Feeling Poptimistic?

Please join me at my new blog Poptimistic—the fresh, frank, fun outlook on life.  Like Oprah, my life has grown from a single TV show into an entire network.  Thanks to the success of Alphabet City, my award-winning humorous book and blog about my sitcom life, I’m thrilled to launch a new online network called Poptimisitic.  With that charming gay Mary Tyler Moore spirit you know and love, Poptimistic has even more room to explore a fun, fresh, frank approach to life.

So check out my line-up of shows about relationships, food, travel and culture, and start living a Poptimisitic life!

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Destination Taste: South of the Border Ceremonies

Today on Destination Taste: Tips for GayWeddings.com on planning a South of the Border Ceremony.

If the weather outside your locale is as frightful as it is in my New York neighborhood, then now’s the perfect time to start dreaming about and planning your South of the Border nuptials.

This past year, Mexico City legalized same-sex marriage, so here’s my taste-y tip: head to this bustling capital city for a few days for your wedding, and then onto one of the country’s spectacular beaches for a gay honeymoon.

In this post, I’ll provide background on the marriage process and some tips on Mexico City—a spot I visit frequently since it’s the home of my fiancé. In the next post, I’ll reveal inside scoop on the most romantic Mexican beach getaways, perfect for you and your new spouse.

To read all of my taste-y tips for GayWeddings.com CLICK HERE.

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Tex and the City: Spider-Man’s Tangled Web

Today on Tex and the City: Jon Paul wishes there was a little more magic up Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man sleeve.

UPDATE 1.14.10: The producers of Spider-Man announced a delayed opening until March 15, saying the creative team needed more time to perfect a new ending.  Unfortunately, a spokesperson said that Bono was NOT writing any additional songs—which is very much needed.

There were touches of brilliance lighting up yesterday’s preview performance of the much buzzed about Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark at Foxwoods Theatre.  The aerial sequences over the audience of the superhero vs. nemesis Green Goblin were exhilarating—and not just because we were worried about safety.  Julie Taymor’s comic book inspired mask creations for the first villains that Spider-Man fights and citizens he saves were thrilling.  George Tsypin’s scenic design with a moving Chrysler building and Brooklyn Bridge were captivating.  Unfortunately, none of those good deeds could overcome the battle with a tangled plot web and mediocre score to help Spider-Man rise to the heights.

Let me get a few things out of the way.  First, I adore Julie Taymor and think she’s one of the most visually arresting artists working today—I’m not one of those people anxious for her to fail.  Second, I appreciate that she is trying to take an enormous risk—both artistically and financially—to mount a different type of show on Broadway—I’m not one of those naysayers about spending $65 million.  Third, I don’t think my thoughts on the show are nearly as critical as an official review in the New York Times so I don’t think it’s too early to share my view—when I am given official status as a critic perhaps I’ll change my tune.  But let me encourage Broadway producers and veterans to embrace the new age of social media like other brands—see it as a way to interact with customers and understand their reactions, rather than rail against them.  Enough said.  So let’s get to it.

Overall, the show is a muddled mess, which didn’t seem to bother the legion of young fans packed into the audience who cheered Spider-Man at every turn.  But for me, I had hoped for something a little loftier.  Indeed, Julie Taymor’s book with Glen Berger is clearly striving for something more—opening Act I with a complicated back story of a female weaver named Arachne (T.V. Carpio taking over for Natalie Mendoza) who was turned into a spider by the jealous Greek God Athena—told to us by a quartet of hipsters who are evidently writing their own Spider-Man storyline we’re about to see.  If it sounds complicated, it is.  And slows things down tremendously.  We’re nearly three quarters of the way through the first half before Peter (Broadway newcomer Reeve Carney) is finally himself transformed—and then the show flies, literally with the clever song “Bouncing Off the Walls,” that captures Peter’s pent up frustrations and new powers, followed by the song “Rise Above” that gives us Spider-Man’s true crime fighting persona.  That song was the first whisper of a catchy anthem, but yet didn’t quite gel overshadowed by all the flying action.

Therein lies the second biggest problem with the show: the music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge.  If this is going to be a rock musical filled with teenage angst, it’s going to have to work a lot harder to convey those passionate feelings.  The music felt very one note—U2.  That’s fine for the male characters, but doesn’t at all suit Mary Jane, played by Jennifer Damiano, whom I loved in her Tony-nominated role in Next to Normal.  Mary Jane is always a tough character to pull off—she has to be captivating to Peter but also lack self-confidence.  Here, Taymor has given her an intriguing back story with an alcoholic and abusive father—glimpsed briefly in a quick cut scene reminiscent of reading a comic book—a terrific staging device which unfortunately never appears again.  Poor Mary Jane never really gets a star number.  A duet with Peter called “Picture This” about dreaming of a better future turns into an oddball quartet with the soon-to-be-villain Green Goblin (Patrick Page) and his wife.  Sure, we’re supposed to see that villains have their reasons, too—but at the expense of Mary Jane and Peter?  Thankfully, I’ve read that Bono is back from a brief tour and focusing on the music—including a new closing number, which this show desperately needs.

The plot becomes even more confusing in Act II when our hipsters transform into a Greek Chorus and begin interacting at times with Peter Parker.  Odd, and hard to follow.  But wait, there are six new villains to fight—some of them sprung from Taymor’s imagination including the Grace Jones dominatrix-inspired Swiss Miss! And Arachne returns—more important than ever before!  Wait, a weird plot twist, Spider-Man has to defeat all the villains for the second time!  Holy complications Batman, what’s going on?!

Before the show, Chef and I took bets on how many times they might have to halt the production for technical glitches.  I was optimistic with “none.”  Chef argued for “two.”  And when the flying sequences began we watched closely for any hard landings—I could see why there were some broken ankles.  All seemed relatively smooth until the final moments when just before the finale some type of web is supposed to rise up as a backdrop.  After a stage manager announced pause, the show went on without the web, which must have played a crucial role in the final scene—I’m guessing that Mary Jane was supposed to be tangled in it—otherwise I’m not sure why Peter was pantomiming action to something that didn’t exist.

But, oh those aerial sequences.  They are spectacular.  On the one hand, I wanted more of them—perhaps to keep my mind off the sticky quagmire of a plot.  On the other, I couldn’t help thinking—is that all I really what I want from a live performance—tricks?  For many in the audience, the tricks were more than enough—and hopefully a spectacle like this will bring even more attendees to Broadway.  Chef reminded me that a young kid seeing Spider-Man fly overhead for the first time probably would be hooked on the theatre for life.  I just hope that young kid learns to hunger for more—like at least one hummable song that can be performed on the Today Show and Macy’s Thanskgiving Day Parade.

I longed for a magically richer tale up Julie Taymor’s sleeve.  Here’s hoping that by the official opening on February 7th, she’s able to untangle Spider-Man’s complicated web.

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POPtalk: This Doesn’t Work For Me, Oprah

Oprah in the control room

Please join me at my new blog Poptimistic—the fresh, frank, fun outlook on life. Like Oprah, my life has grown from a single TV show into an entire network.  Thanks to the success of Alphabet City, my award-winning humorous book and blog about my sitcom life, I’m thrilled to launch a new online network called Poptimisitic.  With that charming gay Mary Tyler Moore spirit you know and love, Poptimistic has even more room to explore a fun, fresh, frank approach to life.  So check out my line-up of shows about relationships, food, travel and culture, and start living a Poptimisitic life!

As I make final preparations to launch my own online network known as Poptimistic.com (hopefully debuting end of this month), I’m playing close attention to Oprah and her new programming venture.  Confession: my latest guilty pleasure is OWN’s Season 25: Oprah Behind-the-Scenes.  Please tell me you are at least Tivo-ing this delicious staged morsel of Oprah goodness peppered occasionally with sideways snarky glances.

Jake at my birthday

When my friend Keith tipped me off to the show over my birthday brunch at ABC Kitchen where Jake Gyllenhaal was lurking nearby (gratuitous name dropping ala Oprah), I first thought, “I’ve lived in that world and couldn’t possibly find it particularly interesting.”  Boy howdy was I wrong.  I’m captivated by the fact that Oprah—a woman who espouses we should all live our best/balanced life—runs an empire surrounding herself with workaholics, dedicated to serving their master, many of whom seem unhappy and unhealthy.  The fact that none of the producers, or even Oprah, acknowledge that irony makes for great television.

Now I’m not one of those people who must have a daily Oprah fix—but I have loved her since I was 16 and found myself in snowy Chicago on Thanksgiving watching her local show and laughing at the gratuitous amount of fur she was wearing to anchor coverage of the parade.  At the time I thought, “This woman thinks she’s big.”  Little did I know.  On Season 25, Oprah makes frequent references in her individual interview featuring much better lighting than her underlings get, that she’s not just filming a TV show, she’s creating a “platform.”  I like that, a platform.  Hey, I don’t just write a blog—this is a platform.  Thanks, Oprah!

A producer huddles with The Judds sans Ashley

What really makes this series hum along is all the manufactured tension.  Will The Judd’s—Naomi and daughter Wynonna, without sister Ashley—in their 17th appearance on the show talk about anything interesting and answer the question, “How is Ashley doing?”  The producers breathe a sigh of relief when Naomi says Ashley is in the Congo as a Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS and just graduated from Harvard.  Wow, can anyone really blame Ashley for not taking a break from that “platform” to show up rehash old shit?

My favorite part of Judd episode is when the mother and daughter talk about the communication skills they’ve learned in therapy together.  Wynonna says that when she asks for something and someone says “no,” her response is, “This doesn’t work for me.”  Oprah nearly falls out of her chair.  Later, recapping the show with her producer team while for some reason her hair is being teased in rollers, she tells the team that she’s had an “A-ha moment.”  That at least three times a day Oprah is going to start saying, “This doesn’t work for me.”

My question:  Really?  How often is that phrase going to come in handy, Oprah?  As far as I can tell, no one’s saying “no” to Oprah.  I mean, can you imagine what would happen if you did?

Later, after Oprah weirdly insults Gayle’s house made untidy by children, one of the producers says that after all these years, what makes it all worth while, is moments like that—when they can still create a show that can give Oprah a revelation.  Indeed, that’s what the platform is about—Oprah.

Oh, believe me, I’ll keep watching, and trying to create my own pOptimistic revelations.

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40, Love: 2010 POPtimistic Sign-Off

Today on 40, Love: Jon Paul scores himself on how well he kept 2010 Resolutions.

Things are winding down for the year, and despite the post-blizzard sludge piling up outside my door, I’m feeling, well, POPtimistic.  What a tremendous journey it has been—much of it tracked, and commented, and sponsored right here.  About this time last year, I posted my resolutions for the year (I’m a planner and a Capricorn and love that stuff).  And so, as we all engage in a little navel gazing this time of year (I’ve literally done pretty well in that department losing more weight)—thought I’d take a few moments to complete a score card.

2010 Resolutions:

Alphabet City—Publish & Sell 300 Copies. Report: Hooray! Not only did this happen, but I blew that goal out of the water—that’s the genius of setting attainable goals.  At last count, about 1200 copies were sold, and even better, I got to meet many of you personally this past year.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everyone who helped me.  And I even picked up an agent along the way—a bonus!

Sell 4 stories this year. Report: Done.  Highlights: check out the current feature in Bon Appétit on Caribbean resorts and organic gardening, and coming up in that publication an interview with designer Adam Tihany.  Keep your eyes peeled for Condé Nast Traveler’s March issue with my story on drug-trafficking crime’s affect on tourism.  Special kudos to Dana, the best friend and editor a guy could have.

Find blog rhythm—3 posts/week? Report: Pretty good.  This time last year I was posting every day and got a little tired.  But things hit a pretty even rhythm with the development of some new branded columns like Tex and the City (culture) and Green Globe Trekker (travel).

SPANISH! SPANISH! SPANISH! Report: Bad! Bad! Bad!  It all started so well with my daily use of Rosetta stone.  And then the book tour happened…and well, I could blame a lot of things.  But no one’s perfect—this one goes back on the list, and I’ll keep trying.

Two proud papas

WEIGHT—break the 140s barrier—25 pounds?! Report: Good.  Okay, I’m nowhere near getting into the 140s.  But at soon to be 42, that may just be impossible for me.  We’ll see.  Many of you worried that was way too much—but it was a goal.  One thing the resolution did was push me to start running—and that leaned out my body more than anything.  So I’ll keep that up, and see what happens.  I’m proud of my body right now—and that’s what counts, right?

Adapt Alphabet City—performance, play, MUSICAL!! Report: Whoa, slow down, fella.  That’s one of those “what was I thinking?” resolutions.  I still like the idea, so I’ll keep it in the mix.  But maybe for the future.

NEW PROJECT: new blog 40, Love or Kids Book. Report: All systems go.  This one is well underway.  40, Love as a book is happening.  But even more exciting right now is a project with Chef called Service Entrance—the crazy stories about life as a personal chef for NY’s wealthiest and craziest families.  Stay tuned.

KEEP ON COOKINReport: Reasonably well.  I haven’t checked in with Chef on this one yet.  But I definitely didn’t STOP cooking.  So I think I earn some points.

PAY OFF DEBT—Student Loans?! Report: Mediocre, at best.  But again, I’m working on it.  Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions (like the collapse of income from your PR/marketing business) that makes things tough.  But it’s on my radar screen.

FOCUS ON FUN: Improv & Tennis. Report: OUTSTANDING.  And this goes WAY beyond Improv (2 classes, and just signed up for another) & Tennis.  This year’s journey was indescribably fun.

So, much love to all of you for helping me tackle these resolutions.  And thank you for sticking with me, giving me the courage to pursue my dream of a being a full-time writer and blogger.  Here’s to a fresh, frank, fun POPtimistic life in the new year!

POPtimistically yours,

JP

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Destination Taste: Vietnam Adventure

Today on Destination Taste: Tips on a Vietnam (gay) Honeymoon Adventure for GayWeddings.com.

Admittedly, I was a little dubious when my fiancé first suggested a quick trip to Vietnam after a stopover in Singapore. An economically developing country still controlled by a central communist party—not known to be a friend to human or gay rights—I wasn’t sure if Vietnam was the right choice for a couple of NYC gay boys. After some research, my fears were allayed by Douglas at gay and gay-friendly tour operator Purple Dragon.

CLICK HERE for my full taste-y tips on a Vietnam Adventure at GayWeddings.com.

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23 Reasons to Love My Readers

Today on Alphabet City: As the countdown to the new Poptimistic blog begins, Jon Paul looks back at the 23 Most Popular Alphabet City Posts of 2010.

Thank you to the thousands of readers from around the globe who have spent time in Alphabet City.  You’re a diverse bunch with varied tastes—from eco-friendly travel to gay hook-up apps—there’s been a little bit of something for everyone in 2010.  And you’re always surprising me—I mean who knew there were so many Glee fans in Brunei?  In case you’ve missed some of the favorites, I’ve pulled together the Top 23 for you—a little primer on what your fellow Alphabet Citizens have enjoyed.  Why 23?  Because it’s a funny number.  Let me know—did your favorites make the cut?

#1 40, Love: Glee Bargain I’d like to think that my take on Fox TV’s hit show Glee and the producer’s difficulty in portraying Kurt in a more realistic light hit a nerve with the blog-o-sphere.  But judging from the Google searches that linked to the post, I honestly think folks were searching for pictures of cute gay high school student Blaine.  Maybe a channel dedicated to my thoughts on the show is in order?  I think I’d call it KurtiousGLEE.

#2 40, Love: Hello, Meat Grindr No surprise that sex sells, especially to gay boys on the prowl.  My humorous take using the hook-up site during jury duty is one of ABCityblog’s perennial favorites.

A chance encounter with photographer Jamie Beck lead to my favorite Alphabet City publicity shot!

#3 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: From Me To You Out of a chance encounter in the blogosphere—courtesy of Whole Foods—blossomed a fun friendship with phenomenal photographer.  The result has been spectacular pictures of me, Chef and our home.  This post gives a peek behind her stylish blog.

#4 Alphabet City’s Episode 1: Whoopi A crazy cat and a mishap with her Oscar, make my encounter with Whoopi a perennial favorite—and the perfect opening to Alphabet City.

#5 BizSavvyBlogger’s Peek-A-Blog: PerrinPost.truth.travel For years travelers have been religiously following the advice of Condé Nast Traveler’s Wendy Perrin.  In this post, I get my longtime friend to dish about how her print job keeps her from blogging 24/7 and what that means for PR folks.

Another Jamie Beck captured moment

#6 40, Love: Tattoo Police I’m an exhibitionist at heart, so I take every chance to show off my tattoos—even on the blog.  According to Google, many people are worried about being “booked” in this tattoo database.

#7 Alphabet City’s: One Night in Bangkok Okay, I’ll admit that I was pandering to my readers with, shall we say, more prurient interests by posting this scandalous excerpt from Alphabet City about a gay sex palace in Bangkok.  But it has one of my favorite comic lines, ever.

#8 Green Globe Trekker: Blue Bahama Mama Thankfully, my readers have rather diverse tastes—especially for eco-travel.  In advance of my panel at Condé Nast Traveler’s World Savers Congress in Singapore, I get the green scoop on The Atlantis.

#9 Kitchen Knightmares: Something Fishy Moroccan Halibut and Carrots from a Bon Appétit recipe is the star of this post—the top viewed recipe related story.

#10 Alphabet City’s Alpha-Beltway This entry is the most-read post related to the Alphabet City Book Tour. While in DC, I get an insider perspective courtesy of old friends, have nauseating John Boehner sighting, and wonder what happened to my favorite Rosalynn Carter outfit.

#11(tie) Tex and the City: Lela & BA Café MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts makes a guest appearance in this post, sharing a picture of his taxi driver’s name Ram Amandeep.  Read it aloud.  That name has become the #2 Google search directing traffic my way.  The first?  “Glee Blaine.”  There’s a joke there, but for now, I’m going to refrain.

AND

40, Love: Virgin Queen My first time with a woman—first time getting a tattoo, of course.  Next to sex, tattoos sells.  I guess they are related in a way.

#13 Kitchen Knightmares: Kiss My Grits After meeting Chef Marcus Samuelsson at a Kraft-sponsored event, I’ll admit developing a little crush.  Will his next restaurant be in Washington Heights?

#14(tie) Alphabet City’s Even Jesus Had a Publicist A rejection from a literary agent who thinks the general public won’t know what a “publicist” does provides an opportunity to excerpt from Alphabet City.

AND

Alphabet City’s Episode 4: Tyra, And Nothing But the Truth Before she was America’s next top media mogul, she was grazing the breakfast buffet and quizzing me about my sexuality.

#16 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 13: Happy Soul The online encounter that changed my life.

#17 40, Love: Justice Jo(h)n Paul Unearthing a letter from his father’s papers, I pay tribute to Supreme Court Justice John Paul.

#18 Alphabet City’s First Excerpt from Episode 14: And Baby Makes Three A heartbreaking farewell to a special cast member.  Pet lovers won’t be able to read without crying.

Outside Hanoi's Golden Cock

#19 Green Globe Trekker: iPho Vietnam—Motorbikes & Golden Cock While I’d like to think it’s my lovely description of Viet Nam that makes this post a standout, I believe the name of Hanoi’s gay bar is what calls out to many in their Google searches.

#20(tie) 40, Love: Share, and Cher alike AND Kitchen Knightmares: The Premiere The launch of my cooking show with a nightmare of rancid pork is as compelling to readers as my fighting with neighbors and their kids at the local CSA food pick-up spot.

#22 Tex and the City: The Parent Trap Confronting the question of “are you guys going to have kids?,” I turn to theater reviews for help.

#23 Green Globe Trekker: Costa Rican Eco-Luxe Many of the travel industry’s most pressing sustainability questions have been answered by the Costa Rican trendsetting company Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality.

Jicaro property

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