When Kobe was playing his last game

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Where were you?

What were you doing?

Were you watching the game?

I was not. But I watched his postgame interview today.

A journalist asked about his plan after retirement. He said, “I’ve been doing a lot of research. And I will meet with my business partner tomorrow. Lots of people when they retire, they tell themselves, well, I will start a new life tomorrow. Then tomorrow becomes another tomorrow. As a player, I always have a routine. I need to find a new routine after basketball. Or I will lose my sense of purpose.”

That’s why Kobe is Kobe.

Everybody stopped what he was doing and decided that watching his last game was the most important thing that evening. The world stopped for Kobe, because he’s worth it. Or, because he’s earned it. Day in and day out, he played. He never stopped.

In his interview, he also mentioned discipline. When media praises his talent, his streak of luck, let’s not forget how disciplined he has always been. He was no ounce more gifted than his peer Tracy McGrady. The latter retired already and became a sportscaster, while Kobe fought to the last minute his body could sustain him. That’s why we love Kobe — not because he’s a genius, but he’s like us, only thousand times more driven. Only.

Kobe, amongst my other heroes — Steve Jobs, Will Smith, focuses on the one thing and do it to the fullest.

So when I recalled what I was doing last night, I was writing. One day is not going to make any difference. But I will persist. Even Kobe’s last game wouldn’t distract me from honing my own craft. That’s what he has taught me over the years while I followed his career religiously.

I want to be among the league of people like Kobe— who fight their best fight to the last minute of their career.

And I will write to the last minute of my life I can lift my hands and type.

What’s wrong with the latest SK-II China Campaign?

Yes, it is about #LeftoverWomen. Surprise!

Yes, it went viral. Surprise!

Yes, it’s a tear jerker. Surprise!

No, I don’t understand #ChangeDestiny — the hashtag at the end of the video. All the 30-something female interviewees talked about their parents’ aspirations to see them married to good men. In tears, these career women reveal the humiliation from their overbearing relatives on their being still single at such an (appallingly old) age at the family gathering.

But back to the hashtag, who is to change their destiny? These women themselves? The country, the society? Or their up-in-the-air Superhero boyfriends too busy saving the world?

A side note to your entertainment—

In 2007, China’s Women’s Federation (中国妇联)coined the term “Leftover Women” for those highly educated, urban, professional women over twenty-seven who are still unmarried.

Yes, the Women’s Federation.

What interest me more is these women’s lifelong passions, what their typical day is like, how they become who they are now. Shockingly, the creative director gave us another tear-jerker making them the victims of social bully.

At the Nick Vujicic event last week, one thing he said that I will never forget happens to be this—

If you are not happy single, chances are that you won’t be happy married.

These single women must be quite successful doing what they do. Or why would SK-II select them for the taping? But from the campaign’s perspective, we fail to see that side, at all. I don’t know the vocations of these posh talking heads as they wipe tears away from their weepy eyes.

The end of the video lingers on the shot at the Shanghai People’s Square’s Marriage Corner. They set up installations with these women’s glamor shots captioned with touchy-feely quotes like, “I don’t want to marry for marriage’s sake. I will not be happy.

SK-II China Commercial — ‘She Finally Goes to the Marriage Corner’

Gosh, I cried. I pity these women. I feel sorry for myself. I miss my parents. I feel awful. I need my ice-cream.

I even composed a letter to the SK-II executives —

Dear SK-II,

You see, I had plans to buy your exquisite products. But I regret to inform you that after carefully studying your powerful video, I decide not to.

As a leftover woman, I feel guilty. You make it perfectly clear that I should let go of my pride and beg for people’s sympathy because I’m socially disabled.

Well, pride is all I had. Now I have nothing. I’d better think ahead and plan my spinster life.

As a single woman with no foreseeable love interest, I retain a sharp memory. Allow me refresh yours.

Wasn’t it Tang Wei who proudly claimed that—

“If I didn’t start using the Magic Water in my 20s, I won’t have the skin I have now.”

Wait a sec, how old is she? 40?

“The earlier you start using the Magic Water, the more profound changes you’ll notice later.”

How ‘later’ is later?

“560 RMB for a FOURTEEN-day treatment.”

Do you know the salary of an average single leftover woman? Of course you have all the stats from your CFO.

With the staggering inflation rate and unstable economy, I don’t think spending my hard-earned leftover woman money on your deluxe products is a wise investment after all. Now I am freed from putting on cream for the sake of pleasing a potential husband. Plenty options out there, like Vaseline, or any CVS lines.

Please hold your laugh till I leave. Show some dignity, will ya?

So long. SK-II. And please send my best regards to your siblings, SK-I & III.

Sincerely yours,
A leftover woman who has to watch her wallet

PS. From the storytelling point of view, having the audience pity the hero is as expensive as chicken shit, which hurts SK-II as a high-end skincare product.

Why so serious?

When you become a writer, you play with the degree of “seriousness.”

  • Do I take myself seriously?
  • Or, do I take my work seriously?

I hear people complain, “Why (the fuck) is he/she so (fucking) serious?” Those folks, as I observe, tend to hang out with people who are chill and lay-back.

But before I pour my love for intense people, let me first talk about two shades of “intensity.”

  • Are you intense because you want to make it so bad just to prove to the world that you have what it takes? *I stay away from them. I just don’t like the smell oozing out of their body. Whatever they do, you know their BIG plans from miles away.
  • Or, are you intense because you have a story burning inside that you have to get it out and share with others? *Darling, shall we grab coffee sometime?

When self-help books praise (serious) people who are born with or stuck by a calling, I would give it a grain of salt.

  • First off, by now you should know you ain’t no Steve Jobs.
  • Second, let’s define “calling.” Let me give it a spin: God sheds light on you and exclaims with tears in his eyes, “My Child, I have a mission that only you on Planet Earth can do. Now go make me proud.”
  • Third, it’s too (fucking) passive. It is as if you wait outside in the rainstorm praying to get struck by lightning when there is no tree around to add to the odds.

Truth is, nobody can give you that thing called calling, clearly not those self-help books. They rub it into your soft spot to promote sales.

  • If you want to be a singer, sing.
  • If you want to be a painter, paint.
  • If you want to be somebody, go be it.

You see, the point is not in the noun. The key is in the action — that verb. Nobody gets to define you for you, you define ‘you’ by doing* what you think is best for you.

*Sadly, most people decide sitting is for the best. Then they become couch potatoes and die of heart failure, literally or figurately.

I love that phrase — force of nature. I love serious people who are like that. I’m fortunate to have friended a few and see them in action.

  • Wherever they go, they bring weather, they bring phenomena.
  • Religious or not, they never sit on their asses waiting to be called upon by God Almighty.
  • They call upon their own lazy bones and get the shit done.

That’s what they DO — day in and day out.

So stop being sedentary and kid yourself that you should just focus on dreaming. Be violent! Be vocal! Announce to the world (including your archenemies, well, especially them) about your batshit crazy plans. Scare yourself the shitless.

— Then what? Then I’m afraid, darling, you now have to go do it.
— What about hmm… Plan B?
Let me see, kill yourself.

But mind you, your dead body still has to take the blow when people pay cheap homage to you at your own beige funeral. Your archenemy would laugh at the top of her lungs, “I knew she is, strike that, she was a chicken.”

Okay, maybe that’s a little too heavy. Point is, once you start doing, one day you’ll be livin’ your dream.

I have friends who are also not from LA complaining how much they abhor the city, how dirty the streets are, how rude the people drive. I would ask, “Have you tried looking up?” “What do you mean?” “From where I come from (that is, China), the sky this blue happens every once in a blue moon.” Then they smile.

There is not a single day that I don’t feel like the luckiest person alive. Life is never easy, especially when we are still mapping out our future at a relatively mouldable age. But because I’m living here doing what I do, I am already grateful. All this is what I’ve been dreaming of consciously and unconsciously since I was a ten-year-old tootsie. That young thing who knew nothing about geography scribbled on her notebook that by 25, she would be in Meiguo, the Beautiful Country, aka. the United States.

I didn’t move and live in LA until September 2015 as a twenty-seven-year-old, but I was indeed 25 the first time I toured the East Coast in January 2014 before quitting my job and applying for the program. Technically speaking, that ten-year-old was right after all.

  • Don’t dismiss seriousness and call it ‘nerdy.’
  • Don’t give your inactivity, your procrastination another lofty* excuse that “I am looking for my calling.”

*Lofty: I am suspicious of anything “lofty.” It sounds condescending. Instead, look for things you do that give you goosebumps, that put you in the zone, aka. the Flow* as eloquently explained by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

*Flow: also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. via Wikipedia.

One more thing.

What is art?

  • Art is intimate. You can’t know your art if you put it on a pedestal.
  • Your art is a mirror of yourself. It’s a process of understanding yourself.
  • Art is an act of doing. It’s work-in-progress.
  • Art is hard labor. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty like a construction worker.

Now, do you feel the thrill, darling?

Seriousness is the ultimate sexy.


Yours truly,

Thank you for reaching out

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The most surreal thing happened. A person read my post on the treachery I suffered last year before getting accepted into the program. Now in the same shitty situation, he wrote me an email and apologized for it.

To begin with, no apologies are needed. It’s been a while since I received such a thoughtful ‘reach-out’ note. I wrote back immediately.

I think what most people lack these days is that kind of moxie. They are psychologically obese sitting on their asses tweeting #MiraclesCouldHappen. No one gives a damn about your future if you don’t fight for yourself. Just look at any memorable popular films, heroes give their best punches after Midpoint into the movie.

I wish him the best of luck. Or does he need ‘luck’?

With that kind of attitude, it’s hard not to succeed. Success, in their cases, is a matter of time.

In hindsight, it’s to our advantage to have a rough start. (*I will remember to thank the school for putting me on the Waitlist when I accept my Oscars.) When you are actually living the worse-case scenario, you find yourself still functioning — quite the opposite to what you assumed (that you’d be dead already). You then have an Aha-Moment, “Well, show me, what worse can happen next?”

I thought waitlist was nuts then. I got accepted. I thought finding a place to live in LA was almost a mission impossible after sending out hundreds of emails which all tanked without a trace. I ended up moving four times in the first month in LA. The Fall Quarter started before my third move. While my cohorts started to befriend with each other, I was still wandering, literally. “Almost there. Almost there.” was what I told myself each day juggling with school and logistics. But guess what, I survived and found the most lovely place at a most affordable price close to campus.

The day I moved into my fourth place — 10 October 2015. I was in heaven. Finally.

With the insignificant wins every day, you become a tough fighter. Hard to see it in the short run, but over time, you suddenly notice how far you’ve gone, how much muscle you’ve put on.

Now I can lift my chin up, and light up a cigarette* and puff, “Bring it on, darling.”

*Truth is, I don’t smoke (or drink, or do drugs, ever) and I have failed preaching my father to quit smoking. So kids out there, if you are reading this, don’t smoke. Capisce?

Meet the Godfather

At the Godfather shooting site with the great John Cazale and Marlon Brando

I was a bit of a cynic lining up to get into the theatre. So what? He is visiting. I really haven’t seen his work lately. What’s he up to anyway?

Then he was at the stage center, no emcee. He talked about his new project. He talked about what inspired him and his research. Then he began talking about his dream. The man was born in 1939. And he still has dreams, big dreams. I shifted in my seat.

He is extraordinary. I thought to myself.

I then recalled my most esteemed professor said he greatly admired the director. “He was broke twice making the movies he believed in.” I felt his love for film when he talked.

As he wrapped up, he added an anecdote—

My father played flute, but all he wanted was to be a composer. I direct films, but all I ever want is to become a writer. There are people born with talent that most of us have to trade with hard work. Born into a family like mine, I have to work hard to prove that I am something. So I direct and I work.

For the first time, I realized that having a house full of great artist relatives is not fun to be around. Fortunately, he didn’t flinch. I thought that came from some great parenting. Or it’s just great gene?

Before fading out from the stage’s side door under the spotlight that resembles the God in Bruce Almighty, he turns around and told us a joke about a legendary teacher of his time encouraged his film students to call him by his first name. Pause.

“You can call me Francis.”

Cue the longest applause.

My Pet Peeves

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Two things you should know about me:

  • I hate bullshitting.
  • I hate wasting time.
  • I hate bullshitters wasting my time.

Okay, that’s three things.

This quarter I enrolled in four classes — 20 Units in total. Two of them are writing classes. I have to sit through from 10am to 4 pm with two divas who never shut up paraphrasing what have already been said for the most of the time while the instructors don’t try to duct-tape their mouths.

I try to be Zen. But it is hard when I hear the tick-tock pounding in my head as they drone on. Things got worse at the second class. One of them is quite opinionated about everything. When I read her work, she at least earns my respect from her writing. The other diva however, is the one I have issues with.

I’ve heard a lot of things about this person taking so many classes while still getting things done and keeping her sanity. But when I read her stuff today, I was appalled by how sloppy it was. She came up with two versions and asked us which one we preferred. *I didn’t know the presidential election coming so soon. The instructor ended up letting her read both. Imagine my agony hearing through the two shoddy stories.

Like her beige protagonist, I don’t feel anything about the story. I appreciate a good Rom-Com. But give us stuff that pushes the story forward; give us stuff that makes us care about and root for the protagonist, rather than having her sitting on her ass bitch and moan. Pity on the screen is cheap. Shouldn’t she know that by now after taking SO many classes? That she still uses words like “think” and “want” on her pages makes me question if she is really learning. If this is the first screenwriting class, that’s fine. But we are at the half of our two-year program, shouldn’t she know better by now?

When the girl comments on other people’s work, I see her stance. But as for her own story, it is in such a mist that one can’t even find the door to save the protagonist. Then I asked a legit question. “Oh, you will see later when I begin to write,” she replied with uber-confidence.

I feel all the more necessary to turn in CLEAN pages rather than exceeding the cap. But two versions for both the beat sheet and the character list? And vote? Not to my surprise, we had to rush through the second half of the session while still leaving two people’s work unread.

To lend perspective, a friend said he sees the multi-tasking girl as a future show-runner. I beg to differ. Her quality sounds to me more like a sassy assistant.

Thanks to years of working in the business sector, I know a bullshit when I hear one.

If you want to run shows, shut your mouth and show me your moves.

NFL and China

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Read this news first from Wall Street Journal: NFL Considers Staging Game in China by 2018.

China has become “the elephant in the room.” If any business wants to make it worldwide, it can’t afford to ignore China. When I asked how NFL will penetrate into China upon staging a game there in 2018, I was looking for more than a simple “If you build it, they will come” answer.
Anybody can hold a one-off game with snowflake marketing and giving away free tickets to the government officials. But how to reach out and build the kinship with the average Chinese?
Take tennis for example. China began broadcasting tennis at the peak of Michael Chang’s career. But those games were often interrupted because of the poor ratings. In 2002, Shanghai partnered up with ATP Tennis holding men’s final for the following three years. At the time, most people don’t even know the “math” in tennis — Love-15–30–40, and not 45? It took another decade for tennis to gain nationwide popularity at the sensational news of Li Na winning the French Open in 2011.
Or look at NBA. It has been popular in China from Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s LA Lakers. But it was Yao Ming that brought about the China bonanza. Granted, it takes an ensemble of stars like Steve Nash, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki to make the game interesting. But for the Chinese audience, while they were starstruck by the gifted NBA players in the past, now they got to cheer for their own. For the first time, NBA was “approachable.”
NBA is alway on the lookout for its next bridge, the next cultural ambassador that makes China tick from Yao Ming to Jeremy Lim. It holds summer camps in major Chinese cities. Megastars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James trek the Great Wall, visit schools, play with kids and interact with fans. At every Chinese New Year, they put out video clips with star players greeting fans in broken but cute mandarin.
It is only human that everyone wants to cheer for someone we can relate to. The first hurdle for NFL is to educate its Chinese audience about the rules. How to popularize the game when Americans use yards while Chinese do meters? If NFL wants to cultivate sophisticated viewers in China like NBA, it needs more than just putting on extravaganza at the Beijing Bird Nest Stadium. And why should Chinese care about American football? What’s good for them? Is it not in the Olympics? If yes, then you bet every school will mandate American football at the gym class from kindergarten to college.

It’s the bond that makes us human.

It’s the bond that makes the fans care.

My concern about NFL’s presence in China is more about “ecosystem” than merely holding one game on the China soil. Where to begin when you do not yet have that bridge, that bond?
To win a market, one must first understand its culture, like what Nixon did with his Ping-pong diplomacy in 1971.