signing, glass breaking and reception) in 2018, and we plan on having EVERYONE there. In the meantime, if you missed it, Douglass-Jusino Vol. 1 (as I’ve been calling this first, legal ceremony) has been archived at the BCC website, and you can WATCH IT HERE. If you don’t see it on the homepage, you can do a search for “Marriage of Ada Douglas and Teresa Teresa Jusino, Beth Chayim Chadashim.” Yes, Teresa Teresa. Because apparently I have a name that’s so nice, they had to type it twice! 😉 And yes, they spelled The Wife’s last name wrong. Just go with it, okay?

So, there was a lot of turbulence this year…but 2016 started and ended by my love and I confirming and reconfirming our commitment to each other. Bring it, 2017. We can take whatever you can throw at us.

My Family Grew This Year

Ours wasn’t the only big wedding this year! The Wife’s brother married the love of his life in a gorgeous ceremony, one at which I cried like a baby (and I never cry at weddings!). This was an event I want to mark not only because it was a beautiful (and way fun!) wedding, but because they are amazing people. I’ve gotten to know these two over the course of my relationship with The Wife, and I’m so grateful now that I get to call them family. They’re wonderful, generous, hilarious, and kind people that I love spending time with.

2016 meant that my family expanded in a beautiful way. Not only do I get to call these two crazy kids siblings now, but I have amazing parents in law in The Wife’s parents. From the very beginning, they have always treated me with nothing but kindness and warmth, and I feel so lucky that they’ve been so welcoming. With my own parents no longer around, it feels really good to know that I’ve got parents in my corner, even if they’re not mine by birth. Thank you Judi, Joe, and Bonnie! I love you all!

Speaking of my parents, I observed the tenth anniversary of my mom’s passing on April 5th, and the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s passing on April 19th. There’s so much that’s happened to me this year that I wish I could share with them. I hope that, wherever they are, they’re proud of me for being the outspoken, independent, compassionate and tolerant person they raised me to be. I’m trying.

And speaking of family (both blood and chosen), I did get home to New York this summer and got to see all the usual suspects. It was both a fun trip, and an emotionally draining trip. But I got to see my oldest niece before she headed off to her freshman year of college, had a really great conversation with my brother, and got to spend quality time with my dearest friends.

I Came Out as Bisexual, So That’s a Thing

Aubrey Plaza, Stephanie Beatriz, Evan Rachel Wood, Rebecca Sugar, me. What do we all have in common? I mean, other than being sexy and talented AF? We’re all bisexual women.

It all started when I saw Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. No, seriously. It was during a scene in which Chris Hemsworth as Kevin and Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann were interacting. I found my eyes darting from one, to the other, and back again really pointedly, like it was a Hot People tennis match. A couple of minutes in, I literally grabbed my armrest with the realization. Holy crap. I’m bi! I told The Wife, and she was like Well, duh. I told my close friends, and they were mostly like Well, duh. I told my brother, and reminded him that he basically tried to tell me this when I first told him about The Wife being trans, and he said some version of Well, duh before wanting to claim credit for my realization.

Sorry, man. But credit for that goes to Kate McKinnon. Seriously, how is every woman not bi after this?

You’d think that me being totally down with dating a woman would have tipped me off to this fact, but…well…it wasn’t. Because it’s really, really easy to make excuses or rationalize exceptions when you’re afraid to face something. Especially when it’s something that, even in 2016, people don’t quite know how to handle. A part of me feels like if I would’ve come out as a lesbian it would’ve been easier. People are certain of that box. You like women. Done. But there have been a couple of people in my life who, at first, weren’t really able to wrap their heads around what bisexuality is or means. My coming out wasn’t entirely pleasant, but I’m happy that now, my support system continues to be behind me. My friends are still my friends, my family is still my family, and all is well as far as that goes.

Plenty of people talk about “liking men” OR “liking women,” but people really talk about this OTHER thing you can be without dismissing it as being “on the road to gay,” or (usually if you’re a woman) doing it “for attention.” Even within the LGBTQIA community. It’s a big umbrella that often gives the “B” and the “T” of that acronym short shrift. And yeah, I identify very definitely as bisexual and not pansexual for reasons that I might write about at another time, but not in my Year in Review. 🙂

Growing up, I knew that I liked boys. So, whenever I found myself drawn strongly to a girl, wanting to be her friend really badly but not knowing why, I thought, Well, I know I’m not a lesbian, because I like boys, so…this must just be something that happens to girls. Girls just get really close, right? It’s different for girls. Girls are just more open about finding women attractive, right? I wish more kids knew what their options are. That there aren’t just two choices. And I wish it hadn’t taken me quite so long to figure it out for myself. But I did. And I feel freer this year than I’ve ever felt.

Building a Relationship With Judaism

This year, I’ve started doing more Jewish learning and, well, living a little more Jewishly. I’ve been going to shabbat services at IKAR fairly regularly. I’ve been lighting candles every week with The Wife. And a couple of months ago, I started an Intro to Judaism class at American Jewish University.

That class has really made a difference. First, we have a wonderful teacher in Rabbi Adam Greenwald who makes every class super-fun and interesting. But secondly, the more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize that my thoughts about religion as a Catholic were really very Jewish. Recently, I opened up my confirmation Bible, and saw a bunch of handwritten notes in the margins from when I tried to read it cover to cover years ago in my twenties. A lot of those notes are frustrated ones. Acknowledging contradictions, but wondering why those contradictions weren’t ever taught to me as the entire point, rather than something to be explained away, or ignored entirely. This isn’t to say that Catholics don’t ever question things, or experience doubt, but questioning and challenging, studying and reassessing seems to be inherent to the DNA of Judaism in a way that it isn’t in Catholicism, and I love that.

The more I learn about Judaism, the more I realize that I’ve always kinda thought like a Jew. I didn’t take the Intro to Judaism class to convert, necessarily, but it’s looking increasingly likely, as I’m feeling more and more at home in this space.

That doesn’t mean this has been easy. On the contrary, as someone who was not only raised Catholic, but wholeheartedly believed in Catholicism – so much so, that I went to church by myself from the time I was in high school, sang in the children’s choir, then as a leader of song, and eventually became a lector – I’ve been hugely conflicted. It’s not an easy thing to leave behind a system of belief and traditions that are a part of your foundation.

What’s more, just before my wedding, I had a mini-panic attack about having a Jewish wedding, because I suddenly felt like I was being a traitor to my parents, throwing away everything they’d ever believed and taught me.

Then I remembered some things:

  1. The Catholic Church wouldn’t marry me and my wife, whether I wanted to be married in the church or not, so…there’s that.
  2. I hadn’t been to church in years, not because of any big rift, but because it simply wasn’t calling me anymore. It had stopped being home a long time ago.
  3. Related to #3: I realized that what kept me coming to church week after week had less to do with religion than it had to do with community. God, to me (and I guess, to Richard Linklater via Before Sunrise), has always existed in the space between people. I had a home at St. Boniface Church, where I spent the majority of my Catholic life, where I had a church family. When I moved too far away to attend, finding a replacement seemed pointless. I found community elsewhere, and my relationship with God remained personal.
  4. Also, as I told The Wife the other day, my parents raised me to find God where I found God, and not to do things because of what they’d think or say, but because I thought it was right. I remember my mom giving me an out as I prepared for my confirmation when I was twelve, saying that if I didn’t truly believe that I didn’t have to be confirmed. That I should only make this commitment if I meant it, and that she wouldn’t think less of me if I decided not to go through with it. At the time, I was confirmed, because I meant it. Because it mattered to me. If she were to tell me that with me knowing myself the way I do now? I might have given her a different answer.

I’ve changed, and so has my relationship to God. Or rather, I’ve changed enough that I feel confident enough articulating the fact that my relationship to God has always been closer to this. It’s funny, I feel about Judaism much the same way as I do about my bisexuality. It’s something that’s always been there under the surface, and I’m only now mature enough to recognize it and brave enough to assert it as my identity, rather than keep it buried, or rationalizing it away.

TL;dr – My parents raised me to think for myself. I think that, if they were still around, they may or may not have been disappointed if I convert to Judaism, but I know they would respect my choice and love me regardless. That’s who they were, and I’m being as independent and thoroughly myself as they raised me to be.

And I will always be grateful to Catholicism for giving me a strong foundation in this world.

The End of My Podcasting Career (For Now), and Letting Go

After co-hosting Supergirl Radio with Rebecca Johnson for a year, I decided to move on in February of 2016. While I had so much fun doing the podcast (and developed what I think will be a lifelong love of Supergirl/Kara Danvers as a character), regular podcasting was taking its toll on my personal bandwidth.

A lot of this year was about prioritizing and streamlining. 2016 was a big year for me when it comes to articulating what I want, and also articulating what I don’t want. Career-wise, what I want is to be a screenwriter, specifically for television. So, I started eliminating things that don’t serve that goal. That might be fun, but take time away from the work I really want to be doing. Not that I don’t do things OTHER than write scripts, but if I’m going to be taking on a certain level of workload, it should be in service of the life I want.

In addition to letting Supergirl Radio go, I also let go of something else that I’d been holding onto for years. Being a novelist.

There’s a story that’s been living in my head and in my heart since I was 15 years old, a world that has only gotten bigger and more elaborate in the subsequent 22 years. I’ve been trying to write it as a novel for years, even as my writing desires turned toward scripts and away from prose. Yet, just as giving up the “actor” label to more fully focus on writing was difficult, since I’d spent years identifying as an actor, so too was giving up on the idea of “finishing my novel one day.” But this year, I finally admit to myself that, while I still need to tell this story, I don’t have to tell it in a book. At least, not right now. It might even serve the world better as a film – a female-led sci-fi/dystopia with the potential to be a Star Wars-level game-changer. Hey, you never know. Point is, the world needs more women doing big things in film. Not that we couldn’t use a more diverse cross section of women in contemporary literature, but the film industry is a harder thing to crack, and I want to go at it with a sledgehammer. So, this year I said goodbye to being a novelist. I may write a short story or two, because some stories are just meant to be prose, but I won’t be publishing a book of fiction any time soon.

And I also said goodbye to podcasting for now. Meanwhile, Supergirl will always have a special place in my heart, and Supergirl Radio has been kicking tons of ass without me. Keep it up, ladies! I’ll be listening! 🙂

Hanging on Through a Burn-Out, and Other Work Stuff

I’m still an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, and I still love the people with whom I work, and I’m grateful that I work at a place where, for the most part, I have autonomy over what I choose to write about.

That said, online pop culture writing has gotten increasingly frustrating this year, not because of my workplace, but because the environment of the internet has changed so much in the past few years.

People rail against click-bait (basically calling everything click bait, including interesting headlines and/or headlines with which they disagree), and yet don’t click on the more meaningful articles we try to publish about issues of importance.

People expect a certain level of quality, but don’t expect to have to pay for what they consume. Especially when it’s online.

People claim to be on the side of inclusion and tolerance and nuanced discussion, but they have no trouble “eating their own” at the merest whiff of “not SJW-ing correctly.” There’s no room in which to make mistakes and learn and grow, because too many people are in it for the “gotcha moment,” and not enough people are in it for the “teaching/learning/sharing moment.”

An advertiser/click-focused shift on our writing at work, coupled with the general internet environment that was already deteriorating, but was stoked by this year’s election really burned me out toward the end of the year and had me questioning whether or not I even want to do this anymore. I felt a lot of pressure, and basically wanted to throw in all work-related towels for most of the past couple of months.

I won’t be leaving The Mary Sue anytime soon, if I can help it, but my feelings of burnout have started to reinvigorate my desire to get to the writing I really want to get to. As I said above, this year has been a lot about reevaluating my priorities and putting more energy into the things I want, rather than letting that energy get sucked dry by the things I don’t.

What’s encouraging, is that this year I’ve gotten to a place where I’m actively being recommended for opportunities in a writers’ room, and I’ve had several leads sent my way that I’ve applied for. While I didn’t land any of them, the fact is that I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve nurtured relationships and accomplished enough that stuff like that is possible. I’m doing all the right things, and if this incremental progress is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before I get where I want to be, so long as I stay focused and keep doing what I’ve been doing.

And in that vein, Incredible Girl had a big year this year! We had a crowdfunding campaign, and while we didn’t reach our $50,000 goal, we did raise close to $10,000 on IndieGoGo and in doing so, built a relationship with a wonderful production company that’s been invaluable in providing us with professional expertise and advice. While they are currently not working with us directly (they were only hired through the crowdfund), they remain great friends of the project, and remain there for us in a way we truly appreciate.

Incredible Girl also represented at GeekGirlCon 2016 in Seattle, where we brought back the panel we did at Emerald City Comic Con last year, “Incredible Girl Presents: Geeks and Kink,” about the correlation between the geek community and the kink community. We were joined by popular sex educator, IG cast member, and all-around awesome chick, Sandra Daugherty, A.K.A. Sex Nerd Sandra.

We had an awesome panel, even after some people in the audience responded negatively to our screening of the original IG short film, which many of them saw as a glorification of no consent. The reaction prompted a really great discussion during the panel – one we hope will inform the show as we continue to produce it.

This reminded me of exactly why I want Incredible Girl in the world. Indeed, it reminded me of why I want to write for television at all. I want to start conversations, not just between myself and my viewers, or viewers and my work, but among the viewers themselves. I want to help people engage with and understand the world a little better. Hopefully, in my small way, I can make the world a more tolerant, open, and loving place to be through my work.

Which is why I’ve made my mantra, “Create Like An Activist.” I want everything I do, from caring for the people I love, to the way I interact with my community, to the way I approach my work to all dovetail into my desire to make the world better through my participation.

It amazes me how much 2016 has changed me and everyone I love. Deep, internal changes. Not just the usual changes that happen over time…but there’s been a fundamental shift in all of us. It’s something I feel in the air and in every conversation I have with anyone these days. Ultimately, I think this shift is necessary.

But there’s a reason why they call them “growing pains.” They’re gonna hurt.

Still, we can help each other heal and get through it, and I’m very lucky that I’ve managed to surround myself with some pretty spectacular people. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that as long as we each think a little less about “I” and a little more about “we,” that we can get through the turbulence and find some kind of peace.

I look forward to loving you all a little better this year. Happy New Year.

Create Like An Activist: TJXP’s New Mission Statement

Soundtrack: “Chief Don’t Run” by Jidenna

I got a new agenda that I gotta carry through
When your father’s enemies try to bury you…

The results of our recent Presidential election was a gut punch, and I spent all of last week recovering. You can read the last thing I had to say about the election HERE. However, the stuff that’s of particular note reads as follows:

But while I do plan on holding Trump, Pence, and the rest of their administration accountable for any decisions of theirs that hurt my communities and continuing to fight for the needs of my communities, I’m also not going to make them the focus of activism and work.

Instead:

1) I will up my political activism game. Now is the time for me to keep tabs on my local politicians to make sure they’re doing what we need them to be doing, regularly reaching out to their offices not only when there’s something I wanna yell at them about, but also to write in praise of awesome things they’ve supported that are important to me.

I will keep up with these people, as well as midterm candidates, throughout the year so that, when elections roll around, I’ll be informed about what’s going on and who’s actually standing up for me in office.

2) Since certain issues may receive less attention from a Trump/Pence administration, I will put my time, energy, and resources into organizations that advocate for, provide awareness of, and provide services to the populations and issues that are important to me. In this case, my focus will likely be on (in no particular order):

    • Gender Equality
    • LGBTQIA Equality
    • the fight against racism and bigotry
    • Campaign Finance/Election Reform
    • L.A’s homeless population
    • the protection of Civil Liberties.

3) I will create like an activist. Now, more than ever, I am confident in the importance of stories. Not just any stories, but the stories I need and want to tell. Because a big contributor to people being so willing to throw people like me under the bus is the fact that they have no personal connection to people like me. I get that.

But I also understand that media plays that important role in people’s lives. I have a friend from the Upper Penninsula in Michigan who told me once that the first Latinx she ever “met” were Maria and Luis on Sesame Street. And she thought they were so cool. And having grown up in a majority-white, sparsely populated area of Michigan, she’s gone on to have traveled all over the world, move to New York, and be one of the most kind and welcoming people you could ever meet. Because the shows she watched, the books she read, and the films she saw gave her a glimpse of a wider world she’d never encountered in real life, and made her want more. That might never have happened had Sesame Street only been about a bunch of white people hanging out with some Muppets. 🙂

May the diverse characters I create, the diverse communities I depict, and the stories I tell be that glimpse of a wider world for someone else and inspire that person to action.

And may my work as a producer of those stories allow me to employ from marginalized communities and contribute directly to those communities from production through the release of the project, and beyond.

angela-davis

And so here I am, back to my blog after months of being away, because one of the few silver linings of this election for me is that it has lit a fire under my ass, and I’ve decided to use whatever platforms I have at my disposal to try and protect the progress already made with regard to the populations and causes I care about, as well as continue to fight for further progress.

To that end, the new tagline around here, and my new mantra is “Create Like An Activist.”

The weapons with which I am the most skilled are: my writing (fiction and non), the ability to translate ideas in a way that allows people to understand opposing views (or think about things in a new way), and my history of being a connector between people.

Media and pop culture are where I live, and where I hope to make my living for the rest of my life. It’s my area of the world, and fluffy and superficial as it may seem to some, it’s an area in which I can affect the way people think, feel, and take action. It’s an area in which I can inspire people and help them maintain the strength to keep going, and it’s a place where, eventually, I will have the power to provide opportunities for the most marginalized among us.

But I don’t believe I have to wait until I get to that place of power to start making changes with what I do. I can do it right now, through the characters I create, or the artists/projects I choose to cover in my pop culture writing. I can do it by speaking up when I see injustice being done in my industry (or elsewhere in my life). I can do it by being brave enough to turn down opportunities, or refuse to work for certain people – lucrative though an opportunity might be – if they don’t align with my ethics. I can do it by using my art as a way to help others (ie: screenings as fundraisers, donating leftover craft services to homeless organizations, organizing casts and crews for volunteer opportunities, etc).

And so I plan on using this blog as a hub for all of that work. There’ll continue to be fun stuff around here, too (and what’s more fun than helping others!), and I will continue to write about my journey through this bonkers life and career of mine, but there will definitely be a shift in focus and intention.

I will write about both the creative and the more activist work I’m doing, and I will also provide resources and ideas for work you can be doing. Especially if you’re interested in the same areas I mention above. None of us can do everything, but if we all do what we can in the areas we care about the most, we can change the world. And if you’re interested in causes like solving climate change, ending factory farming, or any other issues I haven’t mentioned, I hope that you can take any ideas that I bring up here, and apply them to whatever’s most important to you.

Sadly, I’m not confident that the government that’s currently been elected into office will operate in the best interests of all its citizens. So, in addition to resisting anything they do or pass that will negatively affect already marginalized and oppressed communities, I will be setting more of an intention both with and outside of the creative work I do to take on some of that work myself, helping others do the same.

It’s our country. It’s up to all of us to take care of it, and each other. I love you all. Yes, even you. 😉

37TH BIRTHDAY PLAYLISTS!

Me 36 and a half years ago. I was way balder then.

Me 36 and a half years ago. I was way balder then.

I turned 37 today. 🙂

Last year, I did something really fun. I created two Birthday Playlists on Spotify.

The first, which is just called “Birthday Playlist,” contains the #1 song for every year I’ve been alive. This year, I had to add the #1 song for 2015. You can check out which one that is in the playlist below!

The other list, called “‘Still Alive’ Birthday Playlist,” has all the #1 songs on the actual day of my birth for every year I’ve been alive.

Enjoy the ever-growing soundtracks of my life!

Uptown

THE BIRTHDAY PLAYLIST

1979 – “My Sharona” – The Knack
1980 – “Call Me” – Blondie
1981 – “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes
1982 – “Physical” – Olivia Newton-John
1983 – “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
1984 – “When Doves Cry” – Prince (RIP Prince. And he’s still not on Spotify)
1985 – “Careless Whisper” – George Michael
1986 – “That’s What Friends Are For” – Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder
1987 – “Walk Like an Egyptian” – The Bangles
1988 – “Faith” – George Michael
1989 – “Look Away” – Chicago
1990 – “Hold On” – Wilson Phillips
1991 – “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Bryan Adams
1992 – “End of the Road” – Boyz II Men
1993 – “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston
1994 – “The Sign” – Ace of Base
1995 – “Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio
1996 – “Macarena” – Los del Rio (Bayside Boys Remix)
1997 – “Candle In the Wind (1997)/Something About the Way You Look Tonight” – Elton John
1998 – “Too Close” – Next
1999 – “Believe” – Cher
2000 – “Breathe” – Faith Hill
2001 – “Hanging By a Moment” – Lifehouse
2002 – “How You Remind Me” – Nickelback
2003 – “In da Club” – 50 Cent
2004 – “Yeah!” – Usher ft. Ludacris, Lil Jon
2005 – “We Belong Together” – Mariah Carey
2006 – “Bad Day” – Daniel Powter
2007 – “Irreplaceable” – Beyonce
2008 – “Low” – Flo Rida ft. T-Pain
2009 – “Boom Boom Pow” – Black-Eyed Peas
2010 – “TiK ToK” – Ke$ha
2011 – “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele
2012 – “Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye ft. Kimbra
2013 – “Thrift Shop” – Macklemore ft. Ryan Lewis
2014 – “Happy” – Pharrell
2015 – “Uptown Funk” – Bruno Mars

drake-one-dance-live-0

THE ‘STILL ALIVE’ BIRTHDAY PLAYLIST

1979 – “Love You Inside Out” – Bee Gees
1980 – “Coming Up (Live At Glasgow)” – Paul McCartney & Wings
1981 – “Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes
1982 – “Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League
1983 – “Flashdance…What A Feeling” – Irene Cara
1984 – “When Doves Cry” – Prince (RIP Prince. And he’s still not on Spotify)
1985 – “Sussudio” – Phil Collins
1986 – “There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)” – Billy Ocean
1987 – “Alone” – Heart
1988 – “The Flame” – Cheap Trick
1989 – “Good Thing” – Fine Young Cannibals
1990 – “Step By Step” – New Kids on the Block
1991 – “Rush Rush” – Paula Abdul
1992 – “Baby Got Back” – Sir Mix-a-Lot
1993 – “Weak” – SWV
1994 – “I Swear” – All-4-One
1995 – “Waterfalls” – TLC
1996 – “Tha Crossroads” – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
1997 – “I’ll Be Missing You” – Puff Daddy ft. 112/Faith Evans
1998 – “The Boy Is Mine” – Brandy/Monica
1999 – “If You Had My Love” – Jennifer Lopez
2000 – “Be With You” – Enrique Iglesias
2001 – “U Remind Me” – Usher
2002 – “Hot In Herre” – Nelly
2003 – “This Is The Night” – Clay Aiken
2004 – “Burn” – Usher
2005 – “We Belong Together” – Mariah Carey
2006 – “Promiscuous” – Nelly Furtado ft Timbaland
2007 – “Umbrella” – Rhianna ft. Jay-Z
2008 – “I Kissed A Girl” – Katy Perry
2009 – “I Gotta Feeling” – Black-Eyed Peas
2010 – “California Gurls” – Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg
2011 – “Give Me Everything” – Pitbull Ft Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer
2012 – “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen
2013 – “Blurred Lines” – Robin Thicke Ft T.I. + Pharrell
2014 – “Fancy” – Iggy Azalea Ft Charli XCX
2015 – “See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa Ft Charlie Puth
2016 – “One Dance” – Drake, Wizkid, Kyla 

As always, you can figure out the soundtrack to your life over at the Billboard website. Or you can use Wikipedia. Either way. Enjoy! And happy birthday to anyone else celebrating today.

Yay Cancers!

Wanna Read My Novel In Progress…In Progress?

One of many notebooks in which I'm writing my future masterpiece.

One of many notebooks in which I’m writing my future masterpiece.

I’ve been on the DL about it this week, but I figured now would be as good a time as any to share!

As you may know, I’ve got a Patreon page where you can become a Patron of my work for whatever amount you like (though there are a couple of perks and whatnot), both supporting my public offerings (my blog, podcasts, etc) as well as Patron-only work! Well, I’ve been working on my first novel, and for the past week I’ve been sharing it with my Patrons over at Patreon, 250 words at a time!

Why 250? Well first, my hope is that this becomes something that Patrons enjoy reading every day; a short, serialized story that will eventually be a novel, but can also keep readers engaged and entertained daily.

Second, I need to get my ass in the chair and find time to work on this if it’s every going to get done. It’s difficult between The Mary Sue and trying to work on my scripts. But I was tired of this being the thing that always got dumped on the back burner, so I figured out a word goal that I could hit every day without breaking a sweat. That’s 250. Some days I write much more, but I never write less.

If all goes well, by the end of 365 days I’ll have a 91,250-word manuscript to tear apart! 

Wanna read as I write? As of right now, I’m on Day 5/365 and at 1,281 words! Want a new excerpt in your email every day? Head on over to my Patreon page and become a Patron! Remember, you can set a monthly cap so you don’t go over-budget, and you’ll still have access to this work.

I’m looking forward to sharing this with more of you!

I’m With Her?

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I was waiting for California.

Despite the irresponsible journalism on the part of the Associated Press, who declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee THE DAY BEFORE the final big primary day during which some of the most populous states (including my home state of California) would be voting, despite friends in my Facebook feed saying that Bernie Sanders should just concede already (again, A FULL DAY BEFORE MY STATE EVEN GOT TO VOTE). Despite the fact that people have been saying that Bernie Sanders should concede for months.

I was waiting for California.

When the AP defended their reportage of Clinton as the presumptive nominee, Senior VP and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said:

AP concluded that Hillary Clinton had enough delegates to clinch the nomination after a painstaking but very straightforward exercise.

We counted.

By Monday evening, 571 superdelegates had told us unequivocally that they intend to vote for Clinton at the convention. Adding that number to the delegates awarded to Clinton in primary and caucus voting to date gave her the number needed to be the presumptive nominee.

That is news, and reporting the news is what we do.

Nothing in that discourages or prevents voters in six states from exercising their right to go to the polls today and cast their ballots.

Technically, she’s right. Technically, it’s true that nothing about reporting this fact keeps people from exercising their right to vote. Except that, as a professional news outlet, she knows all about how media narratives shape how people think, how they feel, and whether or not they take action. It’s her job to know that, and if she doesn’t know that, she’s terrible at her job. So she was either being clueless, or disingenuous.

Either way, that AP story was simply the most recent example of Clinton’s victory being proclaimed “inevitable.” News outlets had been saying that for months in countless opinion pieces and opinion pieces disguised as actual articles. Then individual bloggers, and even those who do no writing at all began parroting that “fact” all over the place. She’s going to win. Of course she’s going to win. It’s inevitable.

And then I would see friends of mine in my social media feeds saying things like “I’d vote for Bernie, but he has no chance of winning.” And I’d say, “Of course he has no chance of winning if people like you who support him don’t vote for him.” Even during the times when Sanders was winning states and catching fire at rallies, people who supported him were saying over and over again that, while they support Sanders and would vote for him if “circumstances were different” (if circumstances were different, we wouldn’t need him to win so badly!), they didn’t want to “waste their vote” when it was inevitable that Clinton was going to win, not just the primary, but the General Election.

All those people. Deciding not to cast their vote for a candidate they believed in. Creating the very perceived inevitability that concerned them.

If you think that mainstream media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign had nothing to do with that, I have a bridge to sell you in Bernie Sanders’ Brooklyn.

But I was waiting for California.

And it was a long wait, because I voted early by mail:

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As I waited, I had people insinuate that the only reason I was voting for Sanders was because of ingrained sexism. Never mind that I’m a media-savvy feminist who writes critically about female representation in media images for a living. I had fellow liberals tell me that I needed to make sure to examine the reasons why I was so anti-Clinton. Because it was probably ingrained misogyny, and I needed to check that.

But my feelings about Hillary have nothing to do with her being a woman, and everything to do with the fact that throughout my voting life, I’ve been feeling her forced on me. As an inevitability.

I’m a native New Yorker, and I was living there when she and her family bought a house in Chappaqua, New York to set up residency so that she could run for the Senate. When, as a First Lady twice over she moved to a state she’d never before lived in to run for office and be that state’s representative. That didn’t sit well with me.

It was one of my first elections (I turned 18 in 1997), so I’ll admit that I wasn’t terribly knowledgeable about much of anything. But I couldn’t help but think, “Why doesn’t she run for senator in Illinois, or Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or Arkansas?” Later, I learned that the Democratic Party urged her to run in New York, and somehow that made it worse. Now the party had pushed someone who had no experience with our state to run for senator and represent us. It was a decision made by committee.

I didn’t vote for her. Twice. She won twice. And then she voted for the Iraq War.

And that was before I knew that she’d served on the Board of Wal-Mart for six years. That was before I realized the extent of her ties to corporations. Actually, that was before I really started to care about such things. Before I started to really understand how broken our system is. Before any of that, I was already uninterested in having her be the woman to represent me for anything.

Fast-forward to 2008. Here was Clinton running for president the first time, and for the first time, I was conflicted. Because in addition to possibly having the first female Presidential nominee, we also had a chance at the first black President of the United States. I, as I’m sure many women of color did, felt torn. Is it more important for me to see a woman’s face, or a brown face leading my country. But Obama voted against the Iraq War. And Obama started from the ground-up politically in Chicago, working at the grassroots level before working his way up to becoming an Illinois senator. When I heard him speak, he reasoned the way I did. Saw the world the way I did. At the time, I joked that Obama was a black, male, Harvard-educated me.

I became a proud Obama supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same gender you are.

Two Presidential terms later, Clinton is back, running for President again. At first, I started out a Clinton supporter, for no other reasons than 1) No one else was prioritizing campaign finance reform and income inequality to my liking, and 2) I had become even more of a feminist, and since my true first-priority issues weren’t being addressed much, my secondary priority of electing a woman would have to take precedence. Even though this was not the woman I would’ve picked. Even though this was the same woman I had already not voted for three times.

And then came Bernie Sanders.

And he was actually talking about the things I wanted to be talking about after Occupy. After Ferguson. After Baltimore. After so many acts of police brutality and miscarriages of justice. After thinking that no one in the political establishment cared about any of these things, this senator from Vermont was not only showing he cared but that, as I later learned as I did more research, he’d always cared. Suddenly, there was someone daring to talk about these issues out loud. Daring to expect that we could do something about them as a nation. Daring to suggest that, as President, he would prioritize these issues of inequality specifically as the biggest threat to getting anything else done.

I became a proud Sanders supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same gender you are.

That’s something that I’ve come to realize. That while Clinton is a woman, I see nothing of myself in her, and I see nothing of her in me. There’s a gulf that I don’t know how to bridge. I’ve been trying and failing to bridge this gulf for sixteen years.

So, I waited for California.

And today was a difficult day. Sanders didn’t win my home state, nor did he win the second-largest state delegate-wise that was voting yesterday. While there’s an extremely slim chance that he could convince the over 300+ superdelegates he’d need to change their support from Clinton to himself, his loss in California forced me to acknowledge his defeat.

I looked at the results first thing in the morning and immediately felt disappointment like a punch in the gut. I had a sinking feeling before going to bed last night, but now it was certain. I’ll admit it – I was near tears. As I talked to people on social media, I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so upset, until a friend of mine insisted in one of her statuses that we should accept that Clinton won, even if we didn’t vote for her, and just celebrate the fact that we’ve achieved such a huge milestone already. Keep in mind that we’d all only just gotten the results. I said the following in this person’s comment section:

I’m thrilled that we have our first female candidate for president. I’m sorry it’s her. I’ll vote for her, I might even volunteer for her as it gets closer to November because #NeverTrump, but it will be difficult to be truly enthusiastic. At least, it is today. I’m trying to be happy about it, and I just can’t. Because today, what I learned is that as much as I’ve tried to give this country the benefit of the doubt, it will only be ready to elect a woman or elect a person of color as President at the expense of changing a broken system. The US can apparently only have one or the other. It can’t have both. And we will always choose safety and sameness (and yes, I know a female President is a HUGE change, but I’m talking about how she will govern), and that is frustrating and disappointing. My only hope is that the judges and senators that we elect through this primary have as much fight in them as Sanders has.

I’m really not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but there’s are legit reasons why many people are disappointed today. It’s not just “because sexism.” It’s not that simple. And I think this feeling is important for Clinton and her campaign to remember. Because these feelings are not going to go away. It’s not just about Sanders as an individual, but about what his supporters want from our country.

And it’s not even just what we want from our country, but what we need and expect from our country now.

Still the “just get over it alreadys” and the “thank God, now we can move ons” and the snarky “Superdelegates don’t vote until July 25th ORLY???” comments continued to be bandied about. Finally, I posted this:

I was irritated that one of the very reasons I haven’t been a Clinton supporter since 2000 – that she is beholden to mainstream, establishment politics and interests – was now manifesting itself in my social media feeds. Demanding party unity from me the freaking day after the primary. The Great Political Machine working through my friends.

I’ve spent a very long, very difficult day trying to come to terms with this loss. Trying to come to terms with what it says about our country. And in spite of that, trying to find joy in the fact that WE COULD HAVE OUR FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT IN NOVEMBER. Which despite everything I’ve said up until this point is something I’m hugely happy about.

And I want to make this ABSOLUTELY CLEAR. While I’ve never supported her as a candidate until now, I have always had the utmost respect for her and everything she’s accomplished. It’s not easy to be a woman in any male-dominated field. I can’t even imagine what it has been like for her to not only navigate politics, but do do so entirely in the public eye thanks to the scrutiny placed on her because of who her husband is. The fact that she has come through all of that, achieved so much, and is now thisclose to the Presidency is astonishing.

As I said above, I WILL be voting for Hillary Clinton in November. There’s no question about that. You got me, Machine, OK? You got me. YOU FREAKING WIN. “Uncle!” Whatever. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton not simply because a Trump victory would probably start the Apocalypse, but because Clinton and I DO agree on many issues. We’re both liberals, and we’re both women, and there are indeed values we share.

I’ve become a Hillary Clinton supporter. Because it’s possible to see yourself in someone who’s not the same as you are.

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Introducing the TJXP: SHARE MY SWAG GIVEAWAY!

Hey there, Loyal minions readers! After months in a cocoon, I’m now emerging as a beautiful, blogging butterfly!

As a pop culture writer, I’ve acquired a LOT of swag, from review copies of books and graphic novels, to DVD/Blu-Rays, to key chains, buttons, and toys. They’re cool, but I don’t have the space for everything anymore! So, I’m looking to share my swag in the TJXP: Share My Swag Giveaway!

This weekly giveaway will be announced every Monday (hopefully earlier than I’m posting this now, but WHATEVER!), where I will give a weekly challenge. Everyone who follows that challenge is entered to win a prize pack containing THREE items randomly selected from my swag bag that will be sent to you. Want to find out how to enter? Watch the video above!

Now, this is the first time I’ll be trying something like this, so be patient with me as I work out the kinks. 🙂 Thanks! And GOOD LUCK!

Two Years Later: The Road to Failure, in Itself an Art

Dad and Me

Losing my dad two years ago today was both harder and easier than losing my mom.

It was harder, because I wasn’t there. I’d already moved to Los Angeles at that point, and I found out that he’d passed away on a phone call. Whereas with my mother, I got to be there when they pulled the plug on her life support and say goodbye (she wasn’t conscious, but still), I couldn’t be there for my dad, and that hurt. It still does.

It hurts especially, because of my parents my dad was the one I felt really understood me. We were the same in so many ways. My mother was amazing, of course, and I loved her so much. But my dad and I shared so many things, and they weren’t always good, but they were ours. We were both writers who were (and are) always late to things. We were both social creatures who were extremely stubborn and loved to debate a topic into the ground. We both loved travel, and music, and art of all kinds. We valued our dreams, and thought them as real as anything in “real life.” When I say “I’m my father’s daughter,” I mean it. There’s no one else’s I could be.

But in many ways, it’s because of all this that losing my dad was easier than losing my mom. Whereas my mother died with her mind in tact, and her passing felt more like a sharp tearing away, my father started petering out long before he died. As his mind started to go, shortly after my mother passed away (and apparently, she’d been covering for him in various situations, so we couldn’t tell it had already started happening), he was less and less the person I knew. My dad had entirely defined himself by his mind – talking about the value of education, reading The New York Times and doing the crossword puzzle every day, taking me to all sorts of educational places when I was a kid, and being the happiest for me when I did things like go away on Model UN trips, or go away to Dublin to study for a semester. Whereas my mom always cried, or worried out loud, if my dad worried at all he held it in. He always wanted me to know that it was okay to leave, because leaving meant learning and growing. Leaving meant change, and he never wanted me to feel guilty about that.

And that person started leaving us in 2006/2007, so that by the time he passed away in 2014, we’d already said goodbye a thousand times.

And even though I couldn’t be there, and even though I was so deeply sad that one of the people who understood me best in this world was gone, a part of me felt relief. Because knowing him so well, I knew that he would never ever want to be seen that way. My dad definitely had a lot of pride, and when he was in his right mind would never want to ask for help. So often, I wished he would. But in any case, to go from that person to the person who needs to be bathed and dressed and fed like a child…if he were himself, I know he would’ve hated it.

So, maybe it was for the best that I, of all people, wasn’t there at the very end, to see him on a hospital bed taking his last breath, looking more weak and frail than he’d ever been. He probably would’ve hated that, too. I got to see him looking more dignified. Made up, and in a suit. I got to say goodbye to him when he was more presentable. I think he might have preferred that.

Pretty much everything I do creatively, I do for my dad. (Yes, even Incredible Girl! Did you know that my father wrote a play in the early 1990s that involved a husband who wanted to engage in BDSM with his wife? Yup, he did! The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess) Everything I achieve professionally, or pursue artistically, I do it with him in mind. Because for a million reasons he never could.

If you’d like to help me honor my dad today, plan a trip to somewhere you’ve never been or an experience you’ve never had! You can also read the eulogy I read at his wake, or give a donation to your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

And lastly, enjoy this poem from his short collection of poetry called Pillars of My Strength. He wrote these when he was only 23 and in the Air Force stationed at George Air Force Base here in California (which closed in the 1990s), and a lot of these poems are trying way too hard. 🙂 But this one, called “Tomorrow,” totally captures my dad’s personality – his drive, determination, and yes, stubbornness – in a way that remained true for him the rest of his life. It also shows that he knew what his failings were, but could never bring himself to stop fighting:

Failed have I, and well I understand, 
That in my undertakings, pride has played the greatest part. 
The road to failure, in itself an art, 
Was further enhanced by my stubborn stand.
However, even as a sun retreats unto the night
And a baby bird will try until he flies, 
So will I on prophecy rely
When a tomorrow with success will prove me right. 

I miss you, Daddy. And I hope I can be your Tomorrow.

Ramon Jusino Jr.
September 7, 1935 – April 19, 2014

Ten Years Later: Things I Remember, Things She’ll Miss

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My mom died ten years ago today. Ten years. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday. Other times it feels like a million years ago. I’ve come so far and my life has changed so much in the subsequent ten years that it’s often difficult to remember what life with a mother was like.

I can’t just think of her face anymore without help from a photo. What I find myself remembering most are her hands. Watching them as they worked on something, or the way they felt when she’d hug me or hold me.

I remember her laugh. It was big, and raucous, and contagious. I remember that she had a great sense of humor, and that she talked about flirting with the male nurses in the hospital when she was sick. 🙂

I remember how she cried when I moved into the dorms at NYU, and how I thought it was so silly, because I was only 40 minutes away from the house. Now, I know those tears meant that she loved me so much. I knew that then too, I think, but I was too busy being an independent college student to focus on that.

I remember sitting with her in a hospital room toward the end, and asking her “Don’t worry about hurting my feelings or anything – I know you love me, and Kenny and Janette, and Dad – but if you could’ve done anything else with your life, anything at all, what would you have done?” And she stayed quiet for a long minute and then said “No one’s ever asked me that before.” And she couldn’t come up with an answer, because she’d never really thought about it. But I think she was glad to have been asked and made to think about it.

I remember my mom most when I find myself doing things she taught me – like neatly tying up plastic grocery bags so they’re easier to store, or beating out “Shave and a Haircut” on the side of the pot with a spoon while I’m cooking something.

I also remember her most as I live through things that she never got to see. She never knew that I moved to California, and that I’ve started to build a life and a home in the state where my parents spent the beginning of their marriage. She never met The Fiancee. She won’t be at my wedding. She won’t be around to see any kids I might have. When I go home to New York, while she remains a stop on my People I Need to Visit tour, it involves getting driven out to the cemetery.

She only ever knew me aspiring. She’ll never see me finally get where I’m going, and that makes me sad. I’m always nagged by the feeling that she died worried about me and my well-being. Not just in the way that all mothers will always worry about their kids, but because I’d chosen a less-than-stable career, and I was broke, and I was single, and I didn’t seem to be able to get anything together. I hope that, wherever she is, if she’s able to check in on what’s going on in between Heavenly massages and endless chocolate cake and ice cream that I’m okay. That I’m the best I’ve ever been. That despite the hardships, it’s all working out pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it’s good. It’s evolving in a way I like.

It always hurts a little when I hang out with The Fiancee’s awesome family and I remember that mine’s incomplete. Or when any of my friends talk about their parents coming to town to visit, or going to visit them back home. I’ll never have that, and I always try to remind them to treasure their parents while they’re still around. Even when they’re annoying. 🙂 I’m so glad that I went to go visit my mom in the nursing home, or the hospital, even when I “didn’t feel like it.” My only regret is that I didn’t do it even more.

It’s been ten years, and I miss her. There’s a hole in my life that was supposed to be filled by her that now isn’t. But I’m grateful that she was my mother. She was the best one I could’ve asked for. She wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for me, and as often as she made me mad, or inadvertently hurt my feelings, or said something less-than-progressive and made me cringe, I also never doubted that she loved me.

She always let me know, sometimes through her words, but more often through her actions, that she loved me and was always there for me no matter what. She encouraged me even when she wasn’t sure what I was doing – like that whole “acting thing” or “being a writer” or whatever. Sure, she’d encourage me to get a “real job,” but she also never said I should give up the other stuff I wanted to do. She just wanted me to be practical and careful. And she would often surprise me. Despite those less-than-progressive things she’d sometimes say, she was equally likely to surprise me with a completely progressive opinion on something when I least expected it.

It’s how I know that she’d be surprised, but ultimately supportive of my upcoming marriage to The Fiancee. She’d love her, because I do. I just wish they would’ve gotten to know each other.
Anyway, I think my rambling’s at an end. I love my mom. I miss her. I celebrate her and the wonderful (and wonderfully complex) person she was. And I’m grateful for her.

If you’d like to help me remember my mom, feel free to go to your nearest Puerto Rican restaurant and eat a pastel in her honor. 🙂 You can read the eulogy I read at her funeral. Otherwise, a donation to your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association is always a great choice.

Mariana Hernandez Jusino
September 21, 1935 – April 5, 2006

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