Monday, July 26, 2010

New Post Next Week

Got a couple of irons in the fire. Will return next week. Promise.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Which Amy Potentially Misunderstands A Famous Bible Passage

I think one of my peculiar strengths is how willing I am to be such a public blogger dumbass. This is different than being a dumbass in person. I like to think I’m okay in person – if I don’t 100 percent know the answer to something in person, I usually don’t say anything, which is why more than a few people think I’m quiet and reserved, which cracks my friends who really know me and my sister Agatha up.

Besides, if you just wait awhile, you don’t have to say anything, someone else will explain exactly what the five dream levels are in Inception (because God knows I still don’t get it. Except that I would like very much to have Joseph Gordon-Levitt in charge of my survival in a zero G dreamscape. Yes please and thank you.)

But online, especially here on this blog, I have zero problem talking about stuff I don’t truly understand. What’s the difference? Well, this blog is SUPPOSED to be about God, Jesus, spirituality, that sort of thing. And anytime anyone waltzes in with The Answer To Everything when it comes to religion is just begging God to smack them down. Repeatedly.

And if you have the Dumbasses like me to pose the questions that you may or may not already know, you either #1 – Get the smug benefit of thinking you’re smarter than me because you already knew that answer (but watch out, you’re begging for a smackdown) or #2 – Secretly thank me for asking a question you always wanted to, but didn’t because you didn’t want people to think you were a dumbass too.

I proudly admit my dumbass status when it comes to God, Jesus, spirituality, that sort of thing. I AM A DUMBASS! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY!

But I’m trying.

So here’s the latest example. It’s a very famous passage, and I’m sure you’ve heard of it, even if you don’t go to church:

Matthew 6:27-29

27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?

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.

It’s so nice, Luke said it twice!

Luke 12:27-28

27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

Wella’s Stella (she is her own person, but I think it’s funny how it rhymes) and I had been emailing back and forth last week about a few things, and in trying to bolster my courage, Stella had said there was an amazing NPR story by Garrison Keillor about that verse and she signed off with “You are a lily.”

To which I thought, that’s nice in one of those crunchy granola Christian-ese whenever-you-wanna-talk-about-God’s-beauty-and-grace-you-tie-it-to-one-of-those-environmental-examples-like-flowers-sunsets-walking-in-woods-kinda-things-but-I’m-not-really-a-lilly-because-I’m-kinda-bloated-right-now things.

Even though Stella had no knowledge of my thought process, she followed up with the link to the Garrison Keillor story, his beloved News From Lake Wobegone segment (YOU GUYS! This will make My Mother The Phone Harpy and my Dad The Great Stoic Wonder SO HAPPY). It’s segment four, if you wanna hear it for yourself, the story about Bob, an aging dancer who invites his parents to New York City to watch him dance in what might be his final performance.

Here’s the most important part, in case you don’t have time to listen –

"The Arts is a life of faith. It's pure faith. People preach about faith who have no idea what faith is, but artists know. Artists are the lilies of the field that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. 'Consider the lilies - don't worry about what you're gonna eat or what you're gonna wear; consider the lilies. They toil not and they spin not, and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.' The life of the artist is pure, pure faith."

So when Stella sent me the link, I dutifully listened, was dutifully moved in the dutiful manner, and dutifully emailed her back:

Yes, I believe that The Arts is a life of pure faith


With the lilies in the field example, I always think about the lilies past the bloom. The ones who are dying, or half dead on the vine. Not all the flowers in the field are shining examples of beauty. What about the really ugly mottled flowers of the field. What about that awful flower
(I meant the Corpse Flower!) in the Huntington Gardens that has the most unbearable stench when it blooms every ten years or so. What happens to all those flowers, huh? I suspect I may be the Stinky One. Heh.

Because that’s what’s always bugged me about the Lilies In The Field example. I’m sorry, but we’re not all lilies, okay? Oh God, I’m going to hell just by saying that.

No, we’re not all Lilies In The Field, because some of us, perhaps a great many of us, create art that is frankly, not good. I include myself in this grouping. There are BUNCHES of times where I’m not happy with what I’ve written. I know I can do better. My friends know I can do better, but they’re not telling me because they’re concerned I’ll beat them up, because they know I go to Boot Camp twice a week in addition to my regular gym schedule, and my guns are awesome.

They don’t have to be concerned, because I am my own worst critic. It’s very rare that I write anything to the degree that I think approaches Lily In The Field Status. I think it’s happened maybe once or twice. Out of twenty plus things I’ve written, I can say I honestly like Zig Zagged Ostrich. I adore Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream so much that I don’t give it an assumed name. (but I wrote it! I wrote it! It’s mine! Come find me by googling it!) The rest are okay. Not great, just okay.

I haven’t been a Lily In The Field since 2005. And even then, you can’t rest on your Lily status forever, because we all know Lilies aren’t forever, like anything, they wither, they fade, they die.

Which is why I never really bought the Lilies In The Field parable.

And Stella, who has SO much more patience than I do, emailed back.

I got the feeling it was about taking it one day at a time.


This is where taking it day by day comes in for you. In the middle of the day, you're in bloom. I think God's saying to you that you're in the mid-day - maybe even in the morning. It's early, yet...even though it feels like sunset (or midnight) sometimes.


(Amy The Writer says) “What about that awful flower in the Huntington Gardens that has the most unbearable stench when it blooms every ten years or so. What happens to all those flowers, huh?”

They become very, very famous. For 10 days every decade.

(Amy The Writer says) “I suspect I may be the Stinky One. Heh.”

Doubt it. But I'll come smell you if you like.

This is why Stella is awesome and I am a Dumbass. Not because she’ll come and smell me (but that is awesome in and of itself.) But because I thought the Lilies Of The Field example was about the Quality Of Your Art. And instead (I THINK), it’s about Be Patient And Take It One Day At A Time.

It’s not (I THINK) that the Lily is beautiful. But that the Lily exists in that very moment. The Lily doesn’t know when the end comes. The Lily (I THINK) doesn’t know there is an end. The Lily just Is.

In whatever state, whether budding and about to burst, or full bloom, or faded, or withered and dying at the edges and nobody looks at it like I am afraid I am. The Lily Just Is.

And just to prove that I am a total dumbass, I make these official declarative statements:

1. The Lily takes it one day at a time.

2. Stella is an awesome friend and you can’t have her. She has her hands full with me. HA!

3. I do not smell like the Corpse Flower. I would love to smell like Stargazer Lillies. But I actually smell like Vanilla.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Binklebo Has No Toes

I can’t draw. This is why I write. Heh.

I can’t draw, I never could, and it bums me out, because that means I have to depend on someone else to draw storyboards for me. If I could draw my own storyboards, I probably would’ve directed a short like, five years ago. And if I could get people to listen to me. That would help. ☺

My buddy Norman offered a metaphor a few weeks ago. We were discussing that old sawhorse Macro God vs. Micro God, otherwise known as Does God Care About What Kind Of Job I Have?

And Norman said something along the lines of how God gives you a blank piece of butcher block paper and crayons and says, “Whatever you wanna draw.” And then you draw.

Except I can’t draw. This is the only thing I can draw. His name is Binklebo. I drew him in the sixth grade when the assignment was to create our own character and write a story about him. I think Binklebo’s story was “Binklebo and His Toes” or something like that. (ironic because from the picture, he doesn’t have toes.) I only know how to draw him this way, if you want him walking, jumping, climbing, or even looking to the left, you’re out of luck, I don’t know how to do that.

So if I’m supposed to draw, and I can’t draw, how do I know what I’m drawing is what I’m supposed to be drawing? Better yet, how do I know I’m drawing it right? And how do I know that my version of “right” matches up with God’s version of “right”?

If you wanna get all high and mighty and say, “Oh Amy The Writer, if you can’t draw, then God wants you to write all over that butcher block paper” then my response is how do I know that what I’m writing is what God wants me to write? How do I know that I’m writing it to God’s definition of Right?

I mentioned I’m working on a new project, Red Llama. It’s an idea about religion and sex that shines a light on questions that some Christians don’t wanna ask themselves. So the secular world says, Yes! Yes! Write that idea and expose those damn hypocritical Christians! The Christian world would probably say You’re not a Christian! You’re selling out your Christian community because it’s the only way you can get attention with your writing!

Except what’s fueling me to write this is not the desire to expose hypocritical Christians. This is an idea I can absolutely write, that I can uniquely write, one might say my entire sexual career has led to this point: to write this idea (at least then it all would’ve meant something besides new ways to break my heart and stomp my self esteem.)

The problem is that some hypocritical Christians may get exposed anyway. I usually go for a scorched earth policy with my writing. Pink Piggy examined stupid people of both genders. With Red Llama, I’m examining hypocrites of every stripe, both secular and Christian. But I think the Christians are gonna cry foul the loudest.

Which makes me wonder if this is the idea that God wants me to write, or if it’s my own ego urging me on.

If you’re drawing the wrong thing or if you’re writing the wrong thing, how will you know? Because people won’t like it. Because people will like it, but not for the right reasons. Because it won’t sell. Because it will sell, but it won’t make you happy. Because it won’t FEEL right. Because it’ll feel right for the WRONG reasons.

Oh, now that sounds like sex. Heh.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Um, Oobleck, anyone?

I went to a 4th of July party yesterday at Sylvia’s house, and it featured a deep fryer. When you have a deep fryer at a party, everyone reverts to a frat guy mentality hey, what happens if we throw THIS in there!?

At a previous deep fryer party (Sylvia loves her deep fryer), I brought pop tarts (recommended by a co-worker), which went over exceedingly well. This time, I brought onion rings (obvious), Zingers (the grocery store’s contract was with Hostess, and not the Little Debbie brand of my youth) and a few candy bars, because I keep hearing about deep fried Snickers that you can buy at the State Fair. I don’t like Snickers (no peanuts in my dessert, please), but I like Three Musketeers and Milky Ways, so I brought those too.

But something wasn’t working. I wouldn’t classify it as Horribly Awry, nothing alien-like emerged from the deep fryer and took over lower Los Angeles. But any dessert stuff we threw in there wasn’t working. I suspect it had something to do with either the temperature of the batter, of the temperature of the dessert. Maybe both needed to be cold, maybe just one of them needed to be cold, not the other. Sylvia promptly blamed her hubby for not reading the directions to her properly as she was preparing the batter.

But no matter what dessert we submerged in the batter – candy bars, pop tarts, apple fritters, brownie bites – the batter wouldn’t stick on it when it went into the deep fryer.

The batter itself looked like Oobleck, as most batters do...

What, you guys don’t know what Oobleck is? Wha-huh?

Oobleck is the stuff that coats The Kingdom of Didd in Dr. Seuss’s book Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Synopsis – King Derwin of Didd wants something different to happen with the weather, and his court magicians then make Oobleck, a green vicious substance that gets all over the kingdom and mucks everything up. Everything’s going to hell, until Bartholomew, the page, suggests to King Didd to say “I’m sorry” to break the court magicians spell. Once he does, the sun comes out and melts the Oobleck away.

I have very vivid memories of me and sister Agatha in the kitchen, mixing the pancake batter from scratch, according to my Mother The Phone Harpy’s directions. We’d lift the mixer up from the bowl, and watch the batter drip off the beaters in long plaster of Paris type drips, and we’d chant “Oobleck, Oobleck, OOBLECK! YAAAAARRRRRRR! OOOOOOOBBBBBBBLLLLLEEEEEEEECCCCCCKKKKK!”

Yeah. We were weird.

I mention this because I was thinking about Disappointment. No, no, nothing specific. CALM DOWN MOM!

Everyone’s got disappointment in their lives right? Sure, you do. Doesn’t matter how successful you are, there’s always that nitpicky something you didn’t get.

It’s midway through the calendar year, and time for an assessment, accompanied by alcohol of course. My writing goals are exactly on track, I finished new drafts of Striped Tiger and Polka Dotted Platypus. I’m embarking on writing my first TV pilot, we’ll call it Red Llama, we’ll see how that goes.

But there’s always disappointment. It’s nothing new. Disappointment in people who don’t respect you, disappointment in people who let you down, people who continue to take advantage of you, disappointment in doors that have closed on opportunities that didn’t work out for you, disappointment in deep fryers. This is life. Get used to disappointment.

But as I’m watching a random Ho Ho bob to the surface of the batter bowl, and as I’m watching the batter stretch thin and tear, forming gaping holes where chocolate Ho Ho spots are peeking through, this oh so brilliant thought occurs to me:

Disappointment doesn’t stop me. It only coats me.

I’ve been doing this too long to stop. Writing, living in Los Angeles, breathing, existing, whatever you want to call it. There is no other option than to continue forward.

My Boot Camp instructor was telling us about his experience running the L.A. Marathon this year. He said something to the extent that “You feel like you’re dying. You’re running and dying. But then you realize it’s mile twenty, and there’s only six more miles to go, so what the hell, might as well hang in there.”

I’ve been in Los Angeles long enough to say what the hell, might as well hang in there.

So no, disappointment doesn’t stop me. But it sure as hell coats me. Like Bartholomew’s Oobleck, it coats me, it cakes layer after layer of cynicism, of resigned sighs, of exhaustion, of once again lifting up my head and choosing hope. Ministers love to say that choosing hope is a revolutionary act. Not when you’ve been doing it as long as I have.

To believe, against all odds, that someday, some positive result will come from all the work you’ve been putting in for years and years. Hope isn’t revolutionary to me. It’s a given. A knee jerk given, the bastion of the weary who continue to trudge forward, with layers and layers of disappointment oobleck on them. Hope feels more like an afterthought. If you’ve got a checklist to go down, Hope comes somewhere after Sharpening Your Skill Set, Setting Forth An Achievable Plan, and Strength For The Journey. Successful people believe in Hope because it’s easy for them. They’ve already got the momentum.

All it takes is one honking piece of GREAT NEWS to shatter the calcified layers and to get me going faster.

So once again, I lift my head up. And trudge on. And on.