#5DAYS OF FAIL: FAILERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!
PERFECTIONISTS. OVER-ACHIEVERS. DO-GOODERS. JUDGEY-JUDGERS. YOU HAVE BEEN PUT ON NOTICE.
THIS IS THE FIRST-EVER #5DAYSOFFAIL AND WE WILL BE FLAGRANTLY FLASHING OUR FAILS IN YOUR FACE.
Read all the blog posts about the first #5DaysOfFail:
* Day 5 and Final Show!: http://jennyyang.tv/blog/2014/1/10/5daysoffail-day-5-and-final-show
YES! For FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS, a group of creative friends AND i will be performing DAILY ACTS OF FAILURE in an artform of our choice.
WE WILL BE FAILING FAILURES OF FULL-FRONTAL FEROCITY.
(and I will be using as many "F" words to describe this as possible.)
WHY FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS OF FAILURE?
As creatives, the process of making stuff up requires us to tune out the evil voices in our head that tells us we are not good enough to even get started. And the reality of creativity is that we need to create many mediocre, half-baked ideas before any one of them can be worthy of being polished up and shown to the world.
Five Days of Failure is one way to give ourselves a nice "sprint" of work to produce. Our goal is to FAIL EVERY DAY for FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS so that we can practice the process of daily creativity and an accepting mindset that allows us to simply "try" our ideas.
To keep us honest, each participant will email me, the FAIL ORGANIZER, their daily pieces at the end of each day this week. AND they must create pieces related to a daily inspiration word given to us by a third-party. (In this case, my English Professor friend, Scott Okamoto.)
Monday, January 6, 2014 - Friday, January 10, 2014
Say hello to our inaugural FAILERS!
Jenny: Essay/story a day
Taz: Painting a day
Keiko: Performance Art a day
Shin: Song a day
Priscilla: Song a day
Sarah: Character monologue a day
Sri: Photo/s a day
Thomas: Comedy sketch a day
Kelly: Short film script a day
Traci: Visual piece a day
Throughout the week, I will be updating this blog post with MY progress and some highlights of how it's going for the others.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2014 will will all come together to read/perform our "best and worst" pieces from the week. It'll be a celebration of failure of epic proportions.
COMMENT BELOW! HAVE YOU EVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS? BY YOURSELF OR WITH YOUR FRIENDS? WHAT OTHER STRATEGIES DO YOU USE TO PSYCH YOURSELF INTO JUST DOING THE DANG THING?
DAY 1 OF #5DAYSOFFAIL:
INSPIRATION WORD "AGING"
(Monday, January 6, 2014)
#5DaysOfFail: Day 1. Aging
Blog/Essay: “My Dad is So Old.” by Jenny Yang
Ever since I was born my dad was OLD. Like he was already a senior citizen. He was Hugh Hefner runnin’ with a young lady still within her childbearing age before the Playboy mansion was a black light crime scene. Because of this, I’ve always had horrid visions about death and what it would be like if and when my parents died.
Morbid. I know.
It didn’t help that my dad had a receding hairline that ran to the back of his skull like his puberty was chasing it.
Complaining about your Dad getting old is like saying, “Hey everyone who’s parents already died! Look at me! I’m the asshole!”
My father is 85 years old. He is so old, he left China when Chairman Mao and the Communist Revolution drove him out. He is so old, he knew General Tso. My dad is so old, when he shits, it comes out his ash.
He is so old he gets away with doing the kind of stuff that only children can get away with in public. One time, while we were on a crowded sidewalk waiting for the light to turn green, dad decides he would do one of his Chinese old guy calisthenic stretches. Throwing his arms in the air, and doing it like he just didn’t care. That’s how old he is.
My dad is so old, no matter what he does, he wins. When you’ve survived bombings and artillery fire in a war-torn country AND managed to find a wife and raise three healthy children in America, everything else is bonus. Add to that the fact that his hearing is horrible nowadays, he can get away with almost anything he wants.
“Dad wants to eat Souplantation for dinner.”
But I was thinking El Pollo Loco.
“Oh but Souplantation is so good. I like it so much.”
“Dad wants you to bring down a roast duck from Chinatown.”
I’m running really late.
“Don’t worry take your time. We'll start eating without you. He wants to eat the leftovers all week.”
“Dad wants you to throw away as much of your stuff in the garage as possible. He’s in one of his cleaning fits again.”
But it’s just like a few boxes of my childhood.
“I just get so anxious when I see unwanted things around the house.”
“Dad is peeing in the vegetable garden. Wait for him to start eating.”
Dad! We’re eating!
“Dad wants to tour Europe. That’s the only part of the world he hasn’t visited.”
That’s where I draw the line. My dad is so old now that taking him on extended international travel means committing to managing a very high maintenance special needs kid. He’ll need to pee. And he’ll need to pee RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
I don’t know where this line emerged. I was never close with my parents. I was such an accident and so Americanized so quickly and so far removed in age from everyone else in the family I always felt very alone and outcast. They have given me so, so much but when I boil it down, my parents were really more there for keeping me fed and sheltered. They also imparted serious ideas about what it meant to be Chinese and a Yang.
“Your job as the youngest to come to America is to do well at school. Nothing else. We don’t have to worry about you, we can worry about our work.”
“You are Han Chinese. You come from a line of educated Yangs. We are known for being smart and educated.”
“You are Chinese. Keep your legs closed. Don’t laugh so loudly. Don’t swing the bags around when we are walking to our car from the store. Look at the white lady on the tv. Tsk tsk tsk. White people just jump into bed like that. Not Chinese people.”
That’s pretty much what I took away from my upbringing with my parents.
It’s a simple kind of parenting. I’m not sure if it’s “old school” as in they are basically the age of what my GRANDPARENTS could be, or if it is very Chinese, or if it is just “immigrant” and they are too busy working and surviving off of their salaries to have to pay attention to the youngest kid in the family who should be the quickest to learn English and fit into the new American culture...and therefore not a problem. Well, I did just that: do my job.
I came to America when I was 5 years old. I’ve only known my father as “old” for all of my life. He was qualified for AARP even before I got out of elementary school. He was THAT guy.
My dad is so old, he is the original inspiration for the American “green” and “environmentally-friendly” movement. He has a large vegetable garden in the back that he fertilizes with his own damn self. We have reused plastic packaging from every imaginable food product. Mom worked in a garment factory so she was always hemming and altering our own clothes. Heck. The “developing” third-world countries practically invented the idea of reusing the very plastic bags we in America were used to throwing away.
That’s why I feel so out of place sometimes. I feel like I am such a modern and contemporary woman. You know, “of these times.” But I’m also carrying with me such a deep well of my parents older generation upbringing.
What I remind myself is that it’s never so black and white. My parents are from two generations ago, an era when telephones were barely functional. But then again, they are also survivors. They have weathered social, economic and cultural changes since the beginning of the 20th century. Now they both have their own laptop computers where they play a mean game of spider solitaire and watch free Korean dramas from pirated Chinese sites. In a weird, Darwinian “survival of the fittest” way, my parents are not in fact locked in some time capsule of yesteryear, they are living and breathing embodiments of “adapt or die.”
A corollary of death, aging inevitable. Like taxes. They should really add it to the list.
HOW'D IT GO?
I'm sitting at a cafe with my writing buddy. And honestly, this only took me two 20-minute writing sprints to finish. It IS a pretty open-ended artform "blog/essay" so who knows. Honestly, the topic of "aging" has always been on my mind because of my older parents so this was pretty "easy" to write about.
SARAH: Character monologue a day
This one was fun. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm in the midst of two big project revisions right now, so my "YOU ARE TERRIBLE/MAKE EVERYTHING PERFECT" brain is so on. But since I have to cram the Fail in around revision work, the Fail itself is pretty freeing. Because it is actually supposed to be, you know, imperfect. Plus, this one gave me an excuse to look up stuff about nanites and pizza rolls.
THOMAS: Comedy sketch a day
I'm sitting at my computer, struggling to keep my eyes open. This sketch was easy in the sense that it only took half an hour to write, but difficult in that I'm super tired and just wanted to get it over with. I think it's funny, could have been funnier, but I'm too tired right now so failure it is
KEIKO: Blog/essay a day
Sleepy. Changed course today. Had a lot of thoughts about where to go and what to do. I opted for what I wanted to do. It's not a performance art piece... or at least not yet. It's a kind of blog post. Thoughts that I have been collecting. Still in rough shape. Interesting what a deadline will do. ahaha. Have to make Juice for tomorrow. Interested to see what the next day will bring creatively. Like that we are doing it together. I can feel the support of the group.
SHIN: Song a day
it was definitely a challenge (and I'm coming down with a cold right now, ugh) but I just tried to keep it simple and short - there's no rule on how long it has to be, right? also, it could be instrumental, right? (this one is not) :)
KELLY: Short script a day
Shit, that was really hard. I started the day off by brainstorming ideas and making an outline for the script. I felt pretty good about the early start that I got on the project, so I decided not to think about it again til 6PM. That's when I realized that I didn't actually get any writing done during the day, and I'd have to do the majority of the project when I got home. So.... I avoided going home, naturally. I went to Ross and bought Jaws and Sharknado tees - they're fucking awesome. (Photo attached). And then when I got home, I learned how to make sweet potato fries FROM SCRATCH!!!! Super delicious. So yes, I am a college student during finals week, avoiding work by welcoming distractions! Definitely FAILING.
PRISKA: Song a day
This was really fun! Found it to be really cathartic and and helped me work through some of the heartache that I've wrestled with during the day. Also! In honor of embracing failure, I just did everything in one take and included all the weird and wonderful sounds (swallowing, little coughs, incorrect breathing) that singing comes with. Haha.
TRACI: Visual art a day
it was fun. i SO don't know how to draw well. oh well. that was the point, wasn't it? it was fun :)
SRI: Photo/s a day
Most definitely not what I was expecting the photos to look like. Something exploded when my camera and computer processed the raw footage; it took forever to even get images on the screen. So I adapted. This is me making lemonade out of lemons.
TAZ: Poem a day (poem here)
I’ve been toying with this idea of the reality that was created in my Nana’s patch. I didn’t realize he was suffering from early onset dementia until I was alone babysitting him in Nepal for a week, and I read it on the prescription for this patch. I’m not perfectly happy with this piece, because I’m still grappling with the experience of that trip, but it was good to have a reason to churn this out.
To prepare for this I a) made dinner, b) checked out some profiles on OK Cupid, c) read through my journal from Nepal d) watched The Bachelor on mute, e)grounded myself with meditation f) wrote – facebooked – wrote – tweeted- wrote and then e) typed. I missed the Midnight deadline. But like, barely right?
DAY 2 OF #5DAYSOFFAIL:
INSPIRATION WORD "Grief"
(Tuesday, January 7, 2014)
#5DaysOfFail: Day 2. Grief
Blog/Essay: “A Genealogy of Grief” by Jenny Yang
Don’t tell my online dating profile, but I probably spent most of my childhood and young adult life feeling a deep sense of sadness.
Hi. I’m a chipper and outgoing writer and comic who loves the beach and romantic visits to the Griffith Park Observatory who will wallow in her deep-seated sense of melancholy when no one is around to distract her with conversation or pork products.
Yeah. I know. Let’s slap that on a banner and ask people to love me.
I don’t say this lightly. I say this because my relationship with grief was non-existent. I would feel sadness due to a sense of loss but never let myself really mourn the loss I felt.
Don’t feel bad. It’s okay. I’m much better now at feeling my emotions and processing them. But this was not the case before.
I’ve never been able to adequately express the deep sense of loss that I felt when I moved to the United States from Taiwan when I was five years old. Yeah. I know. MILLIONS of immigrants deal with this. And I always hear about kids from America who said they are not from any one place because they’ve moved around most of their childhood. I cannot even begin to understand that.
What I do know is me. What I do know is how being plucked out of Taipei and into Southern California rocked my world. Like genealogy of emotions, I can trace all of my sadness and anger back to the original emotion of loss that I experienced from being dislocated and pulled away from what I knew.
Closely connected with this dislocation was the overwhelming sense of culture shock I felt as a young kid in kindergarten and that my entire family of five felt as a unit. We were out of our element. My brothers were not happy. My parents were stressed from commuting and working. I was trying figure out how I was gonna stomach the taste of whole cow’s milk that Americans forced upon their children.
The Yang household was not one that was big on “processing feelings” and I learned quickly that emotions just got in the way of getting things done and surviving. Chalk this up to what I was taught and the personality born into me or whatever. But I never got good at mourning and grieving any sense of loss from the very beginning.
Being the very youngest of our nuclear family, the most Americanized and a Pacific Ocean away from any extended family, the feeling of isolation and loss was imprinted into my cells. It’s just how it was. No cousins. No aunties and uncles around. Just us. My parents, my older brothers and me - the accident who is about a decade younger than the other siblings. This feeling was such a constant part of who I am. It was like we all felt shitty but no one wanted to talk about it. As if not talking about it made it go away faster.
My grief was the secret I kept from the world and from myself. If “negative” feelings like sadness and loss were not socially acceptable then I got really good at expressing more acceptable emotions like “joy” and “enthusiasm.” I was perky. I was a cheerleader of life. And it was probably really annoying.
My first memory of a death of a loved one was of my aunt, my mom’s younger sister. She was only in her thirties when she passed away and I was just in elementary school. She was my favorite. She was the only other female figure, who also happened to be on the younger side, that I could relate with.
I was fortunate to have had free plane tickets to visit Taiwan every summer during my childhood because my father worked at an airlines. It was during those summers that my aunt would hang out with me and talk to me and show me cool snacks to eat and things to do in Taipei. She was my favorite part of my trip.
Her presence also made my mother really happy. They talked all the time and my aunt was truly my mother’s closest friend. But my aunt also died too young. She died while giving birth to her second child. Neither the child nor my aunt made it. All of this happened while I was in Taiwan for the summer. All I remember was that she was basically in a vegetative state and on a respirator and I was told to go and see her at her bed. She was breathing mechanically but her face was puffy. I was a little afraid of her. I remember touching her and feeling so confused about why everyone was so upset.
It wasn’t until I got back to Los Angeles that it really hit me. My aunt was gone. That was the last time that I would see her.
In my recollection, a funeral happened while I was still in Taiwan but I was not told about it. I didn’t find out until I got back to the States but by then I had missed my chance to say goodbye. I remember feeling very angry that I didn’t get that chance. I was probably only in the third or fourth grade but that feeling of loss and sadness was taken over by anger. It probably set up the pattern for how I would express my grief even until today - through anger.
Grief had its way of finding outlets for me though. Growing up, I got very good at feeling bad for myself when I didn’t achieve what I wanted or when I failed to meet other people’s expectations. This dynamic has molded me into the recovering overachiever that I am today.
Another time, I even forced myself to attend the public service of a big Los Angeles area labor leader, Miguel Contreras, who passed away a few years ago. I was working in the labor movement and only met him once but I felt compelled to sit through the open casket service at the huge downtown Los Angeles Catholic cathedral. I had never attended a funeral service. I had never heard anyone that I knew eulogized in such a public manner. I HAD NEVER CRIED IN PUBLIC LIKE THAT BEFORE. It was as if this service tapped into all those times that I didn’t have a space to mourn my dear aunt or any of the countless losses that we all feel in the process of going through life changes. When it was over, I still felt sadness, but I also felt lighter.
What I realized was that all that unresolved grief was at the heart of my inability to connect with others in an authentic way. How can we really know each other if I was so busy hiding my true feelings with fake ones? Grief is at the heart of what I had been hiding. Peeling away the layers to “get authentic” has been the toughest and most rewarding process of my life. It is THE life project for me. And I have grief to thank for that.
HOW'D IT GO?
This topic was harder than yesterday's and definitely harder to get funny with. As a way of preparing (ergh procrastinating) I watched the sorta new documentary “Blackfish” about why all the orcas/killer whales in captivity have been aggressive toward and harming their handlers. PERFECT. Then I started writing. I was ready to go. I cried while I wrote this. Feelings are good. Feelings are good. (I’m saying this to remind myself)
SARAH: Character monologue a day
I had a fantastic revising day, so I felt like I was jamming this out while mostly thinking about getting back to my revision. I like the idea of this one, the voice and the potential story, but I think I lost the thread somewhere in the middle and got a little "and then this happened, and then this, etc." Got that ever important "zing" button at the end, though.
TRACI: Visual Art a day
I give myself 55 minutes to think and do for this Fail challenge. Ahhh..GRIEF. This was good. This was sad. It left me with a spare feeling in my chest. I can't draw worth shit. Oh well, that's why I did this..failed well.
PRISKA: Song a day
The word grief seems so straight forward at times. Immediately images of cemeteries and caskets swirl around in my mind's eye. A few years ago, days after my grandmother's death, I immediately wrote a song about her, steeped in grief. Not a song written about grief, rather a song written locked in a state of grief. I cherish that moment and that song, however where I am today, I wouldn't be able to write from within grief. Not authentically.
This tripped me up a bit as I started today's song. But if I dig just a little bit deeper, I find grief permeates my life in more subtle ways as well. It colors life in quiet, private ways that aid in adding dimension. When a friend moves to a new city, I grieve. When the leaves change color and fall, I grieve. When the sun sets on a particularly beautiful day, I grieve. I am a creature built to hope only to grieve in the passing/fleeting nature of life.
That's what this song is about. Smaller moments of grief that prick when something as pure as love isn't quite enough anymore. When doors are shut that should be opened. Definitely not perfect in the least bit... but that's the beauty of it all, right?
KELLY: Short film script a day
I can barely keep my eyes open tonight. I couldn't figure out an ending for this piece, and it's going to be the death of me. The script is unfinished, unpolished, and altogether awful. I've been sitting here for an hour, trying to force an ending so I could send it to you. Fuck it - I'm sending it to you unfinished. Another fail. Another day closer to failing again. I'm okay with it.
SHIN: Song a day
the cold is really kicking in right now and my nostrils are dysfunctional, but you know, so was my relationship with my father. This feeling that I could've done a better job writing for my late father is EXACTLY the kind of curse he put me on, for the rest of my life #LMAO
TAZ: Poem/Visual art a day
When I hear the word grief, my artistic inclination is immediately drawn to colors. I pictured gray clouds dripping and flowers blooming and dying. I wanted to stay true to doing poetry - but I thought if I could paint it out first, then writing would come easier.
So I went home, and grabbed a skateboard that I tried painting. My biggest issue is that a skateboard is really long and large - and it took too long to paint with the detail that I like to use.
Right before I went to sleep, I jotted down what i had wanted to write about with the word "grief". This morning I did slight edits to it, and the poem is above.
Grief is my tried and true topic to paint and write. I often get caught up in it the feelings - and I'm trying to learn how to write about it while creating boundaries from getting too emotionally wrapped up after the writing is done. If I can figure out how to harness that passion, I feel like I can take on bigger projects. It helps that I have lots of notes too - I'm finding myself turning to old notebooks for ideas and feelings for these #5DaysOfFail. It's reminding me the benefit of note taking even if the outcome isn't immediate.
THOMAS: Comedy sketch a day
I procrastinated as long as possible. I watched an episode of The Sopranos watched the Laker game, got El Pollo Loco, ate some cookies, then finally started writing around 11. It's not great, but it's not supposed to be, so I guess I succeeded. Or failed. Either/or.
SRI: Photo/s a day
Not perfect, but they're pictures of my child, so it's hard to hate. Animals and people are my favorite subjects for photography. I love the interaction. Not as into herb life and landscapes. Sorry, trees, flowers, buildings, and sunsets! Your modeling career with me is extremely limited, at best. I love working with Hammy, in particular. He's one of my favorite art subjects. Just a fun and expressive dog that definitely keeps life interesting with all the wacky stuff he does.
KEIKO: Essay a day
Interesting. Easier. Even after one day it is easier. Or maybe it was the topic. there is product. at some point it will get to you. it's a movement piece. right now I have a date with my bed.