Sick again

I won’t say I can’t believe that I’m sick again after crawling back from pneumonia land. Because I am.

My parents are now in the perfect position of screaming “Told ya so” into my eardrums right now. And so far, they have been enjoying themselves.

One month in Shanghai, twice as sick. Shanghai is not for everyone, it seems.  And for those who are out there healthy, please take care.


Yours sickly,



What would be on your tomestone other than Designer Bag Slave #0909081?

“You students wear Gucci bags?” I asked my friend after the lecture.

“That’s nothing. A lot of them are Hermès girls.” She replied matter-of-factly.


Apart from the seminar itself, the purse-girls are my biggest takeaway at SIVA (Shanghai Institute of Visual Art) today.

“Where did they get that kind of money???” I couldn’t help but ask my followup question.

“Their businessmen or government parents. You do know that SIVA’s tuition is the most expensive one amongst all arts schools, right?”

I didn’t. It turned out that it was almost eight times my undergrad tuition.

“And yet, the students would cut their shooting budget when they can obviously afford a ten-thousand-plus RMB purse.”

I shook my head in disbelief. For one, I’m scared of our marketers targeting at these impressionable young adults to “buy to impress, buy to show off.” For two, how can you make a steller filmmaker out of these students when all they want is to be associated with some brands.

Anyone can own a Gucci bag by walking into their stores or just order online.  What do you do with all those designer bags after you die? What would be on your tomestone other than Designer Bag Slave #0909081?

We all know becoming a brand is damn hard. But isn’t it the most fun?


Yours truly,

This kid

I met my bias head-on. 

Is a young actor. Actually, he just turned 18.  I’ve been helping him with his college application. As I read his statement purpose essay, I met my bias head-on.

He has, quote unquote “the whole package” to become the next Kris Wu (or Kris Who according to his latest campaign scandal). And yet, he decides that he wants to be a real actor, rather than someone who just has the looks.

In China, celebrities like this will get ten of millions “Brain-dead” fans in a blink of an eye. They will watch whatever their idols do, even vomitting or farting. They will go so far to buy the vomit and fart even to support their God/Goddess.

This kid knows the phenomenon, has the opportunity to be the phenomenon. And yet, he decides to walk away, to be a regular college student.

You may wonder if he sounds so brilliant, why would he ask people to help with his college application? Well, right now the kid is prepping a movie shoot that his day runs as long as 15, 16 hours.

“I wonder if I can write about my love experience to answer the creativity question for this college.”

What a brilliant thought. I can’t help but envy his openness. At that age, I had but one-way crushes and rejections…


Yours truly,

Do the right thing

Do the right thing so you can do things right.

“Take me to the hospital.” Dad raised his voice from the other room.

My old man cut open his finger while chopping meat two nights ago. He didn’t tell me sooner since I had been out with my LA friend.  “The bleeding stopped after about an hour.”

The scab was peeled off by accident. It start to bleed again. That was the tipping point when he said “I should have gone yesterday…” He added as we got into the cab.

The emergency doctor peeled off the band-aid and tended to his wound, “Because the cut is rather deep. It would get easily infected by just using band-aid. Come over on Saturday to change the wrap.”

“How long would it take to recover?”

“A while.”

I’m glad about my dad’s good call after his bad judgement earlier.

“I sharpened the knife before chopping the meat.” He gave me another crucial piece of information on our way back home.  I winced.


I decided to not to work with one of the student directors due to her lack of passion for her foggy story.  I sent her a text message while I was with dad in the hospital. Several hours spent on this potential client for nothing in the end. Time is the sunken cost that I paid. Like my dad’s wounded finger, I have to stop the bleeding before it does me more damage.

It sounds crucial of me. But sometimes, you just have to do the right thing so you can do things right.


Yours truly,

Sleepless in Shanghai

Clusters of night owls smoking, vaping, snorting the city’s night vibes, musing on their next stop.

My LA friend landed in Shanghai two nights ago for a 48-hour visit.

No matter how tight the schedule, we had to go to the Bund, which is must-must-see for any tourist. Along with my friend, I was also blown away by the views.

Three years away from Shanghai is like three decades everywhere else. I still remember the dirty and disorganized Bund when I went there as a child. Fast forward two decades later, I couldn’t find one litter on the ground. New state-of-the-art traffic signals installed for pedestrians to cross the streets. New skyscrapers sprouted out on the Pudong side (aka. Pu Jersey) across the Huangpu River (Think Hudson you’re from the States; or Thames if you’re from Britain). The Pudong Shangri-La building used to be part of the Shanghai skyline.  Now it looks like a spoiled chocolate granola bar that need to be thrown away.

We ended the night at Mr. & Mrs. Bund, a buzzy French restaurant. The food and the price match the standards of the best of Beverly Hills and Fifth Ave.  Since after the anti-corruption campaign, Chinese don’t frequent pricy places like this anymore.  As I roughly surveyed, 80% of the diners were non-Chinese.

By the time my cab arrived, clusters of night owls smoking, vaping, snorting the city’s night vibes, musing on their next stop, some hippiest nightclub that is beyond me, that is out of my league.

When I woke up this morning, my body smirked at me, “You ain’t party animal material.”


Yours truly,


Shanghai skyline
The Bund

Keep grinding

We’re better off when our plates are full so our minds don’t wander.

I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I know it because I have trouble moving my jaw without hearing it pop.

Our body usually gives us the red flag before things go awry. I discovered I had TMJ (Temporomandibular joint) pain while I was at UCLA. It wasn’t serious enough to put me into surgery but annoy enough to strip the fun off food. But I like chewing gum and eating in general. I binge and stress eat.

I was taking a producing class at the film school, the instructor invited a friend of his and called him a “grinder.” [No, not Grindr. See dictionary definition here.] “I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in Hollywood. Grinders outlast the rest and get things done. It’s how you succeed in the show biz.” The wise instructor ended on this note.

When I heard this remark, I thought I was a grinder. Not only I grind my teeth, but I would always  follow though on projects and get things done whatever it takes. For a while after I graduated from UCLA, I thought if I could do one thing well, I can find an opening and pivot. Well, the rest is history. I ended up back where I come from, my hometown. It was a hard pill to swallow but necessary for me to see the big picture.

Since I got back recovering from pneumonia, I’ve been doing podcasting, working on short films, rewriting two feature scripts, preparing lectures for the coming weekend and next Tuesday… soon to start a book collaboration, and maybe two other feature assignments. Knock on the wood. And then of course, I will finish my novel before it’s 2019!

That’s a long way of saying we’re better off when our plates are full so our minds don’t wander. But don’t grind on things you don’t enjoy or benefit from, say rocks. You don’t need a dentist to tell you it’s not good for your teeth.


Yours truly,



My old man calls it “Habit.”

My dad lost some 30 pounds in a year since he retired. He did it by watching his diet and walking some 13,000 steps, plus 150 pull-ups and push-ups, every day.

My dad used to be a chubby driver for a state-owned company. He would wake up at 4:30 every day, made me and my mum breakfast and hit the road by 5:45. His job required him to be in the office by 9 and it would usually take him around 30 to 40 mins en route.

“Why did you get to the office so early?” I asked him one day.

“I have better place to sit in than traffic if I can avoid it.”

That’s my dad. For someone who grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, my dad wasn’t terribly well-educated on paper. He fixed it with his air-tight work ethic and street-smart.  Even after he’s retired at home, he still gets up at around 5:30 (my cat, strangely, is his alarm clock) to make us a full breakfast from taro to porridge, and then hit the park (his gym) nearby and exercise for almost an hour and come back to two women (my mum and I) in bed still sound asleep.

Confession time.  I, unfortunately, didn’t inherit daddy’s devilish work ethic, his will power, and his consistency… In my defense, I’ve been having a lot of stress as long as I can remember. My biological clock has been a mess since this summer, if not earlier.

And yet, I want to be able to say, “Like father, like daughter.” But right now, I often stay up late rushing to finish bits and pieces of my day’s work when I promised myself earlier in the day that I would go to bed early, starting today.

I have more respect for myself when I’m discipline and rise at dawn everyday. Who doesn’t? What I see in my dad is this mystery thing called “Willpower.” My old man calls it “Habit.” Some 40 years of stainless-steel habit oiled by fear that he may lose his job if he were even seconds late for work.

I often don’t change until I hit ‘rock bottom.’ But I can’t afford to wait for me to fall that far. I have to start now. I hope it’s tomorrow. But then, after tomorrow, there will be another one.  But, no, YZ, let’s just start.

And I will have my dad to be my alarm clock as long as my cat is punctual. We know who to blame if I don’t rise early.


Yours truly,