Community

Nobody can save you but

yourself – and you’re worth

saving. It’s a war not easily

won but if anything is worth

winning – this is it.  

— Charles Bukowski

The world is strange and tough. A lot of things don’t make any sense to me — like Taco Tuesdays on a Monday. I’m making it up as I go along and sometimes I compare myself to others as a measure of my own progress.

But comparing myself to others hurts me in so many ways. And I found myself doing that at Burning Man.

Burning Man is larger than life. Large in scale. Beyond “large”. I am constantly in awe at people’s ingenuity, creativity and generosity — to the point that I feel not worthy to be in the presence of such greatness — to the point that I compare myself and realize I could never amount to even a fraction of such greatness.

Although this thought comes up for me, it’s fleeting because a lot of what makes Burning Man Burning Man is community. 

This was my second year. My first year was so overwhelming.  I am an anxious and impatient person so my first year was full of anti fomoing — must see this, must be here, must be up up up and go go go, to the point that I was completely burnt out and over it by my last day. I was so tired I couldn’t/wouldn’t enjoy Burning Man any longer.

So why come back? I’m a few years older and a bit calmer in nature (a bit but not by much) and I didn’t feel the pressure of having to partake in everything Burning Man had to offer anymore. Burning Man is so large and full that it is impossible to experience everything and this year coming into the burn, I had made my peace with that. And with that pressure lifted from my shoulders, it made me more receptive to meaningful and surprising connections with others and it opened me to discover that Burning Man wasn’t just a one time buffet of extravagant experiences, but could be felt and lived on the daily.

I’m an extrovert and I feel energized when connecting with a lot of people. I usually connect with people through conversations and getting to know a person interpersonally, sharing and swapping stories. But with Burning Man and keeping with their 10 principles, I practiced Gifting. I brought my flute to Burning Man and busted it out. When someone approached me, or I was introduced to someone new, instead of asking the usual ‘What’s your name, what do you do?’ I told people to give me three adjectives that described themselves and from what they said, I improvised a little tune on my flute for them.

With something that came easy and readily for me now (albeit after years of training in music), after my little ditty, I saw genuine awe in people’s eyes. Some asked me what my process was (if your word was ‘open’ = C major — most commonly used in pop songs, ‘grounded’ = low G major — down to earth kind of feel, ‘sexy’ = flute trill with a little hip action ;)) and after explaining it, people complimented me on how I spoke and thought about music in terms of their personality, and it made me feel valued and part of the community of Burning Man.

I connected with people through music, something beyond words. I was just jamming on my flute for a camp and a violinist arrived and asked to jam with me. Burning Man is about saying yes, so I said, absolutely! We exchanged more music notes than words and when we played together, unrehearsed and organically, it was beautiful. Her name was Empress and her violin was white. I had no idea where she was from or even her real name, but we connected when our notes and rhythm just felt right together. That connection transcended and I could feel the people who were listening enjoyed our improvised songs and they in turn was part of the experience, part of the connection, part of the community.

She’s wild, uncombed, unpredictable.

She’s a whirlwind. A mess. Lost.

Insecurities manifest into a monster that is she. 

But what makes her wild, makes her beautiful. 

She is missed and her community calls to her to come back. 

And she calms, she listens, she is saved. 

photos courtesy of Niamh and PK

 

 

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Low Self Confidence is Sooo Annoying.

I’ve been watching this new anime called Food Wars! I’ve watched a lot of anime in my time and what I’ve noticed with this one and with many others is that the protagonist always has a strong assurance in himself that he will be the best.

In  Naruto, Naruto always says he’s going to be the next hokage.  In  One Piece, Luffy says he’s going to be king of the pirates. And of course with Food Wars!, it’s no different. Soma says he’s going to “take the number one spot.”

Each of these protagonists have so much potential and are quite skillful in their domain. Naruto’s a ninja, Luffy’s a pirate and Soma is a chef. They are not without fault and from their bold statements — always in the future tense — indicates that they’re not the best yet. And that doesn’t deter from their constant flow of self confidence. They’re not arrogant. They are all just so self assured that they’re going to be alright. Even when the situation is not in their favor. Naruto has lost battles, Luffy’s been in some jams, and Soma has lost too. It’s nice to see.

What’s NOT nice to see is when this bold strong character is paired up with a weak, full of self doubt, ANNOYING character. In Food Wars! especially, I can’t stand Tadokoro. Let me repeat, I CAN’T STAND HER. And you know why, because I AM HER. OH. MY. GOD. 

Is this how my friends see me?

Tadokoro shouldn’t have low self confidence! She cooks great food and has been validated by her peers, even by Soma. Yet her self doubt paralyzes her and she loses her nerve in front of tests and challenges. When up against a worthy opponent, she compares herself to the opponent and her inner dialogue is so annoying! ‘Oh so and so has studied here, I didn’t. Oh so and so knows this technique, I don’t.’ Blah blah blah blah BLAH! She freaks herself out and it frustrates me as I’m watching it. I just want to grab her shoulders and shake her! SNAP OUT OF IT! YOU’RE SO ANNOYING! JUST DO YOU! Soma does a less extreme version of that by clapping her hands together in the midst of her breakdown (picture below).

That’s what I need to do. I need to shake myself and SNAP THE FUCK OUT OF IT!

soma claps

 

Why Does the Dream Feel So …

Impossible?

:/ I know time is a social construct, but with every passing day as I look at myself in the mirror, lines are getting more defined and my hair is fading color … the dream of getting from the couch to the screen seems even more out of reach than ever.

Why does time matter? I look at younger people with envy and wistfulness. They have their whole lives ahead of them. When did I get so jaded, so discouraged, so insecure?

I’ve been going to a lot of weddings lately. While everyone is pairing off, I’m still single. I’ve been single longer than I’ve been with anyone combined. I’m not saying being with someone will make me happy. If anything, I think I’m more comfortable being on my own. But it’s not because it stems from a desire for solitude, but from a need for protection. I don’t think I’m deserving of anyone just yet.

But Thi, why define yourself by your success or lack thereof? Because that has been my reality my entire life. My mom came here to make something of herself and her kids are a reflection of whether or not she succeeded. If her kids fail, she has failed. As the first born, that pressure is insurmountable and I am left feeling shut down.

Melancholy. Mood of the moment. up_on_melancholy_hill_by_katarrhe

Writing

It is my belief that if you can write, you can do anything. Especially in this town.

Writing for me comes easily when I know what I’m talking about. When I write about myself, whether it’s through this blog or a fictional novel that is based on my life*, cake. But when I attempt to write about something that I think will sell (based on what I’ve already seen on TV and movies), in a format I’m not all too familiar with (screenplay) duh, just so I think it can forward my stagnated acting career, I fall short. By a lot. To the point that I avoid any progress on the manuscript. Le sigh.

I know that when the going gets tough, you just have to plow right through it, to not give up! I just have to keep on writing! But I can’t. (Not with that attitude). It’s daunting to write about something for an audience I’m not all too familiar with.

The set up. So I know someone that has a production company in Viet Nam. (Yo, if I can’t make it here, I can maybe make it out of here). She says that the movie industry in Viet Nam is booming. Exponentially.  But there is a lack of scripts.

There’s my opportunity!

The catch. The story must appeal to a Vietnamese audience. I am not Vietnamese. I’m American. My friend said that Vietnamese humor is completely different than American humor. Vietnamese people love slap stick, obvious physical humor. I’m an American that find slap stick humor out of date and am more accustomed to sarcasm, irony, dry wit — which would never appeal to the Vietnamese public. Another le sigh.

I didn’t let this minor discrepancy hold me back. Oh no, I started writing this script … last year, about a month after my friend told me about this opportunity. Too bad I’m still not done with it and it has been over a year. Pathetic Thi!

Instead I concentrate on what I do know. Myself. Oh the so self-involved American. Get. the. fuck. over. yourself. But at least I know what George Martin feels like. I’ve procrastinated, just like he has in his Game of Thrones books. (Maybe he doesn’t know who’s going to win the throne, thus he procrastinates). I wrote more blog posts on my day to day life, I’ve edited my old fictional novels based on my life, I’ve avoided that script that I know nothing about.

And here is where I must ask myself, is that so wrong? Is it so wrong to stop writing about something I don’t know and concentrate on something I do? I’ve gone to panels that spotlight writers in the industry and I’ve noticed that overwhelmingly they are mostly comprised of da da da DA … white 30-40 year old males. Unsurprisingly. This would explain the prolific and wide range of white male roles on television. These guys aren’t racist, they’re just writing what they know, themselves. Different versions of themselves and their friends. If they were to write something other than themselves, it would come off as a caricature, a stereotype, a sloppy cover up of something they know nothing about.

I am not getting any younger, true. Ugh, the countdown to my 30 year old demise is looming near. Hollywood isn’t changing quickly for me to be the next star any time soon (I just got an audition as waitress, yaayy). So what must I do? I must write. I must get better. I must be part of the change I want to see.

The solution. Just keep writing. Maybe I’ll find a balance between the script for Viet Nam and find a little of myself in Vietnamese’s sense of humor.

*Some of you have asked me where you can find my fictional novels. Here they are:

love quest image              identity quest image

#OscarSoWhite Is Not the Problem

it's a trap meme

Yup. The Oscars is only a distraction from the REAL problem. The studios and the execs, the gatekeepers that decide which movies to greenlight and budget every year are the ones to blame. The Oscars are merely a reflection of what is out there and yes, while most people nominated are white, it’s because the pool is largely comprised of movies with white actors. The movies that campaign for their actors to win awards are the ones with the most budget for sending out screeners, getting ppl to notice, to watch and to remember those films. Although there were a number of films with Black actors this year, movies such as Tangerine and Dope that were very well acted, were barely mentioned in the media, much less pushed in the faces of old white men of the academy to be in their radar. Unless, of course the movie is about some form of slavery, in which a feeling of white guilt is felt and only then does the movie get nominated. Check video below.

Now how does this relate to me? It is 2016, fucking 2016 where we have the internet, self driving cars, phones that act as mini computers and cameras that fit in our pockets, where in major metropolitan cities, cultured cities, are filled with a diverse, eclectic mix of human beings — Black, Latinos, Asian, Native American, etc. It is 2016 where most if not all of these ethnicities have been around much much longer than the fast and ever evolving technology listed above. Machines are evolving more so than human beings??? And yet, Black people are barely being recognized now??? WHAT THE FUCK. Blacks make up about 13% of the U.S.’s population and Latinos make up about 17% of the U.S.’s population. Check out the census here, circa 2014. If Blacks are the minority that is most represented in Hollywood out of all the other minorities, the next up is going to be Latinos, and then, only then is it going to be Asian. But it is 2016, Blacks are in movies but are not recognized, Latinos are still playing stereotypes and wow, Asians just got their first and only family sitcom (Fresh off the Boat) since circa 10 years ago (All American Girl).

I saw The Revenant recently. I’m glad that there were real Native Americans in the movie. However, it made me uncomfortable when Leo said in his speech that he would share his Golden Globe award with the first nations and indigenous people. That’s as if a man were to pocket his ballooned paycheck yet demand equal pay for women. Leo is sharing his award, but is he going to share the award money he gets (3 million bump) if he wins the Oscar? And what about this option? Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING. Leo has the clout, the power to maybe fund, greenlight movies that have a Native lead, instead of taking the lead himself. He has the power to promote such movies and get them in theaters, get them seen! There’s nothing wrong with making a movie about a guy that survives a bear attack and seeks revenge on the men that left him for dead, fine. But couldn’t an equally good movie be made about the Native Americans finding their kidnapped daughter from the French fur trappers as well? This was the B story of that movie when it could’ve been the A story.

Hollywood is changing yes. But at a pace that my impatient heart dies every time I see a predominantly white cast.  I FUCKING CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. It’s at a point where it doesn’t make me angry or frustrated, it makes me sad. A strong feeling of despair that I might not ever ever get on the screen, not even for a role such as Student #2. How pathetic.

Let’s add on that from the auditions I do get, one was for a pilot that was basically describing me (20s, Vietnamese, teacher, mega watt smile), in which my audition was cut short to 5 minutes because the girl that auditioned before me was a well known name (she was half Vietnamese, half Black and looked Black, ugh) who got to audition for 20 minutes. Or I had another audition for a movie where the character was fresh from Viet Nam, where she was described as fierce and emotional, so I played her dramatically, only to find out a month later, TODAY, that the tone of the movie is a comedy. Acting is a numbers game where the more auditions you have, the more chances you’ll book. You’ll also have more room to blow auditions because another one will come. But what if it doesn’t come, or you have to wait an entire year for the next? What if I can’t increase the number of my auditions because there is NO DEMAND for my look.

And then I look at Master of None:

Hah, our stories are kinda fresh and original now.

Year in Review

Let’s face it, 2015 was not my year. A lot of it was out of my control, but a lot of it was my own fault.

  • Got let go from all representation
  • Quit high paying job due to emotional abuse and bad management for low paying job but supportive management and flexibility
  • An assistant job that didn’t go through
  • 6 weddings
  • Traveling plans that didn’t go according to plan
  • Travel costs
  • Spending more than I’m making – BROKE
  • Severe credit card debt
  • Laziness and no motivation

There were a lot of tears over the year. A lot of “WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT?” moments. I’d stay in watching hours of television and seeing great people on shows and thinking, “Wow, those people are so good, why would they ever need someone like me?” Getting closer to 30, I’m seeing my friends advance in their careers and relationships, making more money and babies and here I am, broke out of mind and can barely make rent. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. But it is. I chose this path and I HAVE to just wipe away the tears and stop comparing myself to others. It’s driving myself crazy. So I refocus. Take control of things I can and celebrate the accomplishments, and there are accomplishments, YAY!

  • Got new representation
  • Got meaty auditions and callbacks
  • Had a more active role in my theater group
  • Quit the low paying job to be a substitute teacher for LAUSD
  • Star Wars (not an accomplishment, but it reminded me why I chose this path).

It was because of Star Wars that got me into acting. The possibility of being part of a world and story so awesome was enough of a motivation to pursue this crazy life still.

Nothing’s changed. Still chasing that dream. Let’s. Fucking. Go.

Han Solo and I in 2004

han solo and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vader and I in 2015

darth vader and me

Master of None

Love it. Because I can totally relate to it. It’s awesome to see people of a similar background as myself on television. Bravo to Aziz Anzari and Alan Yang. The episode that really got me to really latch on to the show was titled Parents. It was just such an honest and funny episode about the hardships that parents of first generation kids go through so that their American kids  (not FOBS, thank god) can grow up and have an easy and secure life. The episode even showed how these American kids sometimes don’t realize what their parents went through and take their struggle for granted, often times forgetting to show gratitude to their parents.

It called me out yo! It brought to my mind, thinking in hindsight of all the effed up things I did that dismissed my parents’ hard work (i.e. wanting Lunchables instead of my mom’s homecooked rice for lunch). I not only didn’t realize that my troubles were nothing compared to their troubles in a war driven country, but I made it a point that my troubles were far worse than theirs (i.e. kids making fun of my non American name vs. leaving their home country and trying to make a life in a foreign one.)

But I guess because they didn’t have a secure life, that was what they strived for, becoming home owners and working towards retirement — which my dad has recently accomplished. And because they provided a secure life for me, it gave me the freedom to have the desire to be an actor and to not even consider security as a dream.  This brings about a distance that I have with my parents and their culture.

I love that this show and this episode is on a popular medium. It was well done and I hope that people who didn’t have similar parents, who can’t relate, can still enjoy it. Nothing really got resolved in the episode because it was acknowledged that there’s always going to be a distance between first generation kids and their immigrant parents, but that’s life. It’s reflective!

Another thing that I love about this show is that Aziz plays an actor. His character is booking much more than I am, but it shows that a nonwhite person with immigrant parents can still have a career in acting! It gives me hope and motivation to continue the pursuit of my dream. And I really need that hope.

2015 has been really hard. I went from one job that paid a lot of money but made me feel shitty about myself to a job that has management treating me like a valued employee but I make shit money. The first half of 2015, I was busy worrying about my happiness and now, with the second half of 2015, I’ve been worrying about making rent. I’m tired of worrying about something that isn’t acting and it makes me wistful for the security that my parents had provided me when I was younger, because now I have to provide it.

Lastly, what I love about this show is the diverse cast. It brings to mind how I grew up wanting to become like Harrison Ford. Granted, he’s a great guy/actor, but it got to the point that I wanted to be exactly like him, like a white man. It got me to basically dismiss my Vietnamese heritage (which ironically made me special and diverse) and ultimately further the gap between my parents and me. With such a diverse cast, more diverse people will see that they can be on television, that they can be a part of a medium that is accessible by everyone and we can have more of an open minded and inclusive society. I’ve only just learned that it’s ok to be who I am and to embrace it, to share it and to ultimately be integral of something bigger than myself that could possibly make an impression on someone other than myself. Thank you Aziz for giving me that hope.

 

aziz

Storytelling

I’m a good storyteller. I am.

I recently finished this storytelling class that I took from the Nerdist and our class show was yesterday. Each person took turns telling their story. It could be whatever we wanted as long as it was compelling, showed a transformation of ourselves (before and after) and was under 8 minutes. The most valuable information I took from this class was that each story has to have a compelling dramatic question and hopefully by the end of your story, you leave the audience satisfied by providing an answer to that compelling dramatic question. My teacher John Flynn was super awesome and gave me really good feedback. I started out good and I only got better.

For the class show, our names were pulled out of a hat and depending when our name was drawn determined when we would tell our stories. Lucky me, I went first. And to my surprise I wasn’t nervous. I usually get mad stage fright, but this time I didn’t. There was a level of excitement, it wasn’t anxiety anymore. And maybe it can be attributed to the fact that I went first so I didn’t have time to stress over it and get nervous and psyche myself out. Or maybe it was because I had prepared this story for 3 weeks now during class. But even with so much preparation, I was scared that the story would lose it’s novelty upon show time. Fortunately, I’m a great storyteller and implemented feedback from my class and teacher during my previous telling of the story into the final telling where it brought out just the right amount of laughs and emotions from the audience. Success.

I actually did an open mic that concentrated on storytelling a few weeks before my class show. It was my first open mic. In that one, I was super nervous. But after getting your named pulled and the audience is waiting for you to come on stage and just do your thing, I had no choice but to move my legs onto that stage and start spitting out a story. I told about a Spanish lover named Alejandro. I killed it and after it, I realized it was actually really fun. I had enjoyed it.  Maybe storytelling can be my niche, my way, my avenue of getting to acting.

When I first started out on this journey to pursue acting, a lot of people thought I had courage, that I was brave to go for a dream. After 4 years with little/no success/progress, some people are now thinking that I’m foolish to continue. Actually one friend told me to quit (but he also came and supported me on my class show — hmmm -shrugs-). Another friend real talked me and kinda discounted all my efforts in the past 4 years. He said it looked like I was just trying a bunch of things and not committing, that I was just trying to get by. His advice was to do one thing, that one avenue and commit to it — be the best at it and that will eventually lead to acting.

I believe that his advice is sound. But I feel the need to defend myself and not let him discount my efforts in the past 4 years. With acting, there are so many paths to get to it. I have been trying different things and not being the best at them because I got to the point where it just didn’t feel right anymore, it just wasn’t fun for me anymore, i.e. Twitch. I tried Twitch for a month and quickly realized that that was not my path because I found gaming to be such a chore when I had to do it consistently. It wasn’t fun anymore, and it wasn’t my avenue. But I’m glad I tried it, because it’s one less thing for me to get through to my actual avenue.

Could storytelling be that avenue? I have no idea. But from the start of it, I like it better than Twitch. Yes, storytelling makes me feel uncomfortable and exposed, but it also gets me excited to figure out a good story and to practice it at an open mic. That first open mic was fun because the audience was so open to listening to my story. I fed off from their reactions and their compliments and it was fun just to reenact a good story from my prolific memory collection. Besides, why not? I’m an awesome storyteller. I am. 

Don’t tell me

I appreciate your concern.

I know you don’t want me to fail.

I know you don’t want me to suffer, to be broke, to be sad, to be judged, mishandled and derailed.

But if one more person tells me to drop what I’m doing

to stop

to quit

to give it all up

I’m gonna say

fuck you.

Don’t tell me to quit my dream.

I already know i haven’t progressed.

I already know that it hasn’t been easy.

You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know?

The problem is, is that I do know.

I hear you. I do.

I totally see what you see too.

How that one kid has had more momentum in the past 3 months than me in the past 4 years.

How I’m still living in a roach infested apartment, while friends are buying houses

getting married

making babies

making money

while I’m in the dark, with my tears, my fears, my endless queries.

What am I to do?

Quit the dream and get a real job?

Shut the fuck up.

Stop telling me to quit my dream.

Make some money.

Do acting as a hobby.

No. If it’s a hobby, it’s not a commitment.

It’s my passion.

Have some compassion.

Leave me the fuck alone!

Don’t tell me.

I already know.