Fair enough

I spent most of the day working on the syllabus proposal. With a few more revisions, I think it’d put me in an even better place to land the gig. 

“What do you do when you don’t know anybody?” I asked my mentor during our call today. 

“Work twice as hard, at least.” 

“Fair enough.” I nodded. 

Yesterday at the jury panel, we read some dozen scripts that got to the final round.  Three were “linked” back to some of the jurors as we were notified via texts… Unsurprisingly, those ended up as two second places and one third place. The one that won the first place was better than the rest, considering theme plays a big role here in China. The first-place script seems to have no guanxi (aka. connections). It stood firm on its own. When the other jurors were too polite to say a word, I probed, “How about this one” in order to move things forward. 

The experience reminded me of my own competition participation when I grew up. I’ve never won the first place, ever. Or second for that matter. I almost always got the third place in all those English competitions I entered. Sometimes I did wonder why that girl got ahead even though her English sounded lame. Yesterday I came out on the other side of the game, I saw how the sausage was made. It violated some of the “hygienic process,” so to speak. But if you are simply so much better than the rest, you can’t be ignored

It is twice as hard to get ahead for those with no connections. So they’d better work twice as hard to make it up. 

When things get hard, work even harder.

Yours truly,
YZ

Chinese + Creativity

Two weeks ago, I went to a prestigious institute to sit in for its last screenwriting workshop. The program associate and I had a little chat.

“Have you thought about writing stories yourself?” I asked her.
“Me? Oh, no, no, no, no, no. It’s not my thing.” 

I pause for a bit. “You know, years ago, I felt I wasn’t the creative bunch either.” 

I forgot how the conversation ended. But her initial response was etched in my brain. 

Is creativity nothing but a snooty bitch? It shines light on the White community, obviously. Now, it expands to the Black community, fucking at last. 

And so… what about the Asians, the Yes Race? 

“Your Crazy Rich Asians did great!” Some may battle me with this fact. 

Sure, but one film doesn’t mean that day has come. An Asian actor acquaintance posted on his social, “I aim to be an Oscar winner.” My OS was like, bruh, if Asian writers don’t write Asian stories, you’d be supporting til the day you die.” Are Chinese too grounded for creative juice? Truth is, we only have enough room for one kind of God. That is, the God of Money on the fifth day of the Chinese New Year. It’s our euphemism to tell Muse to fuck off. 

I watched a few more episodes of Atlanta today after my date recommended to me. The Barbarshop episode in Season 2 was so over the top real, surreal, hilarious, and frustrating that I almost died from laughing. Stefani Robinson (now 26) was the writer for this episode and the only female writer on the show. She is so enviously young and full of live, who landed a staff writer gig at 23 after working at a talent agency right off college. And because of Atlanta, FX is now working with Robinson on her own show. Attagirl.

Never in my life will I be able to manufacture the moment that got me on Atlanta. I was just quite literally at the right place at the right time for that opportunity. The reason I was able to grasp it and to keep it going was because I was prepared. I wrote all the time. I was constantly thinking about ideas. My biggest advice is to constantly be writing, constantly be reading, and then on top of that, to be honest about what you love.

Stefani Robinson, via VICE

Some people are just meant to shine. I hear you think. True. 

You see, growing up in China, you’re told to do things that pay bills. First couple of years when I decided to pivot to screenwriting from the lucrative advertising world, my left brain was still anxious about how the fuck I could live as a writer rather than how on earth I could write a killer script. That worry developed into a nasty habit. Even right now, I’m still dealing with the jitters, the shallow breathing. It’s like after years of intoxication, your system revolts when suddenly there’s no booze in the blood. 

As I get the chance to teach the Chinese kids about screenwriting, about creative thinking, I want to make sure they don’t piss off their Muses. But most importantly, they find their voice. Not the voice in their heads. But the kind of voice that shuts the world. So everyone would listen.

My auditioning lecture at this prestigious institute is on Wednesday. Wish me luck.

Yours truly,
YZ

Whose shit is this shit?

Dad saw a husky owner who didn’t pick up the dog shit. He called after the guy before he was led away by his dog.

“Sir, forgetting something here?” Dad pointed at the hot mess. Nerves on his temple bulging.

“You lost your marbles? Mind your own fucking business.” The man barked back and refused flatly.

Dad asked the Residential Committee to even things out. Its office is right beside where the shit show happened, fortunately.  And yet, not a single soul came out.

A staffer hiding behind her desk replied sheepishly, “[Dog poop] is NOT our job.” 

The man snickered at my dad, “See? It’s not their job. So what’s the fuss here? You’re a CPC member or what?” [Translation: CPC Member = Boy Scout with a twist.]

It was not until my dad threatened to call the police that the man dared to taint “the good name of CPC” that the man finally gave in and picked up the shit and apologized.

Dad told the story during dinner and added, “That’s why I warn you not to mind these monkey business. It does you no good.”

“But now we have one less shit to worry about, eh?  So who’s job is it when it comes to… dog shit?”

Dad didn’t have an answer. I don’t either. 

Truth is, you can’t expect every dog owner to remember pick their puppies’ shit up. Maybe another law will suffice?

Or maybe more folks like dad who is getting discouraged when he did the right thing.  Sometimes, if you meet people whose last layer of dignity is gone, there is nothing left for you to do. 

Did I mention that every person working in the Residential Committee is a party member? Yep, here comes the twist. Go figure.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Chinese Single’s Day

November 11th… 11/11… One-one-one-one…

Aka. Single’s Day, the day where a bunch of single people moped on and offline.

Singles’ Day, or Bachelors’ Day, originated at Nanjing University in 1993. Singles’ Day celebrations spread to several other universities in Nanjing during the 1990s. via Wiki.

Then Taobao (under the Alibaba Group, the Chinese Amazon) started the “Double 11” campaign in 2012, coping its Western cousin Black Friday, where lots of things go on sale at insanely low prices. It did so-so that year. Media mocked Taobao’s wacky marketing strategy even though it sounded rather catchy.

But the following year, the year after that and so on, more and more people, sellers and buyers, joined the party. When word got out that on Double 11 Day one gets the biggest saving of the year, everyone is psyched.

In 2012, I was in Shanghai doing marketing and branding. I saw it from inside out and outside in, as a skeptical consumer and a skeptical marketer. As we come to the end of 2018, it has been going on for six years. Double 11 is only getting stronger.

So much so that Alibaba coined “Double 12” (December 12). It caught up instantly. More online platforms like JD.com tried to emulate the campaign. Lo and behold, the term “Double 11” was trademarked by Alibaba on December 28, 2012.  The company threatened legal action against media outlets that accept advertising from competitors that use this term.  They are fun to play with, but deadly to play against.

By now, 11-11 just doesn’t feel like Single’s Day any more. It has officially become Shopping Spree Day. “The event is now nearly four times the size of America’s biggest shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.” according to Wiki.

Guilty as charged, I stayed up late today till after midnight just so I could join the other hundred million online shoppers in China… Of course, people will complain the next day, “Yeah, I did save a little. But it’s not worth staying up late like this.” And yet, by next year, like every year, people would do it all over again like clockwork.

Why did I do it if I sounded so ‘smart and sophisticated.’

First off, some things I’ve been planning to buy are slightly cheaper on Double 11. So why not wait a little till Nov 11?

Second, there are things I did want to order early but I couldn’t place the order as the dates got so close to Double 11 when the prices were changed ‘back’ to freaking ridiculous high “original price” just so they can make the savings on 11-11 seem even more…

No matter how much you save as a consumer, no matter how much you make as a seller, we are all playing Alibaba’s game.  Since Alibaba is the House, it will report and boast the next day in the news that “this year we have made some trillion yuan” which gives the the country a proper moment to say, “See? Our economy is greater than ever. No worries, people.”

It takes a group of delusional people, myself included, to be willing to play this game. But then, in China, one thing you don’t lack is people. One word that would get you undivided attention and unified action is: discount.

What’s the upside? Well, as a single person, I can speak for us: we don’t feel that lonely on this day anymore. We are so busy buying, we don’t have time to feel melancholy.  Shopping can be therapeutic after all.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Coughing

Has been the new norm for me for the last two weeks.

So when I didn’t cough all that much today, I felt something was fundamentally wrong.  You’re right, my brain and my lungs have been used to and was totally coughed the fuck up.

Or think about this one: a bunch of past-middle-aged Chinese ladies flooding over at the counter when I was actually the next customer.  I was too proud to go down the ditches, so I abided by the one-meter courtesy distance.  When I pointed out to them, they rolled their eyes in unison and called me “Bullshit.”

Here is the inconvenient truth, Mr. Al Gore, cutting the line is right amongst these Chinese aunties and uncles. “Everyone is there. So I need to be there” is their inner voice and logic.

It’s like coughing your head off for 24/7.  Then getting a brief quietness for 15 mins, you start to feel something doesn’t feel right or normal.

Or, consider this: Trump makes both lying and orange the new black. Or white, in his defense.

Or, when the air is so polluted that a tad of blue is newsworthy…

To get your sense of rightfulness back, go to the doctor, get some cough drops. So you have a choice to see if you genuinely like coughing your marbles out.

  • Or, see if you like fighting your right for instances like waiting in line to be served when you can actually watch another cat video;
  • Or, go marvel at the blue sky for a change when you choose to travel outside China;
  • Or, elect someone else than Trump in 2020 to make the world a better place.

The list goes on. But it begins with this one:

You can always start by fixing your fucking cough. 

I did. Knock on the wood.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

PS. Check out my podcast’s latest episode featuring an aspiring writer from the UCLA Film School.  The interview speaks to me on a deep level. Because the guest also had to move out from LA for now.  His optimism and resilience give me a shot of strength as I need it the most.  Quit dilly-dallying, check now for yourself!

Last day of September

Is not September 31st. But I do wish it has 31 days like October or December.

Rather unfair, wouldn’t you say?

That makes my remaining days in LA about one day shorter.

I never think it that way early in my journey in the US. Reaching the end of this chapter, I want the time to slow down, to freeze.

“With your experience in America, you would do great back in China.”basically summarizes what everyone has been telling me thus far.

I wonder how much of it is sugar-coated encouragement given how much confidence they have in my capacity, to which I know I deserve.

I have been driving myself crazy about my future back home, as if I have a much better idea if I still got to stay in LA.

Here is something I’ve realized: I’ve been a pessimist since I got to America. With every hope, my reaction is: Really? Are you sure?

Even when I landed the ‘dream job,’ the looming fear had been: when I would be let go. Until I was. A nightmare came true, more or less.

I’ve been guilty of tracking the subscribers as if it’s an arms race against the likes of Tim Ferriss. I was so upset when I found out that the first day playbacks has dropped significantly with the last episode, largely because the freshness has worn off amongst my families and friends. Or that my blogs don’t get enough reads.

Honestly, I feel the resistance, daily and hourly. The snarly voice [Think: Brett Kavanaugh, or Lindsey Graham] nags in my head, “So what? You ain’t no writer. Get out of my lawn.”

With that in mind, I’ll keep showing up here, with my blogs and my podcasts just to show Brett and Lindsey are very, very wrong.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

The Customs – Part I

Mum texted me that she got notifications. From the Chinese Customs.  Thirteen letters in total.

But you have fifteen boxes, right?

Yes…

What does it mean? What shall we do?

Calm down.

But my stomach tightened up. I felt queasy already.

Is it the two boxes of books?  My mind starts racing. I have a book about Chiang Kai-shek and two on Soong Mei-ling. I was hesitating whether I should take them with me on the plane when my friend was helping me with the packing.

I asked for his opinion. “Do you know how many packages are coming in and out of your country at any given day? They wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about your stuff. They have bigger fish to fry. Don’t worry about it.”

Let’s see how things would unfold…

One way or the other, the joke’s on me.

 

Yours truly,
YZ