Open vs. Closed

No. This post is not about Apple's closed vs. Android's open system. Anyone still talking about that doesn't understand their business models.

Do I Look Bored?
Do I Look Bored?

One of the theories of good storytelling suggests tying different characters' arcs into a common theme. In Don Jon, the main character, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is addicted to porn because he savors that perfect girl doing perfect things like giving the perfect blowjob. His new girlfriend, played by Scarlett Johansson, is addicted to romance movies where the perfect guy meets the perfect girl and they're perfect for each other. Both adult and romantic films are forms of porn because they depict a sort of perfection, or perversion, that doesn't wholly exist in the real world.

This past weekend's social events seemed to depict one common theme. Saturday, I had dinner with a group of people and was talking to an acquaintance. Mr. SUV jabbered about his girlfriend, so I asked him why she wasn't here. She's complex, Mr. SUV responded. My interest piqued because I love observing and talking about relationships, what makes them work, what doesn't. I asked what made her so complex?

"Well...I call her my girlfriend, but...she doesn't really want to see me. We don't see each other much."

I pursed my lips. "So, you're taking a break?"

"No...we still talk...she doesn't want to spend time with me. It's frustrating."

Uh...what? Trying to get more information resulted with more confusion on my part, but the thought that came to mind was:

Moments later, he was talking up his SUV, how good it was, the value, its horsepower. He would drive a hybrid but it wouldn't impress the ladies. What? Quality women don't care about the car you drive, they care about being with a confident man, I barged in. The ladies at the table nodded.

"You haven't seen the kind of women I meet," Mr. SUV said.

"What women? You have a girlfriend."

He chuckled. I was a little frustrated with him, I don't know why.

The next day, I went with a hiking group to Yosemite on a day trip. It was incredibly beautiful, air smelled clean. I'd made my way around and talked to everyone, sharing my humorous side throughout the day. Afterward, about ten of us went to dinner and the strangeness from the night before continued, despite being a completely different group of people.

A Harvard grad kept pestering me about the racial mixture of Venezuelans. I told him several times I didn't know because I left my country at a very young age. Mr. Harvard wasn't listening because he was crushing on Prada Girl, whom he carpooled with.

Prada Girl was flicking through Facebook, paying little attention to the conversation until the topic strolled to shopping. She liked having brand name purses such as Prada and showed off hers. Before going back to her phone, she mentioned that her older brother had paid for a lot of that stuff. I asked why.

Then Middle Woman said that's what brothers are for. I asked her if she was the youngest. No, she had two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Curiosity tickled my mind, and I asked if Middle Woman felt left out because she was the center child. She shook her head.

The conversation moved to our jobs, and Miss Moneypants was asked if she liked what she did. Miss Moneypants worked for a company that built components for satellites. "I'd be happier if I made more money."

"Would you be happy if you were paid 500,000 dollars as a prostitute?" I quipped.

"Why would you ask that?" Miss Moneypants said, shaking her head.

"You seem to put a lot of happiness on money," I said. 

Another woman was brave enough to turn that question on me, which I appreciated. Before I could answer, Miss Moneypants stated angrily, "I know YOU would."

ooh...I need to get a hair cut
ooh...I need to get a hair cut

Several people said I was asking personal questions. I guess that depends on who you are. It's not like I had a gun and threatened them to answer. They could just have ignore me.

"Answer me, or I'll—uh—ask you another question!"

There's a bigger issue here, and I'm not sure if it's because these people were Asians. Everyone seemed very closed, unable to have an open conversation. In a way, I think, they don't want to confront themselves and see that they might be living a lie.

In the instance of Mr. SUV, he places his own value on what people think of him, so he has this girlfriend who doesn't want to spend time with him. Miss Moneypants places her happiness on money, the one thing that can be easily taken away. Prada Girl hides behind her brand name clothes and accessories, while Mr. Harvard can't seem to get it up and flirt with Prada Girl, so he pretends to be intellectual about something he has no involvement in.

Much like the characters in Don Jon, both are trying to recreate the life they see on the screen, not knowing that life isn't perfect. Part of their growth is that happiness shouldn't be linked to anything that life has to offer but is innate within them, and, as such, they should let go of all pretense.

Why So Serious?

“Here...fix my watch. Your kind made it,” a bully had said, shoving his Casio watch at me. Thank tha lawd this wasn’t a recent event because sometimes my big mouth writes checks I can’t cash. This occurred during my junior high years. Obviously, what the bully said was racist.

Somthing's In My Ear
Somthing's In My Ear

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger." – Buddha

A friend of mine watched The Wolf of Wallstreet, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, directed by Martin Scorsese. My friend said it was racist because one of the characters was named Chester Ming “The Depraved Chinaman".

Are you fucking kidding me?

My sensitive friend was serious. I stated that maybe in real life that was Ming’s nickname, and given how the movie ended, Scorsese wasn’t going to make the PC choice and rid him of his moniker. Shit. None of Scorsese’s movies are PC.

"Only if we are secure in our beliefs can we see the comical side of the universe." – Flannery O'Connor

“Learn to laugh at yourself,” I stated.

He argued that I hate my own culture because I mock Chinese accents, often greeting people with “Herro”.

“How important is your culture to you, buddy?” I asked. He rambled on with no clear answer.

“I know more Chinese than you do,” I said.

“And that’s the real shame,” he admitted.

When people spout about how important culture is, I usually never cry out against it. But I will analyze their lives and see how important it is; my friend talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk. He doesn't speak a lick of Chinese. 

It’s like anything in life. If it’s important, you’ll do something about it.

Why Are We All Bald
Why Are We All Bald

When my niece gave birth to her daughter, she had read books, blogs, articles on how to raise children, researched the potential causes of autism, and began cooking every meal so she could control what her daughter ate. Diet was a strong suspect as the cause of autism due to the chemicals in processed foods.

My serious pal, however, stood his ground, assumed I hated my own kind, and we moved our conversation topic to women.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” – Marilyn Monroe

Hobby the Hobbit

Dat Sum Gud Paht 

Dat Sum Gud Paht 

Last night, I went to dinner at a hot pot restaurant. And not that kind of pot, though I have inhaled. For those not in the Asian Brethren, hot pot is a style of eating where people sit around a hot pot of boiling water (Duh?) and cook their food. Sometimes a hot grill surrounds the hot pot where, you guessed it my non-Asian Brethren, you can grill stuff. Afterward, we headed off to a dessert place to sit and chat, cuz chatting as we devoured our meals while pieces of food shot out isn't the most conversation inducing activity.

One of the ladies told us what she did, which sounded very technical, and I asked if she loved it. The guy next to me scoffed, stating that that was an extreme question.

Is it?

Doncha Luv Me 

Doncha Luv Me 

Would you keep your dog if you sorta kinda but not really liked it? Would you marry someone if you maybe loved, but probably not because you deluded yourself into thinking that you did, so you might love them if they stood in a certain light at a particular angle?

I asked him wouldn't it be great if he found something that he loved doing and could also make a living off of it? He nodded, shook his head, then waved it from side to side like Indians.

"What do you love doing?" I asked.

"Playing tennis."

"Would you wanna make a living doing that?"

He shrugged, then said, "Sure, I guess. If I had the talent and the ability and the time. But it's a hobby. Like writing is a hobby."

Whoa, buddy! "I'm a writer."

"Yeah. It's a hobby. Like photography."

Whoa, pal! "No. It's what I'm most passionate about." Outside of sex, of course, the ultimate passion.

I explained that I don't make money off of my writing, yet, so I have a day job so I can eat, drink and take out the ladies.

But I'd run into this pigeonholing of what writing is, and funnily enough, by Asians. What is it with my brethren?

Calcurator 

Calcurator 

As of this moment, I've yet to publish or self-publish my work, so what makes a writer, or any artist, a professional? Is it the distinction of being paid? What about those writers who have agents but have yet to sell books? Are they not professional? Or those self-published that have yet to collect on their works, are they just hobbyists? Because there's a lot people who self-publish just to put stuff out there.

I'm not sure what the clear answer is, but I do consider myself a professional in the sense that I can act professionally when I work with publishers and agents, despite my sadistic humor displayed on this site. For me though, there's more to it. The fact that my resolve is to get published, or self, and am doing what I can to polish my work, go to writing groups, pay for writing critiques, and continue to learn the art of storytelling and writing, while learning the business side of publishing, at least affords my writing beyond a hobby.

Tall coffee, prease

Tall coffee, prease

My fellow Asian brothah (not the one pictured) plays tennis for enjoyment but has no intent on doing it professionally because he doesn't think he can. I don't know whether he has the talent or ability, but he argued for his own limitation before even starting. And after teaching hundreds upon hundreds of students, I can tell you that talent is a small part of being good at something, and is often the one thing that holds people back because they didn't have to work to become good in the beginning.

In my opinion, which is the most important to my perspective, is that I'm a pro. I know this ain't a hobby. However, if that guy still thought I was just a hobbyist, then that speaks more to his own thinking about himself. Spending any time trying to convince him would be a waste. And I'm not trying not to be cliche, but to each his own. Whatever's clever. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever jerks your chain. What you see is what you get.

The Shunned

Since postponing the move to Hawaii, I've gone on a bevy of hikes, happy hours, house parties, game nights, BBQs, writing groups, and whatever else you can think of. Well...no swinger parties, but not because I wouldn't...just don't really know where they're held. Aside from that, I seem to have a hard time connecting with people, save the writing groups. Interesting discussions and analysis are always had, and I've always connected with people in those groups as they've helped my writing. Maybe because we all have a singular goal, I'm not sure, but I look forward to those whether I've submitted something for critiquing or not.

Damn Dat is One Skinny Pencil
Damn Dat is One Skinny Pencil

Recently, I've really had a hard time connecting with non-writers. On an urban hike to sightsee holiday lights, I ran into an acquaintance of mine and said Hi to his clique of photographers. Fellow artists, right? They joked about who had the longest lens, and one guy asked another if he was happy to see him. If you haven't figured this out, ladies, they were all men. So I quipped, "It's the girth. Girth is more important."

The breeze blew. Crickets fell silent. Even the stars seemed to stop twinkling. Girth. It's a double entendre. Common! The width of the lens is an important factor. Same goes for the penis. Ask any woman. Pencil dick is a real term.

What Tha
What Tha

They stared at me like I was an uninvited guest. I was, and my attempt at inserting myself into their banter failed. Or maybe they all had pencil dicks and wondered how I knew.

Aren't we all artists? Can't we just get along?

In high school, I always found myself with the nerds and geeks, not that I had a problem with that. I loved my friends and loved being passionate about geeky stuff. But, at this point, my inability to connect with fellow artists was the tipping point.

There's gotta be sumthin' wrong wif me. A Jew even scolded that my sarcasm could be construed as truth. Uh...yeah. Sarcasm. Look it up.

What do I need to change to gain acceptance? Am I too aggressive? Too assertive? Can people sense the anger boiling behind the humor? Do others feel my antisocial tendencies? Or am I so set in my ways that I just choose not to connect with people?

Then I got a hold of myself and shook. I found that to be rather difficult, easier to do to another person. Thinking back to the people that I had talked to, I wouldn't hang out with most of them. I didn't feel any type of connection to the group of photographers even before I said one word like the woman from the hike and dinner, whom I wouldn't touch with a ten foot electric cattle prod. OK. I would but that's because she's a freakin' bitch. In fact, the only people I seem to connect with are people of depth. Often times, peeps ain't open to discussing anything that deeply, which is kinda sad.

Chatting it up with a dude one time, I asked him why he thought his son needed to choose a practical career. "So he can get a slice of the financial pie." But is that going to make him happy? "You're thinking too deeply about it. He needs to support himself." I didn't dispute that, but if talking about happiness was too deep a subject, then, shit, what isn't? The weather?

Sun sure is bright and yeller.

Yeeup. And circular like a circle.

Is That Poo?
Is That Poo?

For a moment, I feared that I scare people away. Then Oakland came to mind. Whenever I looked lost in the murder capital, brothahs have always helped me out. And one guy who was late meeting up with his buddy asked if he could use my phone, then offered to pay me a buck for letting him. Common. I gots me unlimited minutos.

A part of the issue is people are afraid to feel. They don't mind feeling good, but anything that makes them feel bad, NO, stay away. Unfortunately, bad feelings do come up. That is the nature of being human, just like the nature of the weather is that sometimes it's sunny, sometimes it rains. We need both in order to grow.

Think about Hawaii. Everyone thinks it's a sunny local, and never in their minds would tha islands rain and have overcast. But they do. And it's not bad, nor is it good. It's just the nature of weather. Dammit! Somehow I made the weather a deep subject.

Coming back to my problem of not connecting, I realized there was nothing for me to do. For one, it isn't a problem. Trying to run away from a bear that can run faster than the fastest human without breaking a sweat is a problem. I'm going to connect to some people, but, at the moment, I don't connect to most. Changing myself, applying a filter, is the worst thing I can do because, as a writer, I have to allow my creativity to fly. Are there times when I need to filter myself. Of course. But at an outing when we're celebrating life? Fuck no.

Old Folgey

Uh They Look The Same To Me
Uh They Look The Same To Me

As a man, I’ve never told a woman which brand or type of tampon to use. The reason seems obvious. But just in case it isn't, men don’t use tampons. I know, I know. Big surprise.

So, someone who doesn’t write as a profession, or at any level besides penning a to do list, shouldn’t suggest whether I’m capable of writing or not. But this particular person's assumption is pandemic through the literary world, both expert and not.

When meeting new people, the natural question is to ask, “What do ya do?” I usually answer, writer. That’s cuz I spend a lot of my free time writing, thinking about my story, fantasizing about my characters, their emotional state, dialogue, everything that has to do with the current novel that I’m working on. Whether that makes me a professional or not, having yet to earn a living from it, is up for debate.

On an amazing hike, an older gentleman questioned whether I could be a good writer. And it wasn’t because he’d read anything of mine, but looked at me and asked whether I’ve lived an interesting life and had enough life experience. Even if all I do is work, go to the gym, write, and go out on the weekends...hmm...that is what I do...I can imagine an interesting story.

Killer Dad
Killer Dad

I could feel my ego jump outta my skin and want to rip this guy to shreds, not literally of course, just figuratively, because the notion that a writer has to write what they know is preposterous. Do writers have to do research? Damn straight. But does that mean Jeff Lindsay has to be a serial killer in order to be able to write convincingly about Dexter? I don’t know the man, but I highly doubt it. What he knows about, what we all know about if we let ourselves, is the darkness that can live within us. And with a little research, he can write a well told story about the need and addiction to kill.

So does that mean a child or a teenager is incapable of writing about darkness? No. The amount of cyber bullying and random school shootings suggests that darkness can live within us at seemingly any age.

Well, darkness and hatred is an easily accessible emotion. Having taken many years of acting, I can attest that’s true. What about love? Can youths write about love? For sure!

I Gotchu Gurl
I Gotchu Gurl

Adults call youthful lust puppy love. But that only degrades their emotion as less intense and real. Remembering my crushes during my formidable years, I was traumatized when girls didn't like me, and in some ways, that has carried over to my adult life. We know youngens love just as much as adults do. I mean, look at the young adult book market, it’s massive. And Twilight wasn’t the start of it all, but being one of the biggest best sellers indicates the voracity of young love. I've also met a lot of grown men who've yet to grow up. Trust me. We ain't dat mature when it comes to women.

There’s one main point that I’m trying to make here. Don’t argue for your limitations, and no one is an expert on you but you. You wanna do something, follow your dreams, pursue a passion, do something that people have said you can’t? Good. And fuck the naysayers. Failure is when you argue for your own limitations. Success isn’t determined for the weak-hearted. Often, it takes strength and courage to follow your dreams. Whether you make it or not can’t be a determinate of your success—says the unpublished novelist—but to quit or to not start are true failures. To use a simple example, you have to be in it to win it.

Cultural Rant

I had gone to a happy hour with a whole bunch of Asian peeps. Most of us didn’t know each other, so the most common question was “What do you do?” I said that I had two jobs: one’s for money to feed my body, the other is my passion to feed my soul. Everyone else answered with some form of IT, engineer, or finance. In the Asian culture, we’re taught from the womb that we are to take practical jobs. I don’t know, but Tom Cruise’s acting career has proven to be pretty practical.

Where the slanty eyes?

Where the slanty eyes?

Back in my day when I taught kids self-defense, my teacher had taken on a new student, who had been on this planet for three-and-a-half years. He could barely speak, couldn’t remember the names of the techniques to save his life, but he learned the movement like he learned to speak, and became an amazing talent. As this young prodigy moved toward his black belt, toward adulthood, my teacher and I began to have pretty severe disagreements with our school and the prevailing arrogance and ignorance that bred within the limited bindings. It’s funny how arrogance and ignorance always seem to go hand-in-hand. And this school was literally the pure definition of this.

Tombstone of Fluid Man

Tombstone of Fluid Man

We finally left the school as we sought for widespread knowledge, much like Bruce Lee leaving the classical mess for something more open, taking what works and throwing out the rest. This was not something our former school understood, since they added more and more crap that only bred more ignorance and of course more arrogance.

Why do I bring this up?

My teacher tried to convince the parents that their son would be better off with him. They couldn’t, wouldn’t leave the school, despite the now adult having spent most of his life with the same teacher. The mother, especially, wanted her son to have earn his blackbelt from a Chinese martial arts school. And here’s the funny part. The school wasn’t even run by Asians. Sure, the system was Chinese; though, I’m not sure what that means (no slanty eyes to mark the school). Sure, there were Chinese characters imbued all over the school. Sure, they even had Chinese dignitaries and masters that would come by and teach seminars. But do those things make a martial arts, school, or practitioner Chinese? A freakin' punch is a frakin' punch no matter who throws it.

International Village People

International Village People

It’s that word: culture. According to my dictionary, one of the definitions is: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.

The customs of the school is Asian based, so not uniquely Chinese. The arts can be rooted back to Korea, Karate, some Kung Fu, but even the word Kung Fu is like saying Asian. There’s a lot of different Asians, and some of them Ajens don’t even consider themselves Asians. Most of the people teaching aren't even Asian. So when I heard that the mother didn’t want her son to be taught by my teacher because he wasn’t Asian, and she wanted her son to get his black from a Chinese based institution, I was beside myself, like I actually took a step to the side and was like “What? Get over yerself, lady.” And since the school had been based in the US, the achievements of that school, especially in international tournaments were considered US of Aye, not China, not any slanty-eyed nation.

The word culture has been on my mind since I started writing the 7th Province series because I’ve had to piece together the foundation of the society. A lot was drawn from my own experiences, a lot was invented, and a lot was used to help tell the story without giving too much away, through symbolism. Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert on what culture is, what it means, but I know this lady doesn’t really know what she was talking about. It’d be better if she had stated that she wanted her son to have the backing of an actual institution, and not by a single individual. As much as people see me as an American is how much I see this school as being Chinese.

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

Ultimately, she wanted to say that her son got her black belt from this school, not by an individual. And this is where culture and ego sort of mesh together, and it is from this place that I wrote the foundation of the culture of the 7th Province. Culture is very ego based. We see this in nations: America is the best country in the world. We see this in sports: My team won the championships. We see this in ethnicities: Blacks are the most athletic and can dance the best, or Asians are very disciplined. We see this in family: My dad can beat up your dad.

People throw the word culture around without knowing what they really mean. And some people love their culture so much, have so much pride in it, compare how much better it is than American culture that they’ve chosen to move here.

Just a Friday night rant.

Postal Orcas

Japanese School Girls?
Japanese School Girls?

The media portrays Asian men as sexually repressed, have no balls, and relatively unable to express emotional depth. Many times Japanese men are shown as incredible businessmen, highly skilled swordsmen, and having deviant sexual tendencies. Think geishas, think girls in plaid skirts, think hentai. As a storyteller, I’m told to avoid clichés as much as possible. But clichés often have a kernel of truth and can be used to establish a level of comfort when grounding a story, such as a family man that has a loving wife with a son sitting at the breakfast table, while his little sister taunts him about a girl that he likes. Where do we go from there is where the story can exit the norm and become unique.

But let’s get back to us repressed and also sexually deviant Asian men. This sorta kinda sounds like a paradox like jumbo shrimp or military intelligence. I think deviant behavior comes from being shackled, whether it is physical or implied.

[gallery columns="2" ids="2641,2642"]

One day at work, I was telling the story of my second laser tattoo removal session. The basic procedure is this: I sit in a room, the nurse applies numbing cream, which doesn’t numb crap, wait for twenty minutes, and the doc comes in and blasts me with his laser. And, yes, it freakin’ hurts. As I was waiting for the numbing cream to not work, I relayed to my coworkers that I had seen my first breast implant, three in fact. In front of me was a tray with three different implants: one clear, one not so clear, and one smoky—foggy—cloudy? Looking around, I saw no cameras, so I reached out and cupped them. They all had different consistencies, different buoyancies, but felt familiar, real. One of my coworkers said that was a little inappropriate. Here we are, the corporate world. It’s the one thing I hate about that world, we’re all supposed to be vanilla—white washed of any personality or individualism. We’re restricted of any human connection, or allowed any human connection that doesn’t offend anybody. But anyone who gets offended by me is not my fault.

And people wonder why some go postal.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent—Eleanor Roosevelt

Rorschach Test
Rorschach Test

Blackfish, or as my mom would say, brackfeesh-eh. Blackfish is a documentary about orcas and what happens when they are kept in captivity for the sole purpose of our entertainment. For the thirty to forty years that humans have kept orcas in slavery, there have been incidences of them attacking and killing their trainers. And in that range of time, marine biologists have found that orcas are extremely smart, have strong emotional and familial ties, live within their families their entire lives with lifespans that compete with human beings.

The film centers around one particular “killer whale”, Tilikum. He’s killed three trainers with the parks denying any type of responsibility. The interesting part of the story is that there are no records of any wild orcas ever attacking a human being and have been classified as highly aware and gentle animals. It’s only when they are captured as calves, torn away from their families, and kept in captivity do they ever exhibit any kind of deviant behavior. Many experts on the film express amazement that so few incidences have occurred, especially since these orcas are locked up at night with little room to move. Imagine having the whole ocean as your backyard, then being locked up in a container is limiting to say the least.

And people wonder why they go postal.