When we get to the mountain

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

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 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)

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

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

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

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.

 

Next time

I can’t remember the last time I snapped any photo of LA.

Maybe I had grown complacent…

Maybe I had gotten used to the expat experience…

Truth is, I just wanted to fit in, so desperately, that I never called myself one.

Now deadlocked with my inescapable fate, I had to reacquaint myself with this term I so vehemently rejected…

We had a beautiful dusk here yesterday. I snapped a photo with my eyes and stored it my memory drive.

I was strolling with my dear friend, who helped me move when I first got here, whom would be the first featured guest on my podcast, premiering next Tuesday, August 28.

 

I would be angry.

Was the first thing he said when he came up to my studio apartment.

“Why?”

“That you can’t stay here when you clearly wanted to.”

“Trust me, I was pretty frustrated last year. I couldn’t write.”

We talked about anything and everything. I asked him to record an answer for me, which has become the #RBYZ Trademarked question.

Then we talked some more as we walked the neighborhood.

He didn’t need to probe or ask how I was holding up.

I’ve become quite an expert in opening up. I’m rockin’ this podcast about those would-be shameful hours, and blogging makes me shame-free, almost.

“I remember thinking about taking a pill or something so I didn’t have to deal with the mess the next day. I’m just so freaking exhausted.”

He simply listened.

And that’s all I need.

I thought I was a warrior, but it dawned on me that I was picking the wrong battles for the last three years straight:

  • Moving four times within the first months I landed in LAX;
  • Filing a lawsuit against my former landlady, the quintessence of a cunt;
  • Vexed by my former ungrateful roommates who did nothing to contribute other than to complain. When I got our money back, I couldn’t recall a proper ‘thank you’ from the spoiled little brats;
  • Begging for just a five-minute meeting with my billionaire former boss when I didn’t get the work visa lottery…
  • If I knew my ex-boss would let me go a month later, I might not have paid 2.5 G to renew my student status awaiting him to grace me with his presence while not getting not a dime since June 1 because of my visa*;
  • *Thanks to the US immigration laws, foreign students aren’t allowed to work or get paid on paper. They can’t even land free internships…
  • By the way, do you know just how hard it is to get an artist visa as a writer fresh off film school?
  • But even if I did get to stay, what about dinero? How else would I survive the California Dreamin’?

God forbid I’m not a Crazy Rich Asian.

So when my current landlord decided to oust me for his little scheme last Thursday, I was bone-tired. I didn’t have an ounce of energy left. I was depleted.

My lawyer friend looked at the contract and got me a 60-day notice instead of the landlord’s original 30-days.

But I’d already decided to return to China, thanks to the wise words of my psychologist friend, Barbara Kiao.  And without the lovely Angels I’ve befriended in LA, maybe I might have ended up in the Cuckoo’s Nest already…

 

As I finished editing the pilot episode late last night, I texted my friend, thanking for dropping by.  At the time, he was at his friend’s birthday party.  Surprisingly, he texted back:

Don’t forget: you’re a funny, kind, and beautiful person. You have tons of adventures ahead of you and I’d be honored to work with you again some day.

The warmth coursed through my artery and pumped into my heart, my weary wrinkled heart.

“Not someday. Soon. I wish you said it in my face though.” I reprimanded.

He promised he would next time.

Until next time then.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Be everything

In times like this, you can’t just be a writer.
You can’t just be a producer.
You can’t just be a cinematographer.
You can’t just be a director.
You have to be everything.
You need to be a writer-director-producer-promoter ninja to get any projects made.

In a word, you have to be a genius, Superman, Wonder Woman.

 

Here is how it works: you start with a short and hope that short would lead you somewhere.

And after you have self-delivered your baby, you wish you have an audience to cheer you on. Of course, you go to your friends and beg them to rate your babies, ugly or not, on Amazon etc. with five-star ratings.

I told myself that I couldn’t be bothered because I made my babies out of passion, out of love. Just how many people would chime in, I don’t care. It’s pathetic. I wouldn’t allow it.

But still, I asked friends to please rate my podcast on iTunes when I launched it. Last time I checked, there are six ratings, two reviews out of some dozens messages I sent out.

Fuck, I’m a hypocrite.

Because I should just focus on my next Tuesday’s shipping deadline like I’ve promised myself:

One episode at a time. And no more.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Social nicety

I thought you planned to stay in the US.

An acquaintance in France texted back in WeChat (the Chinese Snapchat but much more; owned by Tencent).

Yeah, I thought so, too.  But it isn’t like I were married to some French dude which allows me to split time between Paris and Shanghai.  Life would be simpler if some American dude popped the question whom I wanted to say yes to.  Last time I checked, I had zilch proposals in my archives.  Or maybe I should check my hearing, or vision?

I didn’t get the work visa lottery this time. But I’ll apply for the artist visa next year, hopefully.

I finally conjured up this beige answer.

I guess I would bump into a lot of questions like this when I’m back home. MIA for three years. Of course my Chinese ‘friends’ would assume I would’ve become an American.

So now you want to come back?

I can see their thought bubbles bloating.

Sick of being a stranger in a strange land, I want to re-surround myself with familiarity back home, only to be estranged by those whom I used to call friends, and now I have to suss them out before I board those friendships which might’ve wrecked with the RMS Titanic in 1912.

Oh, by the way, the woman had removed me from her WeChat. I only found out when I reached out to her…

Why would she delete me? I don’t even post stuff anymore on Moments.

And why would I send her an invite again? Well, I kind of want to dare her.

I don’t use WeChat that much.

She explained when she added me back.

I wanted to call her bullshit.

But truth is, I felt hurt. Yeah, by this acquaintance whom I haven’t seen for three years.

Truth is, I thought she was a friend. She must know what it feels like to be away from home, to try to make a new home base abroad.

Oh wait, her Parisian husband had it all taken care of. And having two kids in an EU country? She must get lots of benefits.

See what I’m doing? I’m judging her without trying to get to know her.

Just why on earth would I ask to interview her for my podcast? She wouldn’t even check out the 60s trailer I sent over.

Oh, you have a podcast now? I will spend time later and savor (细细品味) it.

Later means never.
So savor my ass, bitch.

But wait, why would I be so defensive? It’s me who wants something from her after all.

Here and there, I struggle to acquaint with people whom I find interesting because we’re cushioned by these social niceties.  Can’t we just be real for once?

Hence, I launched my podcast, started this blog.

What I say may sound harsh, or politically incorrect even.

But here I am
In my empress’s new clothes
Sans social nicety
Nursing a shot of reality
So, cheers.

 

Yours truly,
YZ