Compare and Contrast

A hallmark of a good story, outside of the story arc, is the character arc. We wanna see our character transform to the person they should be. Despite our dislike for change, Newton’s law I suppose, we want to improve, grow, get better, become greater than what we think we can be. Even people who aren’t storytellers know something is missing if nothing changes in a story, whether it be the overall or character arc, because we’re asking ourselves, What’s the point?

ChoppedLiver

ChoppedLiver

Over the weekend, I was hanging out with a few friends and a bunch of new ones. We were enjoying the rare warm sun of San Francisco with everyone teeming the streets with their dogs, boards, and wheels in the midst of the many picnics and people soaking in the rays. During the hustle and bustle, two acquaintances scurried up to my friend who said, “I’ll forward his info to you.” One of the girls thanked her and gave her a grateful hug. I’m standing there thinking, What am I, chop livah?

Dadudadudaaduuuu...Hawaii Five O

Dadudadudaaduuuu...Hawaii Five O

The guy they were referring to was tall, athletic, good looking, had a great career and a great personality to boot. So I get my imaginary list: I’m short, excuse me, height challenged; no one can tell whether I’m Filipino or Vietnamese even though I’m neither of those, but who can tell in the first place; still working on my five pack, I’m missing one, genetics I guess; I have a day job with no want for advancement; I tend to rely on humor too much and wonder if it’s a defense mechanism. So I understand the excitement over the new guy, who I’ve gotten to know, and is a cool dude.

Stress and self-loathing bubbles in my chest, a victim mentality wells in my mind, and I feel like nothing. At this point, my confidence is dead and dying. Uh. Right.

They all look like me

They all look like me

When I taught kids, one of the main things I imparted was not to compare oneself with any other. We are all perfect in our own way because there doesn’t exist one ideal perfection. In regards to nature, and the arts, if there was one ideal, then we’d die out pretty quickly because we wouldn’t be able to adapt. Art would all look the same. It’d be a horrible, horrible thing. Sorta like Hollywood movies. Oooh. No I didn't! Comparing ourselves to something else is pointless; we don’t wanna be like someone else, we inherently wanna be us, but accepted as well.

So what do I do about the above situation? Nothing. There is nothing to do because I know myself, I know what I offer, and like all other humans, I have many facets that lend well to whatever it is I want to do or be. It doesn’t make for good storytelling, we wanna see the trials and tribulations of self discovery, but I’m not the story here. My characters are, though, I have gone through the trials and tribulations, as it lends well to writing. At least that’s what I tell myself.

BMOC

Ooh. Bunk bead

Ooh. Bunk bead

Sitting in my jail-like 6X6 cubicle, I overheard the new guy at our office, who charmed the whole lot, invite one of my team mates out to happy hour. Of course there was no sliding cell door that kept me from inviting myself. Footsteps swishes away as I wondered if I was going to be included in this exclusive outing. That would be a no.

Feelings of being the geeky, nerdy, lone Chinese kid, who people thought was smart, cheating off his paper (big mistake) came flooding back into my barreled chest. Too much? All I ever wanted in high school was to be the big man on campus. Not be smart. Psh.

That's it?

That's it?

Delving into the victim mindset was something I grew up with, so I knew it was just a reactionary moment of despair. Then I kinda laughed about it after drying my tears because I was meeting my mother later, and remembered that a five-year-old girl can hold her liquor better than I could. I wish I was joking. This leads me to my first point. Don't cheat off my paper. My book smarts is limited.

One of my friends graduated from the university with a Theater Arts degree. She had showcases in New York and Los Angeles and felt she belonged in LA. She had an offer from an agent to represent her, but she declined because she didn't feel connected to this person.

Holly's wood!

Holly's wood!

Now. To get an agent in Holli's wood is probably just as hard for an author in Litty's (literary) world. So I have to applaud her. In a world where the talent, yup, I'm part o'dat group, can be desperate to get representation, they'd take whoever shows a little leg. But the power comes back to the talent, still part o'dat group, when we choose who we want to be represented by. Because the whoever represents us talented must at the least love work.

This brings me to my second point. Know you're talented.

Raaaahh!

Raaaahh!

When I researched agents, I read their blogs to find the one thing I could relate myself or my book in my query letters to them. I had found one that I liked with similar humor to me. I was like, ommahgawd, were made to be. Then I read one of his posts, which went something like this: Many people play the piano for fun and never want to play in an orchestra. Why is it that people can't write for the pure joy of it without wanting to be published?

This guy's world must be really small. Most of the people that I know who write, write for pure joy in journals, twitter, blogs, and have no want to be published in the traditional sense. I know very few who would venture into the publishing world. Hmm. Maybe my world is small. For some reason his comment turned me off.

Why?

Maybe because I wanted to be that popular guy who everyone looks up at. Which is hard since I'm not that tall.

Jimmy! Sign my ti...shirt!

Jimmy! Sign my ti...shirt!

"Hey. That's Jimmy Ng! He wrote NIGHTFALL. He's like the J.K. Rowling of fantasy."

"Dude, man. J.K. Rowling is the J.K. Rowling of fantasy."

"Oh, yeah," I thought, while tapping my bottom lip.

Do I want to become popular in the high school sense? No. Do I want everyone to read NIGHTFALL? Totally. It's a dream of mine.

But it's an important question to ask. I wanted to write it because I thought it would be fun. It was. I want the world to read it and enjoy the exhilaration I felt writing the book. I serve so people may have a little bit of escapism.

Loss of Subtlety

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Subtlety has escaped Hollywood. Hollywood, however, is a representation of what the market will bear. Market being the peeps. Us. What we’re likely to pay a whopping twelve bucks to watch.

To be more homogenous, movies must have:

• Action • Suspense • Romance • Mystery • Redemption • Revenge • Comic relief • Strong female lead • Coupled by a backward-thinking male lead who learns to love the strong female lead finally realizing that she’s his everlasting soul mate for all time and beyond • A chase scene either by foot, car, truck, or air, with shoot outs that lead to a climactic battle between God and Satan, where armies of orcs, elves, muggles, wizards, witches, followed by mere men and women, and a child who was born with a butterfly tattoo preordaining her to cure the virus that has threatened life as we know it and must complete a special training that will make him (wasn’t it a her?) nearly invincible (nearly because we have to have tension in our epic fog of a story) • And a Hollywood ending where the child cures Satan of his issues, and both God and Satan float off into the sunset • The End

Ebert and Scorsese

Ebert and Scorsese

One of the things I do is read reviews of movies, Roger Ebert being my favorite. They don’t have any bearing on what I watch. But I can learn a lot about story telling by people’s likes and dislikes, and they’re fairly common. As a story teller, the market is important to a certain point. But as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers has proven, good content creates the market. We see this in the explosion of wizardry and horromance in the media today.

I see you

I see you

When reviews are either good or bad cohesively, there may be some merit. On Fandango, I had looked up the times for Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Matt Damon. Part of the movie was filmed in San Francisco in an apartment building my friend lives in. So it was cool hearing stories of how filming went.

Fandango had a rating of yellow, meaning most of the people who saw the movie thought it was “so-so”. That’s the middle rating. But Jackass in 3D got a bright green rating, the top, a “must go”. A red means “oh no”, stay away or lose two hours of life you can never get back.

Most people complained Hereafter was slow and uneventful. But you can’t have a good story with substance based purely on the afterlife. You may point out Paranormal Activity, but it’s just cheap thrills. Would you stay in a house that haunted you for any length of time? I’m brave. But I ain’t that brave. And none of the Paranomal movies explored why they stayed or what issues being haunted brought up. It represents nothing. It's like going to a strip club, paying to get a hard-on, then walking home with with no relief.

Not that I know of those kinds of naughty, naughty things.

A good story with substance uses something as the backdrop, like the afterlife, to show case interpersonal issues. Hereafter does that from three different perspectives: a psychic who can communicate with the dead, a journalist who had a near death experience, and a boy who yearns for his dead twin.

Work it, work it

Work it, work it

A good example of backdrop is Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan. I never knew why until I started to study story. James Bond is a classic character. He's suave. He likes all women. He sleeps with all women he desires. He likes his drinks to be shaken, not stirred. He can get out of any situation. He's a master fighter, can wield any weapon made available, and is witty.

But as a character, he never changes.  He doesn't go from having no confidence to being confident. He doesn't realize the error of his ways. He doesn't learn to be loyal because he already is. He doesn't have any bad qualities.  Qualities that a writer can hang his hat on to change.

Except for one. He's emotionally detached to the women he's intimate with. He never falls in love. Then Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, shows up in Royale. She's confident, brash, reads Bond for who he is, and just as every bit competitive. Through their competitiveness, Bond falls in love with her. A huge change in both character and in the movie. When Vesper dies, he must struggle with the pain, something all humans go through. As a result, Casino Royale is one of the best reviewed Bond movies.

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Like Being Fat?

It's been some time since I've posted. I'm in the midst if revising my book. It's been a tedious process. Tedious in that I've had to read chapters several times in order to catch the things I'm looking for. But I'm enjoying it surprisingly enough. I'm not a patient person. Recently I went to a comedypalooza type of show where a dozen comedians put on a great performance. Over half of them are well known in Hollywood. This was an outdoor event with an estimated 20,000 people.

I noticed something. When the stats came out the United States was the most fat country in the world, I never realized how true that was. As I was sitting on the lawn enjoying the show, at least half of the people were fat. Fat enough that I could roll them down the hill and they'd have problems stopping.

Is this a mean thing to say?

Probably. Depends on your perspective.

There are fat people who are very comfortable with their weight. They feel good about themselves, love themselves, love who they are. I'm not referring to those people. I'm referring to those who complain about their weight and do nothng about it.

I have a friend who at his peak was 300 pounds. He was fat. Sported man boobs. He was unsatisfied with his body composition. He took the time to research what his diet should be, exercised almost every day, and avoided the scale. In about a year and a half he'd lost 125 pounds. Not only was that fast, but he looks muscular. When I saw him, keep in mind I was used to the fat version, my limitations on weight loss disappeared.

I went to eat dinner with a friend the other day. Ordered a grilled chicken salad. When it came it was enough to feed a small army. Part of the issue is we eat large amounts of food in each sitting over the whole day. But the real problem is not being aware of how you feel and what you do.

I can't tell you how often I see people hate on their fatness and carry around a box of Nabisco Cheese crackers. Or they'll devour candy like Armageddon is coming. And they wonder why they don't feel good and expect doctors to prescribe dozens of pills for the ailments they suffer.

It's freaking ridiculous.

Want to change? Then you gotta do it. Just like Nike says. Do It.

Honestly Express Yourself

One of the things you don’t do is drink Diet Coke at night. Because it may keep you up. Feeling a bit alone, I surfed the late night cable channels. I’ve come across one of my rising favorites, the History Channel.  They showed a documentary called How Bruce Lee Changed the World. It shows how Bruce Lee changed the world.

See myadventurewhen I visited his grave site

Obviously, he changed the film industry greatly with his action films. He introduced martial arts to America. He helped changed philosophy. He broke the rules of classical martial arts, taught that the study of multiple martial arts was important, giving rise to the now popular MMA (mixed martial arts). The biggest promoter, UFC, gives him credit as the first MMA. He’s definitely influenced my book in more ways than I realize.

The cool thing about this Bruce Lee documentary, there have been many, is they’ve taken a look at popular culture and credit the Little Dragon for his influence.

Bret Ratner, director of Rush Hour, used the music composer from Enter the Dragon to compose the music for his first movie. The hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan was deeply influenced by Bruce Lee and Hong Kong action films. Their first album sampled music from those movies, and aptly named their album Enter the Wu-Tang. Marketing companies still use Bruce Lee today to increase their brand. If you search youtube.com for “Bruce Lee” and “ping-pong”, you’ll see the most current example. Bodybuilders today marvel at his muscular definition. Most action films can find their heritage to any of his films. And many more.

Bruce Lee was important to me because he was Chinese. I’m not being ethnocentric. What most people don’t realize is Bruce Lee had a difficult time becoming a leading man in Hollywood back in the day for one reason only.

He was Chinese.

He could’ve been Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, or any Asian descent. His slanty eyes presented a problem. Bruce Lee encountered a lot of resistance, despite his deep connections in Hollywood’s elite.

So what kept him going?

He knew this was his path. He knew where his passions lie. In his words, “...honestly express yourself...” Follow your heart and treasures beyond your dreams will come.

If he were to teach one thing, it’s this.

The greatest mystery in life is finding what it is you’re passionate about. So many have settled down for the mundane job because it pays the bills.  It's one thing to have a day job.  It's important to have a 'night' job. For those who’ve found it, and know it is their truth, then you have succeeded where most have not. And I’ll paraphrase from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: It’s never too late to start, it’s ok to start over, but the most important thing is to do. Break the rules if you have to, as Bruce Lee has, as long as it furthers your art, your passion. Just do it. Do it. Do.

Throw Your Goals Out Again!

I got a lot of comments from different sources regarding my post Throw Out Your Goals.  There were a few misconceptions that I want to cover.  First let me list some of them:

  • Goals are important to accomplish what we want
  • Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky
  • Success is defined differently for different people
  • Just because you love something doesn't mean you'll be good at it
  • Not every one can do what they love and get paid for it

 

There were plenty more.

Let's start with defining success.  My first post never defined success.  It defined certain people's level of success but never went as far as gave it a definition.  In this post, I will remain ambiguous on the definition of success.  Because who ever commented and said success is different for different people is correct.  I know a man who thinks he's successful because he's raised healthy, intelligent children.  I know fighters who've beaten great opponents who believe their own performances were below par.  Hell...Donald Trump hates being a multi-millionaire, and only considers himself a success when he has multi-billions.

Success is much like a goal.  Once you reach it, your work, the process to attain it, doesn't stop.  If a fighter won her first fight, she doesn't stop training.  She continues to train for the next fight.  If she's won the world belt in her weight class, then she still has to continue to sharpen her skills for her first title defense.  What happens when she defends it successfully?  Celebrates?  For sure!  Beware.  There are others who are hungry for her belt.  Back to the process.  What if she loses?  Back to the process.

I love this one.  Brad Pitt has good genes and is lucky.  I'm not denying his good genes and looks.  What I do deny is his luck.  To say he was lucky is to deny the hard work he'd committed, wearing a chicken suit, working odd jobs, before he got his first major role.  Look at Steve Carrell.  He was an unknown comic for twenty years until luck struck him.  Luck?  No.  Hard work and perseverance?  Most definitely.  

And good looks was never a prerequisite for success in Hollywood.  With over a million good looking people in Los Angeles, it doesn't explain Jack Black.  Now, some find him hot.  But he's doesn't fit the traditional leading man look.

This next one is good.  You can't make a living doing what you love is a lot of people's excuse to settle for mundane jobs.  I'm not saying quit your day job, lose your house, die of starvation.  Keep your day job, but work on what you love during your free time.  John Grisham is a great example.  He was a lawyer for ten years before he wrote his first novel.  He got to the office two hours before he started his real job, wrote, then started on his case list.  The awesome thing is he published his first book.

If you don't think you can make a living doing what you love, then you won't.  Simple as that.

Think you'd suck being a parent?   You will.

Believe you can run a marathon?  Follow up with action, and you will.

Whether you think you can or can't, you're right.  Henry Ford said that.  He wanted to create a V-8 engine.  He surrounded himself with brilliant engineers. You know what they said?  Can't be done.  Ford pushed them forward, told them it was possible.  Through several failures, it was done.  Look it up.  True story.

The last one I want to tackle is:  just because you love it doesn't mean you can be good at it.  Crap.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers:  The Story of Success, he talks about mastery of skill.  He'd found one commonality among all world class musicians, artists, athletes, etc.  What is it?  Ten thousand hours of practice.  You want to be a world class anything?  Here it is, ten thousand hours of work.  That's why you gotta love the process, not the goal.  Love the process, the goal will come many times over.