Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Law of Karma

The past Saturday was my B-day. After a wonderful dinner with some friends at the Twin Dragons on Pico, we retreated to our place to have another round of beers.

The weather was extremely hot that day, so we settled in our backyard which has just been re-landscaped two weeks ago. Our 6 years old Shih-Tzu was also let out to play in the yard and because of his presence, our topic was soon shifted from Obama vs. McCain to dogs.

Then, my friend John told us a little story.

Years ago when he and his wife Cara were living in the NoHo area, they found three newborn puppies dumped on the their front lawn one day. Until then they have never thought of becoming dog owners, but the sight of these helpless puppies changed their mind. They took one in for themselves while finding the other two reliable homes through friends and relatives. They named the dog Buster.

When Buster grew into a full-sized dog, John and Cara were ready to leave NoHo for west LA. They still wanted to rent as John was afraid of being tied up by a mortgage. But they soon concluded that because of Buster, they were better off buying than renting. Few landlords allowed dogs and even if they did, they hiked the rent to such a level that it easily exceeded the normal mortgage payment.

So John and Cara scraped every penny they had and purchased a fixer in the westside. Not before long and all of sudden, the housing boom began and their home value skyrocketed. Even after the recent credit crunch and market corrections, because of its location, their home was still priced at the level that was way more than what they paid for. This was the single best investment they've ever made and John gave Buster the full credit.

When I first heard the story, I didn't think much. Then the next day while I was driving on the freeway, a thought came in my mind. The relation between Buster and John and Cara's home equity suddenly became clear. Wasn't it karma? They saved a dog and the dog in return rewarded them with financial security. Maybe it is true that all of our actions will bring consequences - sooner or later and only a matter of time. Moreover, it also reaffirms the law of paradox. 塞翁失马,焉知祸福 (sai weng shi ma, yan zhi huo fu). Behind bad luck comes good luck. Misfortune might be a blessing in disguise.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Seal and Kill

封杀 (Feng Sha) - Seal and Kill.

Everywhere you turn, you'd see this word appearing in news titles, blog entries and online commentaries on many of the Chinese websites.

A cyber Cultural Revolution seems be at full swing in China at this moment. Entering "封杀" in Google, you'll come up with more than 12 million results!

First seal and kill "The Super Girl," then Tang Wei, then Carrefour, then Sharon Stone and then Kungfu Panda... The list goes on and on. What used to be a way that the government exercises its censorship has now become a common artillery carried by Chinese netizens to instigate public outcries. 封杀!Let's call for a kill and seal! But what is missing here are common sense and basic human decency.

In recent months, the Chinese cyber world seems to be run by a bunch of hypersensitive agitators and enablers, who looks out for every opportunity to crush and condemn those whose views differ from theirs. Excessive and often profane languages are used for launching attacks. Deliberate manipulations of truth or even pure lies are also utilized to gain attention and support. This is exactly the same way as it did in the Cultural Revolution. However, unlike in the Cultural Revolution when many attackers used their real names, nearly all of those agitators and enablers are a nameless bunch. Rarely an entry you see on the Chinese web has been posted under one's real name. You can't help but wonder whether these posts are really reflecting the authors' true beliefs or simply a way of lashing out their frustrations, grievances or even revenge.

Let's wait and see who'll be the next to be picked out and be sealed and killed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Shanghai" Returns to Shanghai

Yes, after first denying a shooting permit, the Chinese film authority greenlit the film "Shanghai" to return to Shanghai to continue the shoot. I learned the news today.

I've been working on the script side of the production for some time now. I didn't write the script but was hired to help "improve" it. Won't be getting a writing credit but my contract warrants that my name will appear within the top ten spots in the end credits.

It's a Weinstein Company's production and stars John Cusack, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe and Chow Yun-Fat. The entire crew is shooting in London at this moment. Still waiting for word when or if they will return to Shanghai to wrap up the production there.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Young and Restless in China

An excellent documentary came out on PBS last night. It was done by the same "China Hand" Sue Williams who has made a strings of films on China in recent years. What's new about this one is that it's more current. It's about the young and restless in China.

But in reality, restlessness or 浮躁 (Fu Zao in Chinese) isn't a quality that is reserved only for young people. Everyone in China is restless in one way or another. The whole country is on the move and no one feels secure. As the amount of opportunities increases, so does people's expectations, ambitions and of course frustrations and crushed dreams. Today's China is essentially in the early stage of Capitalism: while enjoying unprecedented growth, it is also a battlefield where the law of "survival of the fittest" runs supreme.

Highly recommend this documentary.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

USC Fighting Writing Alumni

Tuesday night, at the newly re-opened Casting Office in Studio City, former USC writing alumni came together to launch a new program called "USC Fighting Writing Alumni." This was an attempt to rejuvenate the connections they made at school and reaffirm the alliance they were all part of because of their associations with USC.

Of the 32 students from my year, roughly 10 people showed up including me. Still an impressive turnout, given that many have either moved out of LA or changed to different careers since they graduated. The new program promised more future gatherings as well as "matchmaking" services for alumni writers, producers and directors. I really hope that something good will come out of this program.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Vote of Conscience

Today, 3 June 2008, I voted for the first time in my life. It's a day worth remembering.

At the polling station near my home, I cast my vote in a semi-secluded booth. The ballot went through without a problem. Yeah, my vote is now being counted!

There was one measure on the ballot that actually concerned my own interest. But considering that it might not benefit the majority of people here in California, I cast against it.

I'm proud that I voted with conscience.