Sunday, July 30, 2006

God and Oswald Vs. The Bitch

Today's post will be illustrated by those hokey Inspirational Posters that are usually found on Middle Management walls, because I don't think there's enough irony in this particular outing.

It’s the last week of Act One, and the big assignment is our pitches (I tell you my great idea for a script, you agree it’s great and want to theoretically buy it.) It’s a little wonky that everything is apparently riding on this thing, which we were just assigned last week, but that’s what class evaluations are for, I guess.

And for all the talk about how my class is a team, we need to support each other, help each other, lift each other up, la la la, now our final assignment is us competing against each other. And it’s not as though that’s not reality, and I don’t fault them for it, but I do think that kind of Cold Reality should’ve been given a place at the kitchen table next to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Lift Each Other Up from the beginning. Now it feels like a bait and switch. Welcome to the Industry, kids.

The long and short of it is that we’re split up into groups of five, we pitch to two groups of executive students, who in turn pick their favorite pitch to pitch to the faculty. So we have two chances to get picked, and we’re competing against 10 of us, I guess, though it’s unclear what happens if both exec groups pick the same pitch.

None of it matters anyway, because I already know mine isn’t gonna make it. My group is an awesome bunch, and at least two other pitches kick my ass out of the game, and I haven’t even heard the OTHER group of five’s stuff. I asked one of the teachers what the point was of continuing through with the pitch if I already know that my idea isn’t gonna be picked. “For the experience” she said with a straight face. Yay miserable experience. I can’t wait.

I go work out my frustration after class. Jump on the ellipticals at the gym, and puzzle over the pitching thing to God. God’s not currently taking my calls, I think He’s puzzling over the Middle Eastern conflict, so I argue with myself for awhile, speaking for both sides: God and me.

What’s the point? The point is you’re supposed to do the damn assignment and shut the hell up. But what’s the point if I already know I’m not gonna be one of the ones picked? Because it’s not a contest, it’s to sharpen your pitching skills so stop the whining and do the damn assignment. But it IS a contest, what else could the end goal of the assignment be except to be one of the ones picked? You are such a brat. What part of “Shut the hell up” don’t you understand? I understand it perfectly, but what you don’t understand is that my classmates are onto me, and it’s come out that I have more experience than them, so if I don’t get picked, then I seemingly am not as great of a writer as everyone suspects I am. So what. You need a kick in the teeth anyway. You came into this program thinking you knew so much, you deserve to be humbled. MONSTROUSLY humbled. So assume the position, whiny little arrogant brat.

I realize that God probably wouldn’t talk to me like this. What I’m hearing is The Bitch In My Head, who likes to take over when God’s busy with other stuff. Many a non-religious folk like to think God would talk EXACTLY like The Bitch In My Head, because God is the one who’s No Fun At All, and makes you feel awful about yourself. I know God’s not like that, but in absence of His presence to kick The Bitch out, The Bitch is more than happy to move in and piss all over the couch.

In desperately trying to think of anything else to dwell on, I’m reminded of Oswald The Sadistic Devotional For The Day, which says “We have the idea that God is leading us towards a particular end of a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.” In other words, it’s the journey, not the destination.

It’s a little disconcerting, because a lot of modern day Christianity espouses the idea that God has a purpose for you, and that purpose is a career, a life, a goal, something that’s tangible. Wherever God has placed you, it’s because He’s got a plan. That’s very comforting to know, that a relationship with Him can be that personal.

Yet Oswald is saying God’s more concerned with the journey. Well, what about His plan? Doesn’t God care a smidgen about the goal? Suppose my goal was to be the Godliest stripper around? Suppose my goal was to be a pious hooker? Would God still care as much about the journey, as opposed to the goal? (What, no Inspirational Poster for a Pious Hooker? DAMN YOU!)

And just as I’m about ready to launch into space, I’m working the elliptical so hard, a sentence jumps into my head.

Let the idea speak for itself.

Ah, there we go. I knew if I threw the phrase “Pious Hooker” out into the ether, God would show up and say Ummmm, no.

Let the idea speak for itself.

This didn’t come from me. I was busy arguing with The Bitch and Oswald. This thought didn’t have a trail, a traceable chain “I thought this, that make me think of that, which made me think of this other thing.” This sentence jumped so clearly and completely into my head from outside myself, that it has to be Him. It’s happened before.

Let the idea speak for itself.

Okay. Seems simple, honest and direct enough. So fine, it’s from God. Let’s concentrate on the journey to let the pitch speak, as opposed to worrying about the goal of whether it’ll get chosen or not, that way Oswald can be happy. Been dead for decades, Oswald has, but what the hey, let's make him smile.

The Bitch isn’t happy, though. But that’s fine. Someone deserves to be miserable around here, and it might as well be her. Since she’ll probably move back in once the idea doesn’t get picked.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #8 – Twilight Singers' cover of “Hyperballad”

It’s originally a Bjork song, and she spins in a universe that’s a little too odd for me, but Greg Dulli and the Twilight Singers did this one on their covers album She Loves You and made it this beautiful wistful meditation.

And even though the lyrics most likely point to a dissatisfied chick whose boyfriend is clueless about her suicidal tendencies because he likes to sleep in, I prefer to extrapolate and lift it up to describe me and God. Not that God sleeps in, and not that He doesn’t know what’s going on with me (and not that I'm suicidal either. To me, throwing things off a cliff = kicking rocks about the whole God business in general.)

But at the very end, where they sing the phrase “Safe up here” over and over for at least a minute, it becomes such an uplifting prayer to belt in the car as I’m driving to class, and I’m able to convince myself that yes, I am safe with God, no matter what I toss over the cliff.

Thank you God, for this song. Thank you for the Twilight Singers, for Bjork, for the magic and generosity and enthusiasm of the art of covering other artist’s songs. Thank you for the concept of being Safe Up Here With You, thank you for the stubborn blinders I put on myself so that I can twist the song to mean whatever means the most to me. Thank you for music, thank you for uplifting, please give me strength to get through this day, because I am two seconds away from Liquid Eyeball state if I have to stare at this computer screen for another six hours in class. Please keep my eyeballs solid and in their sockets, because I need them to stare at cute boys and other examples of your majesty. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amen.

We live on a mountain
Right at the top
Beautiful view
From the top of the mountain
Every morning I walk over to the edge
And throw little things off
Car parts, bottles and cutlery
Or whatever I find lying around

It's become a habit
A way
To start the day

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

It's early morning
No one is awake
I'm back at my cliff
Still throwing things off
I listen to the sounds they make
On their way down
I follow with my eyes 'til they crash
Imagine what my body would sound like
Slamming against those rocks

When it lands
Will my eyes
Be closed or open?

I go through all this
Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

Safe up here
Safe up here
Safe up here
Safe up here
Safe up here
Safe up here
Safe up here

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Writing On Another Planet

Most of the time, I think I’m writing on another planet. It doesn’t bug me so much, because I’m the only writer on that particular planet, so how would I know what’s considered odd, because hey, it all makes sense to me.

But participating in Act One has brought up the realization that my planet isn’t exactly twirling in a known universe. This may not be a bad thing because as a writer, you want to have a distinctive and original voice. But “distinctive” and “original” have to be words that other people say about you, you can’t say them about yourself. Kind of like how on any reality show, a contestant can’t call themselves “Crazy” it has to be ascribed to them by a competing contestant. Because some adjectives have to be born out of stuff that you DO, not stuff that you say you are. But I think that I can safely say that my Amy planet is a little out of whack in the Act One orbit.

For example, there was this scene exercise last week where we had to write a scene with the elements they provided to us. It’s a romantic comedy where Emily and Donovan meet in an outpatient pre-op room.

Emily’s getting a central line taken out, because her cancer’s in remission, so she’s a happy camper. Donovan is getting a central line put in (alluding that he has cancer), so he’s not. Emily asks Donovan out for Jell-O in the hospital caferia, he turns her down, yet when he hears the nurse talking to Emily about her central line, Donovan changes his tune. He asks Emily about her cancer, “Emily recounts a bit of the cancer battle she’s just come through. Donovan’s interest increases and he questions her about her story. It feels like a real connection to both of them.” But then Emily realizes that Donovan’s getting his central line put in for cancer treatment, she gets weirded out, and turns Donovan down when he wants to take her up on the Jell-O invite. End o’ scene.

And when I get this assignment, I stare at the pages and think oh blegh. It’s a cancer scene. It smacks of Hallmarkian Piece O’ Crapola. It’s exactly what I was worried Act One was gonna teach you how to write, exactly what I DIDN’T wanna write. Because c’mon, seriously. Jell-O? A date for Jell-O? Are we going to a sock hop afterwards?

I should interject and say that this is the only assignment thus far in two weeks that I’ve had a blegh reaction too, lest anyone think I’m not learning a lot and having a reasonably okay time in the whole Act One program. Because I am.

However, this assignment blew big ass chunks. And it’s up to me to take these bleghy elements and turn them into something that I could reasonably stomach, and fulfill the requirements of the assignment.

So what I end up coming up with is turning Emily into a chatterbrained annoying twit, and Donovan into a huge jerk who interrupts her nonstop monologuing to tell her that her eyebrows are crooked. The ones she drew on. Because the radiation made them fall out.

Yes. Yes, I am going to hell.

Oh dear, oh dear me. What kind of worldview do I HAVE!? Ms. Pessimism, Glorious Defender of the Cynic and Obnoxious, C’est Moi. Well, I don’t think anyone else is gonna come up with it. So there’s that. It make sense on my planet. The one on the frozen reaches of Pluto, where nobody human with a compassionate heart dwells.

We turn in our assignment and a few days later are divided into groups, where we take turns reading the scenes out loud, and our moderator gives us notes on them. Needless to say, mine’s the only one with a vicious eyebrow slam. The moderator tells me that the eyebrow joke stopped her cold, but that she also thought it was a brilliant choice. However, “I must give you a backhanded compliment. I hate your characters.” Well good, because I didn’t like them either. Nowhere in the assignment did it say anything like You must love these characters and treasure them as you do your major internal organs.

Moderator goes on to gently remind me that this IS a romantic comedy, and we should care for these people a smidgen, since eventually they are going to end up together. Yes, but see on Amy Planet, Emily the Twit and Donovan the Jerk DO end up together, and she draws crooked eyebrows on him when his eyebrows fall out, and they chuckle ruefully together, and it’s a lovely scene that’s many many scenes from now. But okay. I should write a romantic comedy scene that fits a romantic comedy definition on Planet Earth, since nobody writes paychecks for screenwriting on Amy Planet. There’s no money on Amy Planet, by the way. But there’s a lot of BEER! Kidding, kidding.

Anyhow, when Moderator gives us back our scenes, she has said a lot of very nice things like “I love your strong choices and general style. Very daring choices for characters. They all really live on the page and this cuts through the sappy factor that the cancer issue could have brought.” So it looks like I wasn’t the only one that thought SAPOLA when getting the assignment. Which makes me feel better. But I’m not going for Jell-O anytime soon.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy 7 – Music that Transcends

I don’t know how many of you know about Pandora , the internet jukebox where you create your own radio station and it’ll play songs similar to songs of the artist you initially program, but seriously, it’s God’s gift to the internet.

I swear, I swear, I’m not trying to endorse anything. Nobody pays me to mention this stuff, and Pandora is free anyway, so you’re only depriving yourself should you choose not to muck around with it.

Music is really important to me as a writer. I usually design a soundtrack to whatever script I’m working on, but when I get tired of the same songs, I go to Pandora for variety.

Pandora is awesome, because it’ll throw up all sorts of songs from bands that nobody has ever heard of as well as bands you have heard of (and on my Twilight Singers station, every seventh song is a Twilight Singers song, and that’s ALWAYS good.) It can be a hit and miss affair, you’re allowed to skip forward x amount of songs per hour, but you can always flip back and forth to your other stations. I have a Replacements station , a Garbage Station , and a Smithereens station, so I can usually find something to rock out to.

Musicians may spit their beer all over the computer screen when I say this, but I suspect a band has a better chance of getting their music out to an audience than a writer has to get her script read. With the advent of things like Myspace and Pandora, I’ve discovered the teeniest bands that I never would’ve found otherwise. They all have cult followings, they’ve developed sizable audiences. And yet Purple Monkey script will be lucky if fifty people ever read it in its lifetime.

But music’s got the edge anyway. Nothing sounds like music (duh.) Whereas words can be read, heard, seen. It touches difference sensory whatchamadoodles or something. I know a fine actor Franklin, who pays no attention to me whatsoever, and he once posted on his Myspace page about music. I’m cribbing from him here, because I’m too tired to rephrase in Amyspeak. He can’t spell though, so I’m cleaning a few things up for him.

Music is the purest and most beautiful of art forms. It truly is a wonderful gift from God. No matter what we do, we cannot change it, only experience it. Everything it needs is already contained in itself...A minor chord is sad and a major is happy, no matter how the person playing guitar feels. Love, hate, fear, joy, melancholy and any other describable or indescribable emotion is already there. We have but to listen and we hear it. In actuality, it has no substance, yet it'll hit you like a ton of bricks. It transcends language and dialect, intelligence and belief and is an ethereal bit of that thing that connects all of us.

This week has been better, thank you who have sent well wishes. I can’t even say I’m coming up from the gloom, because the Act One classes have kept me so distracted that I occasionally forget I had one of the worst days in recent memory last week, so I don't remember there there is gloom to come up from.

And in fact, some good news did come through, as I found out I’ve advanced to the next stage of a tiny fellowship I applied for. There’s a few more levels to clear, and I’ve been in this position before, where I made it up one step, only to be smacked out at the next round, but as an old boss of mine used to say, “It’s always time to open the champagne” when it comes to celebrating steps on the screenwriting path, because you never know if this step is your last. I didn’t open champagne (no more job, remember), but a few beers were quaffed as I did my Act One homework for that night.

So as I’m hammering away at the Act One homework for last night (my keyboard has never gotten such a workout before. Or my fingertips. Or my eyeballs. They’re ready to melt out of my head, people,) I’m staring at the computer screen with hardly any breaks for seven hours a day) Pandora spits a song out through my speakers. I’m the type of person where a song really has to grab me in order for me to pay attention, but if it does, I instantly stop everything I’m doing, enthralled to the melody.

The song’s called “Drowned” from a band called Halloween, Alaska. Yeah, I know. Who’s heard of a band called that, right? Well, apparently the folks on The O.C. have, as they’ve used songs on one of their episodes. The O.C. is hipper than me. I am sad.

The song starts off mid tempo, thoughtful, the bass line is carrying most of it. And just when you think that the lyric “All around you is love” is quite lovely, but I don’t need to hear it four times in a row, it TAKES OFF in this amazing sonic rush and roar. And the singer’s just wailing “I’ll show you drowned” in this awesome F YOU kinda way. It dips, and zooms around the room a couple of times and cuts back to nothing but the bass line like it was no big deal at all. What? I do this all the time. No big deal.

And if that WAS all, it’d be fabulous on its own, but it keeps going. Now it’s a chorus of voices joining the bass line and a plinking piano, and they harmonize to this line.

Hope won’t weigh you down.

Which is such a startling clear cut realization into my current conditions that I was left at a loss. Maybe God’s speaking to me through the song. I like thinking that God’s an indie rock kind of Deity. But it’s bigger than that. He uses music because it’s pure, like Franklin says. This song wrecks me, in a way that no script could. It lifts me up, it shoves my face into a pan of Hope and swishes me around in it. And I come out sputtering and blinking and thinking well, maybe they’ve got a point.

Dear God, thank you for this song. Thank you for this band with the strange name and the Myspace page where I could download the song. Thank you for music, for its universal open door into emotion, thank you for the idea that Hope Won’t Weigh Me Down. Thank you for Hope in general, and help me to remember that in the darker moments, it’s not out of my reach, it’s only a click away on my Itunes.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Pain, the Silence, the Muppets

Today’s post will be illustrated by Muppets , because nobody expresses abject fear, disgust, despair, or just plain psychotic-ness better than the Muppets. And plus I also finally figured out how to use my DVD Capture program that’s been sitting on my computer for three years now. Yep, that’s me. Amy the Technological Genius.

So walking with my Savior (or as I like to call it “Being the Chickie In The Basket and God’s The Swedish Chef Who Just Dribbled Me Into the Basketball Hoop And Scored Two Points Off My Life.”) has led to a few bumps in the road. I was probably due, things had been far too complacent for far too long. Life wise, I mean. Spirituality, well that’s a constant struggle. “This is the song that never ends! Yes, it goes on and on my friend!” No, wait, that’s Lamb Chop. Whatever.

I have been rejected for the TV Track that Act One offers through its Writing Program. They did say from the beginning that they discriminate on age, and that something like 22 people were applying for something like 11 spots, so I wasn’t the only one rejected. But it smarts something FIERCE when you suspect (I didn’t confirm, it’s kinda pathetic, “Please tell me why I wasn’t good enough? Pretty please?”) that your age overruled your writing skills, your experience in the industry, and your MONSTER sense of discipline. I’m seven, and already over the hill. Blegh. (UPDATE! Apparently, my age had nothing to do with it, but more people were more PASSIONATE about TV than I was. Hmmm. Huh. Okay, I'll give 'em that.)

But no, no, it’s all for the best! It’s God’s will! God doesn’t want you to write for TV! Or if you really think you’re supposed to write for TV, find another opportunity if it kills you so bad! But if not, don’t worry, God’s got something better planned! Yep, He sure does! Don’t you fret your pretty little head. Cheer up, lil’ camper, things’ll get better.

And then I get home and get the email from my boss saying I have lost my job.


It’s not personal. They’re shutting my whole division down. Movie Studio That I Will Still Not Name Because Maybe They’ll Reassign Me doesn’t have much foresight when it comes to the future, and rather than let my division demonstrate its viability since our product hasn’t been released yet, and every single other movie studio has a division like us that’s profitable, but WHATEVER, LET’S SHUT ‘EM DOWN! WHY NOT? IT’S NOT LIKE PEOPLE NEED DAY JOBS OR ANYTHING, has decided to kick us to the curb.

To be honest, it wasn’t like this came out of left field. There had been rumors and murmurs for a good four months now, but I decided that I was NOT going to worry about it, as our good Lord commands us not to (see below post) and if it was indeed true, there wasn’t anything I could do to stop or change it, so I’m just gonna do my thing over here, I’m gonna apply for Act One, Jesus Take The Wheel, blah blah blah.

But it still doesn’t stop the feeling of being sucker punched. Ask any boxer. Being hit still hurts, no matter how many times you get hit, no matter how many times you anticipate it.

So I do what any self-respecting boxer who’s been sucker punched would do. I sink down to the ground and bawl my eyes out. (What? They don’t do that? Oh, they do it on the inside, mister. Trust me.)

I’m SCARED! I yell out to God in the empty house because Roomies Heckle and Jekyll have those things called jobs that I don’t have anymore. I’m SCARED! HELP ME! WHAT DO I DO!? WHAT DO I DO FOR F’S SAKE!?

Knock it off. This is not God talking, this is the Bitchily Pragmatic Side O’Amy, the one who doesn’t put up with anything. Not procrastination, not tears, not abject despair, not refusing to go to the gym, not ignoring phone calls or emails because I just want to sleep. She’s psychotic in a bad way (not like Crazy Harry psychotic in a funny way) and she never goes away. I hate her. I want God to answer me, I get her instead. Get off the floor, Bitchy Prago says, You know exactly what you have to do. Same thing you’ve been doing for a week. You’re enrolled in Act One, and you’ll do that for the next month. You’re much better off being in Act One and not having a job, than not having a job and not being in Act One. So stop with the crying like a damn baby and get off the floor.

But what do I do about severance? Health Insurance? Holy crap, I’m on an unpaid leave of absence. They could technically screw me out of EVERYTHING. Could they? Could they? Crank up the Paranoid Fantasies, crank up the Fluttering From Mom, The 4’11 Phone Harpy Who Anticipates The Worst Of Every Situation And Probably Where Bitchy Prago Got Her Start. I’m HOSED! HOSED, I TELL YOU!

You don’t know jack right now because you haven’t talked to Human Resources, sniffs Bitchy Prago, Things could be fine, there could be an option for reassignment someplace else in the company or something. You’ve got five years there. You just got a stellar performance review. This is HOLLYWOOD we’re talking about! There is no such thing as TENURE! I’m HOSED! Shut the fuck up. (Sorry, you made me say it.) Ahem. As I said, you don’t know anything right now because you haven’t talked to Human Resources. So get up off the fing floor and stop this nonsense. Besides, aren’t you supposed to do something like trust God?

Yes, yes, I’m supposed to trust God. itrustGoditrustGoditrustGod. What DOES THAT LOOK LIKE NOW!? I’m looking through my bedroom doorway down the hall like the Almighty is gonna come strolling down. “You rang?”

God? God? Anybody up there? Out there? Anywhere? Hello? Please silence the Bitch In My Head? Send Mr. Holy Spirit Of Reassurance? Please? Please?

Can you at least just put one foot on the floor, ya big non-trusting baby? Put one foot on the floor. Then push up. You can stand up. You’ve done it all your life, save for the newborn months. Hey! There’s alcohol in the kitchen! BOOZE! Go get the BOOZE!

Now, I get up. Told ya you could stand up, you moron. I drink a few White Russians, which instantly stop the tears, but more importantly Silences The Bitch In My Head. Which God chose not to do, for some reason. Settle back down in front of the computer. I’ve got homework for Act One, after all. I’m a writer. A writer writes.

But this is what I don’t get. I called out to Him in my time of distress. I cast all my cares upon Him, I begged, I cried, there was no reason in the world that He wouldn’t have answered me. I’m not asking for an angel to materialize in the kitchen, and rest a wing on my brow. Just that still small voice in my soul. And when I listen, all I hear is the Bitch.

Unless…unless the Bitch IS God. Oh fuck that. That CAN’T be right, it just CAN’T be. Our God is a loving God, right? Our God wants to give us good things? Our God does not act like a militant uncaring Bitch? Our God does not tell us to go get White Russians in the kitchen, right?

Is it half God, half the Devil (or “the enemy” as modern day Christians like to refer to him)? Why wouldn’t God be louder? When His child needs Him?

That is what this blog is all about. Because I haven’t a clue why He wouldn’t be louder. I did everything allegedly right (the booze was probably not recommended) Why is there still silence?

Oh, I’m fine now. NOW. Life goes on, and the punch fades and there’s more homework to distract me. There might be even be potentially good news from a completely different quadrant tomorrow. But maybe not (now that I've jinxed myself by mentioning it.) And on we go. Because we have to. Because that’s the way life works.

This is the song that never ends. Yes, it goes on and on my friend…

What a bummer. I need something cheerful to end this post with.! Here's a shot from my favorite Muppet sketch of all time. "The Cat Came Back." If you all have never seen this sketch (on the Linda Ronstadt episode in season 5) you have no idea what true Muppet hilarity is. This is Gaffer the Cat, and her owner Benny (not in this shot, and not Rowf, who's playing a banjo behind Gaffer) keeps trying to give her away, shoot her out a canon, blow her up, but all to no avail, as the song goes, because "The Cat Came Back. She couldn't stay away. She was sittin' on the porch the very next day. The cat came back, she didn't wanna roam. The very next day she was home sweet home."

Maybe God's Gaffer the Cat. But I'm pretty sure I'd trip over Her, if that was the case.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #6 – Yay flowers (again)

When I first kicked around the idea of starting a Christian themed blog, I did some research on what kind of Christian themed blogs were already out there. There’s a BUNCH of them, but precious few have any kind of personality. I couldn’t read many of them for longer than five seconds because I’d gag on the pontificating of selected Bible verses, or the theoretical beard stroking while mulling over various theological concepts. In short, they were flat out boring. No wonder nobody likes Christians. They're not that interesting.

But today, I am a Pontificating Bible Spouter. Don’t worry, I’m not turning into a freak, the only reason I know this verse is because I just read the chapter of Matthew from start to finish a few days ago. Plus there’s a bunch of Bible sites online you can do a search for phrases like “lilies of the field” and come up with the one you’re thinking of.

Matthew 6:28-33

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

This flower was one of ones I saw on the retreat last weekend, and I am again amazed at the level of detail and attention that God puts into slapping one of these unnamed flowers together. And how long does it live? Few weeks? A month?

I’m not one of those crazy kids that wants to live forever, never have been. I’m envious at the blazing beauty and short life of this flower.

And after the rock ‘em sock ‘em PUNCH ‘em bad news that I got from multiple quadrants today, I’m desperately trying to believe in what Matthew is saying. God crafts beautiful flowers for a month. He will take care of you. He will take care of you.

Dear God, thank you for this flower. Thank you for ALL flowers, the ones I see and the ones I don’t see. Thank you for your Divine attention to detail, thank you for your promises to take care of your children more than you will this stunning example of blazing beauty (though personally, I think the flower deserves it more.) Please help me to believe it, please help me to feel it. Please smack me on the forehead and lovingly say, “Yo dumbass, I didn’t bring you out to Los Angeles and let you go through everything you have only to rip the rug out from under you. I gots the PLANS, I do! TRUST ME, MORON! Nothing you can think of is gonna top the plans I have for you. ‘CAUSE I’M GOD AND I CAN DO SOME CRAZY SHIT! JUST TRUST ME AND SEE!”

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Walking the Labyrinth

Dear Act One Classmates Who I Met Over The Weekend.

Hello, my name is Amy The Writer. But I’m also Amy The Bwak Bwak Chicken Coward, because I did not tell you all about this blog yet. It didn’t seem appropriate. On Friday night, when we all individually stood and said our name, where we were from, our favorite movie, and the craziest thing we’ve ever done, it seemed superfluous to drop in “oh, and by the way I have a blog called, go check it out.” Starting this blog isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever done, what I told you that night still beats it (shooting a guy in Germany last year with a plastic pellet gun because he shot Winifred first. Great story, will tell blog readers about it some other time.)

I did mention to some of you in conversations over the weekend here and there that I have a blog, so I’ll wait until you guys ask me more about it before directing you here.

And I must amend the statements below. I may not be asking a lot of questions in class after all. I think the best course of action for the next month is Shut Up And Listen. To our instructors and to all of you. So that’s what I’ll do. Unless something comes up. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind. Since I do it, oh, about every five minutes.

But I am a Bwak Bwak Chicken Coward. That’s the bottom line.


We had the retreat at a place called Serra Retreat in Malibu. It wasn’t on the beach, it was a mile up the mountain on the other side of the PCH. The views were very nice, but I think I may have been the only one who realized that what we were looking at was in fact Malibu Colony, where a bunch o’ celebrities have multi-million dollar homes.

Thankfully, there was lots of fun flora and fauna to look at and the other mountains, which were pretty inspiring. It was a weekend chock full o’ stuff, a lot of which I’m still processing in my own somewhat Slow Like Turtle way. But I do think it’ll be interesting to share this one thing with all of you.

In between the classes, we were encouraged to roam the grounds and Reflect On Stuff. This is a Franciscan Retreat, so there was a lot of Catholic statues around, which didn’t resonate as much as it should have for my plebeian Presbyterian taste. But there was this thing. A Labyrinth. There was no minotaur roaming around, nor was David Bowie there trying to turn my baby brother into a goblin.

It’s made out of rocks on the ground, but there’s some literature under glass nearby, and it explains the correct way to walk the labyrinth will be to think ahead of time “Where am I?” and “What do I need to receive?” Then you’re supposed to let the distractions fall away as you walk the labyrinth, then pray in the middle, and finally “take what you gain with you as you leave.”

So off I go. Where am I now? Well, that part’s easy enough. I know exactly where I am. I’m here, in Los Angeles. It’s where I’m supposed to be. I continue to walk the path, it’s really narrow, like a cue line in Disneyland. (Seriously, just try to walk the cue line for the Alice In Wonderland ride . You can tell that the Disney engineers in 1955 did not anticipate the future American obesity problem.)

It occurs to me that there’s only way to go here. Forward. It’s not a maze, where you can make a wrong turn. There’s not divergent paths to steal you away. And I can extrapolate that to my life currently. I know I’m supposed to be pursuing writing, and I can count myself blessed that there aren’t any distractions from that. There’s no doubt, no wiffle waffling, should I be an actress? An accountant? A bank teller? A waitress? I’ve always known. I’m still wrestling with the idea that solid knowledge like that isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t jinx me. Embracing it will not destroy me. It’s not prideful. Seriously, I thought for the longest time that it was. Longest time meaning up until about a week ago.

The labyrinth is designed in such a way that’s a little sneaky, it twists to the right when you want to go left. You think you should be getting closer to the center when it looks like you’re getting farther away. Just like the faith you’re supposed to have.

I get to the middle and Reflect. I trust God to lead because I’ve got nothing else to do. That sounds really bad, doesn’t it? Let’s try again. I trust God to lead because nothing else gets me anywhere. I trust it’s God leading, rather than my own understanding of my life. Even though it really smells like it’s my own understanding of my life.

If there’s anything I’m starting to learn about myself, it’s that I should go ahead and trust in God, and SAY it’s God, BELIEVE it’s God, even if I can’t understand or explain why it feels like it’s myself INSTEAD of God. And my own understanding (which the Bible says I’m not supposed to lean on anyway) will catch up eventually.

See, I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since I was sixteen. Stole my mother’s typewriter and barricaded myself in my room, only coming out occasionally to ask her for another ream of paper because I had run out. It never occurred to me at sixteen that I should ask God what He wanted me to do with my life, and I went to church every Sunday like a good girl.

As I got older and kept writing, the two ideas still seemed separate. There’s God. There’s my career. I’ll try to be as good of a person as I can and try to make it as a screenwriter. God doesn’t care about my career so much as He cares about me being a good person.

It wasn’t until I got out to Los Angeles and heard a guest speaker at church say something to the effect of whatever your talent is, whatever you’re really good at, that talent comes from God, and He WANTS you to pursue it for His glory. This blew my mind. You mean, everything I’ve been working on is actually something God wanted me to pursue the entire time? This was a career aspiration that God had blessed from the get go, and I never realized it until now? Holy CRAP!

So ye old understanding finally caught up with God. I’ve already talked about how I reluctantly applied for Act One even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it until AFTER I got in. Again, God leading, and my own understanding following several miles behind.

So “What do I need to receive?” A Quicker Amy Understanding? That’d be nice. Or a more fierce Trusting In God?

As I stood in the middle and puzzled it over, I figure that what I really need to remember is that I should go ahead and act, even if I can’t explain why I should. That could lead to some really bad decisions if you wanted to take it towards a sinister turn. Certainly for most people, it’s wise counsel to wait and analyze and compare and think things through before acting. But in my life, I would be missing out on stuff, because I take SO LONG to analyze stuff out. Exhibit A: this blog. So maybe it’s not the right advice for everyone. But it’s good Amy Advice. Act Now. Understanding Will Catch Up Later. It’s Usually God Behind It Anyway.

Then I left the labyrinth. Let’s hope I “take what you gain with you as you leave.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Enforced Secret Joy #5 – Noxema Microbead Cleanser

Not like I’m trying for freebies here, but if you happen to be thinking about switching facial cleansers, this one by Noxzema is really interesting. It really does leaves your face all tingly in surprising ways. Because it was so surprising, and quite refreshing after the initial surprise, it qualifies as an Enforced Secret Joy, albeit a short one.

Thank you, Lord, for Noxzema (though they’re such a huge multimillion collar conglomerate that they don’t especially need Your blessings.) Thank you for tingly feelings on my face, for the fact I have a bathroom, that I live in an industrialized nation that has running water, and that I have income to spend on facial cleansers. Thank you for surprises of all kinds, big and microbead. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Today is it, people. Today I need prayer, prayer, prayer and other assorted good thoughts if prayer is not your thing because today is the day I trudge to a four day retreat in Malibu in which I will potentially piss off a lot of people SKIP WITH HOLY JOY TOWARDS MY FUTURE AND MAKE NEW AND EXCITING FRIENDS!

Act One starts today, and they moved it up to the afternoon, which means I have time to squeeze in an early morning show of
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest, which I’m REALLY thankful for, because there was no way I was going to be stuck on a canyon retreat for four days while everyone else gets to watch Johnny Depp do his thing. I’ve been watching Johnny Depp for a long time. I have VHS tapes of 21 Jump Street in my closet that I taped off the TV from back in 1988. I SAW HIM FIRST! Ha ha ha.

I don't think there will be S'mores at this retreat. I have to miss BOTH my church services on Sunday because of this retreat. Grrrrrrrr.

I’ve been wrestling with the issue of How Do I Blog About Act One all week (because not blogging about it is not an option.) Here are my choices.

1. Never tell my classmates I have this blog, and blog about whatever I want.

Hmmm. A little cowardly. Not exactly an honest way to live. A little two-faced. A little high schoolish.

2. Never tell my classmates I have this blog until the program is over, and blog about whatever I want.

Now we’re REALLY getting two-faced.

3. Tell my classmates I have this blog and limit my musings to the program only and what we’re learning, not my classmates.

Somewhat better. A judicious balance. Safe. Honest. Polite. But suppose they do something stupid? What’s this “they” bit? You could do something stupid, too. I have no problem blogging about my own stupidity, and I do it all the time. Suppose they piss me off? What in the world do you think they’re gonna do?

Here’s the thing. We all wanna be really really good at something in life, and while I’d like to think it’s writing for me, what I really excel at RIGHT NOW, and need no further training on, is Spinning Paranoid Fantasies. If I’ve come into physical contact with you ever in my life, I guarantee I’ve spun up something about you for why you haven’t done something I wanted you to do, or why you did something I didn’t want you to do. Why did they say that? Why didn’t they say that? Why didn’t they call? Why did they look that way at me? What did they mean when they said that? They hate me. THEY HATE ME.

There’s some famous quote that goes along the lines of, “If everyone knew how little time everyone else spends thinking of them, then” the rest of the quote, which I don’t remember, but I’m sure it’s along the line of the poles reversing, the ocean swallowing the sun, dogs and cats living together and challenging Supreme Court laws about adopting peacocks, la la la. And that quote is made for people like me. I am fully aware of it, AND I CAN’T STOP MYSELF.

So rather than looking into medication for this kind of thing, I think the absolute worst of my future classmates, and all the stupid things they will do that will upset me and I will want to blog about and won’t be able to, if I pick door #3.

See, it’s really hard for me to be positive. About anything. Always has been. I talk to God about it all the time, and I don’t feel like we’ve made progress. If you’re going to be a grump, at least be entertaining about it.

It’s a thing. I look at a situation full of potential like Act One, and all I can see is the fact that I will be assigned a roommate for four days, and what if she turns out to be annoying? What if she turns out to be really interesting and way cooler than you? Yeah but…what if she’s not?

It’s obviously going to be fine and a moot point by next Tuesday, but…we’re not there yet, are we?

4. Tell my classmates I have this blog, and blog about whatever I want, including them, if they do something that makes me think/laugh/mad/fear for the future of our nation.

Ah, the absolute drop dead honest approach. It could be an interesting experiment, to live life boldly and honestly. The idea being, that whatever I blog about, I would have talked to the person ahead of time and told them I was going to blog about it. It would force me out of my anti-social shell. It would not make you a lot of friends. People would not talk to you because they would think you’d post their conversation online. A-HA! That sounds GREAT! Not talking to people! WHOO HOO!


Dear Act One Classmates Who I Will Be Meeting Later This Afternoon.

Hello. My name is Amy The Writer. I also answer to Amy The Grump. Eeyore is my Disney Spirit Animal. My favorite nightshirt has Oscar The Grouch on it.

I have already spun many paranoid fantasies about how you all are scary in a variety of ways: spiritually, creatively, personally, sartorially. This of course, will mean that you all are nothing but lovely people, full of God’s grace, light, beauty and truth.

That scares me also.

If you’re reading this, I must have told you all in some room on a Malibu retreat (and there better be air conditioning or else I’m breaking out my Forbidden Spaghetti Strap Tank Top) about this blog. You want to get to know me, read this blog. Pick an entry, any entry. You don’t have to read the whole thing, just as far as you want. You’ll get the idea pretty soon.

But most importantly, please act exactly the same as you normally would around anyone else who isn’t a self-proclaimed grump. Don’t be scared. You are most likely automatically right in any situation, because I’m Amy The Grump, and I lose a lot of arguments. I’m wrong about 80% of the time. Just ask God. He has a lot of fun using me as a prime example of What Not To Do. Thank Him that I’m around to be that obvious of an example, it takes the pressure off a LOT of people.

I vow to be as politely honest as possible around you, and I hope that you do the same for me. Politeness is key here. I know how to do it, I was raised in the South.

I hope that we get to be Great Friends. I hope you understand if I don’t talk as much as I type. And I hope you understand that I reserve the right to do a complete 180, and be the happiest Chatty Cathy you ever saw.

The Rules Of This Blog.

Everyone goes by an assumed name here, except for me (and Johnny Depp. Or anybody else on TV or movies.)

I usually post on Sundays and Fridays, except for the days that I don’t (and depending on our Act One workload, this could change too.)

I don’t comment on comments. Nothing personal.

I always ask questions. ALWAYS. This can piss people off. Ooopsie.

Welcome to the blog. Let the Act One era begin.


Faithful Readers O The Blog, I will still be in Malibu on Sunday, so let’s give me some room and say my Sunday post will again be bumped to Monday (maybe Tuesday.) I think it’s too much to ask that this retreat has wireless. Unless it’s not. We’ll see.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Well, Amy, What Have You Learned?

My Mom has told me that she doesn’t always read my blog because sometimes the entries are “too long.” And while I don’t understand not wanting to read every single syllable that your child - created from your DNA, born of your loins (okay, it was a c-section, but METAPHOR, people!), and product of the best in child-rearing knowledge that you had at the time- has written, I will go ahead and tell you, Mumsie-kins, this blog entry won’t be your favorite, because it’s loooooooooooooong. But I mention Dad at the end! But no, no, go ahead and don’t read. Maybe print it out? For the long winter’s night when you have nothing but time? Several years from now?

This blog is an experiment. There is no guarantee that it will work.

That was in the first paragraph of the very first blog post I wrote, back here in January.

Thus, I’m gonna blog six months at a time, the effectiveness of which I’ll evaluate at the end whether to continue or pull the plug.

And here we are, at the end of the first six months. So evaluating effectiveness should commence. Forthwith. Henceforth. Blabbity blah blah.

The reason behind this blog is fairly straightforward: I’m a screenwriting chick trying desperately to feel God’s presence in my life.

The question is, I believe in Him, and yet I can’t FEEL Him. I pray to Him, I know He can hear me, I don’t FEEL Him.

So did ya? C’mon, c’mon, Amy, did ya?

Well, not exactly. But I feel like I’m closer. Does that make sense? I’m slowly moving away from the idea of the Almighty Thunderbolt That’ll Shake The Spirit Into Me. The idea that one day, God would aim His Salvation Squirt Gun at me and unleash a torrent of Holy Spirit SOOOOOOO strong that it would shiver me to the core, and I’d be ON FIRE FOR GOD.

Though honestly, whether we all admit that to ourselves or not, we all want that. Irrefutable proof that there is a God, the Holy Spirit, the Almighty Thunderbolt, The Spiritual Squirt Gun, and He knows that I, me, this particular person, exists. We all want the burning bush.

Oswald Chambers has a lot to say about this, actually. And though I grumble/mumble/bumble about his overuse of the Guilt and Blame button, I’d like to think that I’m halfway okay enough to give credit where credit’s due, therefore here’s what Oswald’s said about the subject that has stuck with me:


“A life of faith is not one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagle’s wings, but is a life of day in and day out consistency; a life of walking without fainting.”

and here

“We look for God to manifest Himself to His children: God only manifests Himself in His children.”

and me, me, me, I'm over here!

“God will give us touches of inspiration when He sees we are not in danger of being led away by them. We must never make our moments of inspiration our standard; our standard is our duty.”

And just so we don’t get too high faultin', let’s look to my favorite band The Twilight Singers , from “Martin Eden” on Blackberry Belle

how wide?
how deep the river?
black- as dark as night
how long?
how far?
i'll know when i get to the other side

So I’m starting to get what the presence of God is NOT. I used to think that about dating, actually. “I don’t know what I want, but I know what I don’t want. And if I keep going through and xing out what I don’t want, eventually what’s left is what I want.”

The problem with that line of thinking is that you could live your entire life xing out the stuff you don’t want. Because it’s ENDLESS. No bipolar boys. No alcoholics. No slackers without jobs. No bums without their own transportation. No bozos who won’t let go of the obsession over my ass. But at some point, I think it’s healthier to think and search for what I DO want. Intelligence. Taller than me. Is really really good at something that I’m not. Can have a conversation. Able to pick me up and carry me around for no reason at all.

So I need to start thinking and searching for what I do want from God. And it’s a connection. What does that mean? Not sure. But that’s what I want. I think it’s okay to ask that from God. As long as I’m open to the idea that it’s not going to be coming literally from above.

Back to the very first blog post:

I make good decisions, sometimes. I try to make the right decision all the time. But I don’t make it all the time.

Hey, I’m consistent! I still make bad decisions! I think there won’t ever be a time in my life where I WON’T make bad decisions. Because I will ALWAYS be reaching for the beer! Or the vanilla vodka! Or the energy drink with an wine chaser and wake up with zits on my chin! I’ll ALWAYS go for the Cadbury egg. Or the Trader Joe’s chocolate caramel thingies! ‘Cause they’re yummy! But bad! Yay!

So what’s a screenwriting chickie who believes in God though she’s never felt His presence to do?

Start a blog, I guess. See if that jump starts anything.

Yes, this blog has changed things. It’s done what I wanted it to do, which is to focus on God much more intently. I’m always thinking about it, because I wanna talk about SO MUCH out there. So much that bugs me, so much that I don’t get, so much that amazes me, so much that I WANT to get. And hope I will. Someday.

See if anyone else out there feels the struggle I do.

I’ll probably have to do a Hope And Pray on this one, since this didn’t exactly rattle the bushes as much as I had hoped. Or maybe you’re just on the shy non-commenting side? It’s cool, I understand. It’s probably better for me to think that there are BILLIONS out there who read and think the same thing as me and just don’t wanna out themselves rather than do an All Call I Demand You Show Yourself NOW, and have nothing but crickets.

And probably chuck it all in six months.

Six months is here, kiddies. Do I chuck it all?

I don’t think I can. There’s still more work to be done, more thoughts to think, more actions to take. Things are just starting to happen.

In a serendipitous moment so perfect it could only be orchestrated by God, I’m about to embark on a possibly life changing new endeavor.

I’ve been accepted into Act One’s Screenwriting Summer Program. They’ve been getting increasing buzz over the years. They train “people of faith for careers in mainstream film & TV.” And there’s a whole slew of working professionals that come in to teach and mentor.

When the idea first started buzzing around in my head that I should apply to this program, my reaction was typical. No, I don’t wanna. That’s my reaction to most everything in life. No, I don’t wanna. Get out of bed? Go to the gym? Work on my script? No, I don’t wanna. I don’t waaaaaaaaaaannnnnna! Date this guy? Wait, does he have a job?

I didn’t want to, because I thought Act One was all about creating overtly religious stuff. Like they would teach you to write stories about dying cancer moms reconciling with rebellious children who regain their faith in God at the funeral or some dreck like that. I don’t write dreck like that, nor do I want to learn how.

Then for awhile I thought that maybe I was being stubborn, and that kind of dreck is EXACTLY what God wants me to write. Everything else I’ve written has never gotten anywhere and it must be because it wasn’t God dreck and God wants God dreck. So I reluctantly applied, very certain that, given my industry résumé, and my level of writing skill, I’d get in. There was no doubt in my mind. Some things you just know and I just knew that I’d be getting in. Arrogant little snot. Or maybe it’s faith? Arrogant little snot who has arrogant faith.

Regardless, I did get in and I promptly went into a small-ish downward spiral. God wants me to write God dreck! It’s a prison sentence! Subvert my personality and write Hallmark crap! Goodbye cruel world! This Amy will be turning into one of those insufferable Happy Chipper Christians and she won’t ever say the F word again! Mom will be ecstatic! She won't even have gotten this far in the blog entry because it's already too long, and she'll be ecstatic anyway!

The orientation materials contained a homework list and three books to read before the program started. One of them was this one.

And as I read the essays, I realized that these writers (who will be teaching me this summer) don’t wanna write God dreck either. They do wanna write about truth, and they wanna do it in a way that’s professional and acceptable by industry standards. One of them says “I don’t have to give the answer. I just have to frame the question.” And I liked that idea very much. Because I don’t wanna give the answer either. Nine times out of ten, I’m not sure I know the answer myself. But I am acutely familiar with the questions.

I managed to locate some very fine folk in 11:00 church that have been through the program, and they allayed my fears that Act One was a deceptive factory designed to farm out God Dreckers. When I mentioned to a lovely lass named Desmonda that I was concerned that my class was gonna be made up of Happy Chipper Christians who wanted to “claim this city for Jesus!” and my standard Amy Grumpyness would not necessarily endear me to them, Desmonda said (in all seriousness, and not at all ironic), “Why don’t you introduce yourself by saying ‘I will most likely say something that will offend you all by the end of the program.’”

And I liked that idea very much. Because it will probably be true, but it’s who I am. And I don’t wanna disguise, distort or otherwise conceal that. God loves me and my Grumpy ways, most likely because He knows that it’s generally a front to test people to see if they can handle my quirks. He knows that about me, and He loves me anyway. And I would like to think that, maybe, possibly, He doesn't WANT me to disguise those quirks that make me uniquely me. Because He's gonna use them for something, something, I don't know know what. But I love the idea that He CAN use them for something, beyond the obvious He's Gonna Use Them To CHANGE THEM routine. 'Cause I'm sure that Changing Amy is somewhere on the agenda. But I'm equally sure He's gonna use my unique quirks to change someone else's opinion. And THAT'S the exciting part to me.

I’m still a little uneasy about the proceedings, if only because the orientation materials also said there’s a dress code. “Students are asked to dress in casual work attire. NO ripped jean shorts or beach attire, and no spaghetti strap tank tops for women.”


(something else I learned from this blog is if you do a post about your boobs and church , you get a huge firestorm in the comments section. So let’s talk about the evils of spaghetti strap tank tops RIGHT NOW! Kidding! Kidding, kidding, a thousand times kidding.)

The whole Act One shebang starts this Friday with…wait for it…ANOTHER RETREAT! This one is four straight days in Malibu. GOD IS TRYING TO KILL ME WITH THE RETREAT THING! Seriously, people. Four days? Four F-ing days? Even 11:00 church’s retreat knew better, they did only two days. Four days. I can’t believe it. My Dad, the Great Stoic Wonder, suggested I keep a flask in the car. At first I laughed, now I’m considering it. I can see myself texting my buddies to make up an emergency to come get me. Possible sighting of God at El Coyote. Must come to document and drink margaritas ASAP.

Yes, this blog will continue. Maybe for a month, maybe for years. Until I run out of things to say. And given this new adventure, that doesn’t seem likely. For better or worse.

I must give a special shout out to my cheering section. RichardT, MidlifeVirgin, , J , Ted , Stephaine, T.C., SpunkieSelkie aka Winifred (I named you early on!), and all the others, anonymous or not, that take the time out to comment and/or take me to task. It’s nice to know you care! You really really care! Or you like seeing yourself in print. Dude, I know the feeling, ha ha ha.

Stay tuned.