When we get to the mountain

I think I can break even, more or less. 

There’ll be a way through.
When the boat gets to the pier-head,
it will go straight with the current.

It’s a famous Chinese saying, which means let the nature take its course.

Being the rebel, I often fight against the current, or chisel my way through the mountain.

Mellow just isn’t in my DNA.

I’m always on guard, watching out for those who might take advantage of me, exhausting myself before I’m met with any real resistance.

 

Two potential buyers for my furniture bailed out on me at the last minute yesterday.

One didn’t say she had moved on until I asked her if she still wanted the vanity set. “Yes, you may release the hold.”

Hold my foot. Why don’t you just say you can’t afford it?

Another girl rescheduled twice and was an hour late when she arrived with her mum. She studied and felt the bookshelf.

“This seems a little wobbly.”

“It’s the floor.”

“There is nothing on the back?”

“Just like what’s shown in the photos.”

The mum and the daughter conversed in Farsi. The girl seemed embarrassed.

“Do you do discount?”

I pursed my lips and shook my head.

“What if we only buy the bookshelf. Maybe you can sell the filing bins to others?”

My eyebrows arched. My kitchen knife was but five feet away.

“Look, I’m moving, too. I have other stuff to take care of.”

I could have spent 20 more minutes in the gym.

 

Half an hour later, was the showdown with the landlord. He and I would decide on how much he would pay for the furniture.

“I will give you $1500 for your furniture. Is this all of it?”

“No, only the ones without yellow stickers. You can refer to the itemized receipt I sent earlier.”

“Okay. How much do you want?”

“Look, the receipt says $4025 inc. tax, but I know the nature of the pricing. So I can live with $2500.”

“$2000?”

“Let’s make it easy on both sides. I’m moving out by September 15. A month earlier than the 60-day notice. Plus all the stress with the move-out.”

“But you’re moving back to China, yes?”

“Believe me, I planned to stay longer originally. Just look at this place. Does it look like a temporary setting?”

He paused for a moment. “$2500?”

I nodded. I was adamant.

We shook hands.

 

Things did work out in the end.

How? I hear you ask.

Full disclosure: I paid around $2800 for those items last year. A friend, small-business owner, tailored the receipt for me. As for the more student-friendly pieces, which are not on the list, I’m selling at a discount.

So I think I can break even, more or less.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Addicted

Who on earth said being vulnerable is therapeutic? Brené Brown?

Hi. I’m YZ. I’m an alcoholic.

Well, I’m not. I can’t drink alcohol.

So why would I ever attend an imaginary AA meeting?

Because I think I might be an addict.

No, I am.

I’m no smoker. In fact, I hate the smell of burning tobaccos. Growing up in a household with two serial smokers, namely my dad and his dad. So thanks but no thanks.

I’m single so sex is not a viable option. Technically, I can Tinder or Bumble should I choose to. But first dates are as far as I can go. Sorry, Moana.
Full disclosure: I, am the whole package, the brains, the looks, and the butt. And frankly, I’m done getting zilch callbacks when clearly I’m not actressing and they’re no casting directors. I’ve contemplated being bi or gay. Like-minded women would gimme some game. But I’m typecasted. I’m straight through and through. Damn.

I have a sweet tooth. But with my meager income in my brief history of employment in LA, I refuse to buy sweets. When I still worked at that snazzy production company, I had an abundant supply of M&M’s, Kit Kats, Snickers… Why not when they’re free?

I have a humongous stomach. Thanks to my Crazy Asian Metabolism, I’ve out-eaten more than one six-footers on some bad and good days.

I binge TV shows and call ’em my research, because I can. I am an unemployed screenwriter after all.

“I’m an addict, too.” A podcast guest confessed, after I revealed my Salt & Vinegar chips addiction since my England sojourn.

“So what do you do?”

“I get up at four so I can beat everyone else and hit the gym at five.”

Right.

“I run like crazy especially when I’m stressed. If I’ve passed 400 miles in a month doubling my usual stats, I know I’ve had a really bad month.”

Who on earth said being vulnerable is therapeutic? Brené Brown?

I need to binge something. But my fridge is too healthy. And I don’t want to get dressed. 7-11 is literally 50 feet away from my apartment.

I’ll wait for John Doe in SE7EN to come and get me. But isn’t Kevin Spacey banned lately?

 

Yours truly,
YZ

iChameleon

I’m a chameleon. I’m done impersonating. 

I’m bossy today but maybe sassy tomorrow.

I’m polite but I have a potty mouth.

I switch between American and British accents given whom I’m speaking to.

I carry a slight Beijinger (aka. New Yawker) accent that it’s hard for people to believe that I’m actually Shanghaiese (aka. LA). [Translation: “Are you from the North?” is suppposedly the ultimate sought-after compliment to a Shanghaiese amongst her friends from the North.]

I crave attention but I tried erasing myself fromt the Internet.

  • I deleted my photos from Weibo (Chinese Twitter) after being ghosted by a creep.
  • I erased my digital fingerprints so it’s harder to Google me.
  • I deactivated my LinkedIn when I had 500+ rock-solid CXO connections. I convinced myself that for my future line of work in the entertainment industry, IMDB would be the place to be. I don’t need LinkedIn. It’s for phonies and corporate climbers.
  • My public profile doesn’t matter. I should focus on my work, my screenplays.

Even when I started my podcast, or this blog, I call myself YZ to feel safe, to dodge bullets if people start trashing me.

 

Here is the thing: I simply don’t know how Madonna does it, or the likes of Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga… or the Kadasians.

Are they just Born This Way and can Express Yourself? Or according to Tom Wolfe, they just have The Right Stuff?

Where their successes are public, more so are their humiliations.

I often wonder what they do when their parents, their significant others, their children, their close friends and relatives learn about the excruciating details of their scandals with the world.

How can they live with the live-streaming of people smacking down their skeletons?
How would they ever face the public when the world knows their private parts better than their gynecologists?

So they spend the million dollars they’ve earned by being exposed and try to seek equilibrium via locking themselves within the multi-million-dollar bastilles in the not-so-hidden Hidden Hills.

 

But the question I’m wrestling with is this:
Can the rest of us be shame·less, fear·less if the Diva ain’t in our DNA?

 

After hurdling over some quasi-major pschological barrier, I posted my podcast on my personal FB page. I felt like I was pole-dancing, stark naked.

Now everyone knows my age, my humiliations, my pains, my fuck-ups.
Every potential guest I approach now would know my secrets.
They can laugh behind my back should they choose to.
If they care enough to look me up, that is.
Why the fuck would I care about whether if people care, anyway?

I, not somebody else, exposed me. I exchanged my privacy for exposure. No pain, no gain. But this, isn’t my cure.

 

I would practise Hip-Hop moves whenever I’m in front of a mirror.

People shouted at me, “Dude, are you totally mental? Stop it. Or we’ll send you to the madhouse.”

I just didn’t give a rat’s ass.  How could I improve my steps and care about what others think at the same time?

People get used to you overtime. If they don’t, they don’t.

I move on. I find somewhere else to dance.

Somewhere with an audience, who loves and appreciates me.

My guest, a Chinese filmmaker with shoulder-length long hair and bright yellow eyeglass frame, beamed as he shared his Journey to the West.  I shook his hand as we finished the recording.

I’m a chameleon. I’m done impersonating.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

RBYZ: I’m gonna still be writing (#001)

First-ever guest, first-ever interview.

From Midwest to LA, a teacher-turned-screenwriter’s California dreaming and dreading.

My first-ever guest is a teacher-turned-screenwriter who likes simple stories, complex characters, and real-life absurdism.

What you’ll hear:

  • What has teaching got to do with screenwriting?
  • Why did he choose film school after years of writing screenplays since he was 16?
  • Write what you know is a cliche. Write what scares you.
  • How does he deal with frustration, Rock Bottoms? Two words. Angry run.
  • Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the successes. But then, it doesn’t guarantee anything.
  • How to get the writing workshop going after film school? Consistency and the right mindset.
  • How does he process friends’ successes? Acknowledge it’s there and try not to let it consume you.

It’s hard to be successful at anything you do. You just have to like being unsuccessful. If you can do that, then you’re in the right line of work.

Your students are your audience. You’re not owed anything. If you fail to grab their attention, they’ll let you know.

If you think you’re writing something that is going to be successful or popular, it ain’t.

Wherever I end up in the world, I’m gonna still be writing.

Link from the episode:

 

Listen and subscribe to Rock Bottom with YZ:
A weekly podcast for and about anyone and everyone who has spiraled downward and doesn’t know which end is up.

Listen to Rock Bottom with YZ on RadioPublic

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Click here to see ways to help #RBYZ to grow.

Opt out

But I’ll be back, in my own way, on my own terms.

Definition: to choose not to participate in or carry on with something.

But when foreign students in the US talk about opt (out), they mean something else.

According to USCISC (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services):
OPT (Optional Practical Training) is temporary employment that is directly related to an F-1 student’s major area of study.
[Translation: banking or waitressing is off limits if, say, you major in journalism.]

  • Eligible students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).
    [Translation: 12 months, 365 days, is all you have.]
  • All periods of pre-completion OPT will be deducted from the available period of post-completion OPT.
    [Translation: What to do next? a) go back to where you come from; b) get someone to sponsor your work visa; c) become a genius/master/guru in whatever you do in 12 months.]
  • If you have earned a degree in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, you may apply for a 24-month extension of your post-completion OPT employment authorization.
    [Translation: non-STEM art folks, you are not needed in the U.S.  Switch major before it’s too late.]
  • If you transfer to another school or begin studies at another educational level (for example, you completed a bachelor’s degree and are starting a master’s program), your authorization to engage in OPT employment will automatically terminate. SEVP will inform USCIS of the termination date, and USCIS will terminate your EAD accordingly.
    [Translation: there is no such species as a foreign student who works full-time at the same time to pay off her tuition. Work or study, pick one.  Save sufficient dinero, or be born Crazy Rich/Smart.]

 

With that in mind, let’s eavesdrop into a conversation:

“I just realized I can’t get another OPT just by doing UCLA Extension.” My friend from Egypt texted me. “Thought you should know too.”

“I just booked my one-way ticket back to China yesterday.”

“I think I may need to do the same thing!”

My friend and I will meet this Thursday for our opt-out gathering.

“The POTUS may stay for four more years because the people who would vote for him vote for the Party. It’s where their interest lies.” A friend quoted her political science professor when we dined at my writer friend’s for her farewell dinner yesterday.  I sure don’t need that to be the last straw to break my back.

I may have to opt out this time
but I won’t check out
I’ll close the door on my way out.

But I’ll be back, in my own way, on my own terms.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Lost in translation

In Chinese, it’s one-sixth of the Twitter word limit. Good luck.

China has a counterpart of everything the world wants to sell her.

  • Alibaba > Amazon (inc. Amazon Studio) + eBay;
  • Baidu <<< ∞ Google (you see where my loyalty lies);
  • Tencent >>> ∞ Snapchat + Instagram + FaceBook + PayPal:
  • Xiaomi <?> Apple;
  • Ximalaya FM #wtf? Podcast.

 

Let’s talk about Ximalaya FM for a moment.

I just created my own Ximalaya [pronounce: Himalaya] account. Uploaded a photo with YZ holding her passport. It’s how IoT is done in China these days, making sure you’re legit before you get to be read, heard, or seen.

So dude, if you say anything inappropriate, we know who you are, where you live and your cell phone number. No pressure, just wanna make sure you watch your mouth.

That is to say, we show you the box and want you to think inside.  We’ll cut off the protruding tentacles if you dare try.

But that’s not my concern.

For my podcast, it’s interviews. And yet, when I select genre on Ximalaya, the best fit is actually “English.” Yep.

I clicked on the English section and see where my, quote and unquote, competition lies, they’re all about teaching English from grammar to American culture. The cover arts are in Chinese too.

What about the show description?

Here is what #RBYZ looks like in English:

Rock Bottom hits anybody at anytime and anywhere. The good news is, it discriminates no one. The bad news is, it’ll hit again. But the worst news is, nobody talks about it. Your host YZ bugs folks from all walks of life and zeros in on their Rock Bottoms. So we all gain some 20/20 before it’s hindsight.

In Chinese, it has to be one-sixth of the Twitter word limit (120 divided by 6) and let’s be catchy, shall we? Or at least, try.

That said, every Chinese word will carry the weight of some six English words, or more.

It’ll be something like this:

Shanghai-born bilingual screenwriter gurl (trying too hard?), chasing dream in LA, zero in on rock bottom, w/ creative souls around the globe.

Well, you get the idea…

Let’s see how my future Chinese fans would respond to my show. Soon I think I should record some Chinese intro to ease them into the program.

Gotta get Crazy Rich and find a PA like Andy Sachs.

And in my pitch-perfect Miranda Priestly impression:

That’s all. 

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Force of nature

May the Force be with you.

Newton’s First law of Motion:

In an inertial frame of reference, an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by a force.

Here comes the million dollar question:

Where and how to find the force?

 

I went to a writer friend’s farewell party yesterday. No tears. Only laughters. Because by the end of 2018, everyone would be back in China. Me included.

They are visiting scholars at UCLA, from urban planning to neural science. A doctor wants to create video/audio content, explaining his line of work in plain mandarin that caters to the Chinese retirees who are Crazy Healthy Asians.

His Chinese Yankee humor, plus the subject matter, remind me of the TV series Dr. Ken by the one and only Ken Jeong.

“I think I know my core audience. I think I know what I want to talk about. I have so many anecdotes from my practice… But I don’t have professional background like you guys.”

He meant me, my writer friend, and her director husband.

I opened my laptop and showed the doc how I created my podcast from scratch.

“Stop thinking. Start recording. You can’t find your style without ever trying.”

 

5:30 became 11:30. Six hours later, we were all connected on WeChat.

“It’s so inspiring to see folks like you who made an idea a reality.”

“Just try it out. You never know.”

“I think I will.”

“Drop ‘think.'”

 

The dude remained at rest until he met the Force.

You’re welcome, doc.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

May the Force be with you.