February 1st, 2014 / Author: Jimmy Ng
About a month ago, a long time coworker had left the company, and it sparked the idea of happiness. Not that I was happy he left, nor did I really care. His initials were D. D. At first, I wanted to call him Dee Squared, but as the name sounded, it was two square. It matched up well, though, because he was Asian and very good at math. So, there was depth in the name. However, many people have called my humor dry, I guess I need to spit more when I joke, and here his name Double D was born.
“Hey, Double D,” I called out. My fellow coworkers turned around and started giggling. As you can see, my professionalism at the office is top notch.
At first, he didn’t respond, then stated he didn’t like being called Double D, but I persisted. Then it caught on as others started to use his monicker. And, like a knee jerk, he started to respond as if he was born with the name.
My then girlfriend and I took him skiing many years ago, he was hitting on her because he didn’t know I was dating her. Well, he hit on her because he liked her, but he wouldn’t have if he knew. I think. Afterward, we went to dinner at a steakhouse, nothing better than meat after a hard day of snowboarding.
The conversation swerved to happiness and the cause of happiness. He was unhappy. He didn’t own a house. According to him, he should have at his age. He didn’t have a wife, a nice car, high enough income, the list rolled on and on. I told him none of that stuff would cause happiness. You either are, or you decide not to be.
Before I found writing, I went on a soul searching venture. I knew I wanted to do something creative, so I tried everything. I drew, painted, wrote poetry and stories, taught martial arts, acted for several years, worked on opening my own school, but nothing made me happy. Then I came up with the brilliant idea to write the one story that has been tugging at me for over twenty years. And bam! My soulmate, or who I thought was my soulmate, and I ended it.
Gawd…it was soul-wrenching painful. I cried for nearly a year. Well, not constantly. But it provided the muse I needed to put into words, plot, and emotional state to write NIGHTFALL. You see, my main character, Talon, loses a child, and the only thing I could come close to was the intense body-numbing pain of a broken relationship. Still, though, no happiness in the sense of finally finding and writing the story that has haunted me.
What the hell?
Was I fulfilled? Yes. Was I purposeful? Fuck yeah. And those haunting voices slowly subsided, in a good way. I was on density’s road. But was I happy? Not really.
Then it smacked me in the face. Hard! Like a punch that you don’t see cause you’re not lookin’. Happiness was a choice! Sort of.
I’d been on the spiritual path of enlightenment for some time, trying to decipher the cryptic language of oneness, all for one, one for all, the source, the higher intelligence, inner intelligence, inner wisdom, living in the moment, the present, the Buddhaness, the perseverance of the Hesus story.
And I realized, happiness is born with us, innate. You see it with babies, that joy, that connection they have with their parents. You see that with kids playing, pretending, not yet tarnished by the limitations of adulthood. You see this with geniuses, who don’t let other’s limiting thoughts hinder them. Happiness, after all, is not a choice, but part of our being. We are born with the ability to think and feel, just as we are born to be happy, and lather it with sadness. We choose to be sad, otherwise we are just happy, content.
Double D had bought a nice car and had moved out of the room he rented and into his new home in the suburbs. He had found a job with more pay, maybe a better title. But he wasn’t happy. I know this, even though I hadn’t spoken to him since that dinner because in the years since he’s bought his home, none of his friends have ever seen it. They know what city it’s in and were promised an invite to a house warming party that never came. What was going on? He was afraid of being judged. For what, I do not know. But maybe somehow he thought that he wasn’t enough, the car wasn’t impressive, or that his house was in some way representative of who he was (too small?). In essence, I assume, his happiness was linked to other’s perception of him. If that is the case, then he will never be happy. Even if people revere him, he knows, as we all do, that opinions can change with a drop of a hat.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be unhappy, because life is has its ups and downs, but that happiness is our natural state. If you think about it, it takes a lot of work and effort to be unhappy. That’s why meditation is often the solution to this. To quiet your mind is to quiet the crap that stresses us out.
January 22nd, 2014 / Author: Jimmy Ng
No. This post is not about Apple’s closed vs. Android’s open system. Anyone still talking about that doesn’t understand their business model.
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. I had dinner with a group of people Saturday 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, but the thought that came to mind was denial.
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.”
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.”
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 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.
January 9th, 2014 / Author: Jimmy Ng
Do you ever compare yourself to others? Of course you do. Everyone does. I do. Who doesn’t? Dead people, I guess. At least they don’t have road rage. What? Have you not seen WORLD WAR Z? Honestly, I liked the book better.
I was at my niece’s birthday dinner the other night, and her father raved about his friend’s daughter who was about to graduate from college. She’d already had job offers with a six-digit annual salary. Instinctually, I wanted to get into a debate about why that’s important for him (the comparison of his friends’ children to his own). But it would be pointless, so my mind went silent.
Have you ever been stuck in traffic and needed to be in the next lane, but no one would let you in because they’re assholes, and you just needed to be in that lane cuz it moved about a FPH (foot per hour) faster than yours did? Tried to make that sentence last longer. Then you wedge your way in, and then found that the lane that you were in suddenly moved two FPH faster, and now you wanted to be in that lane, but it just so happens the person in that lane is also an asshole, and you swear the universe was working against you and wished you had a gun? Whew!
As a writer, I find myself comparing myself to other writers, and given my age, I get jealous when youngens, like Victoria Roth, has everything that I’d love to have. Well, except breasts. If I had breasts, I don’t think I’d write much and probably had left myself go because how else am I going to grow breasts? She doesn’t have a penis, and I’m attached to mine, literally. Sorry.
I learned long ago that comparing myself to others in any area of life isn’t good, just like wanting to be in the next lane can create stress. Everyone will arrive at their destination on their own time; it’s the nature of things. Not all oak trees will grow at the same rate, everyone’s lifespan will differ, and everyone’s impact will be different. What we have control over is how we react to the outside world that we have no control over, as stated in THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE.
What everyone truly wants is happiness. We think we’d be happy if we got that really expensive purse, or that car because the ladies will love it, or that book deal because riches are just around the corner, or a better body because better sex is in the next room. OK. That last one has some truth. But happiness is innate within, despite what we have and what we do. Just look at kids. They have nothing, no titles, no fame, no glory. Put them together and leave them alone and they’ll have a day filled with play, blissed out of their minds. Gawd! Blissed isn’t a word?
Tom Shadyac, who directed ACE VENTURA, LIAR LIAR, etc, had found himself in a brutal bicycle accident. How do you find yourself in an accident? It led him to explore what it means to be human in a documentary called I AM. One of the areas of exploration is why we accumulate so much materialistic stuff. The answer: we’re trying to find peace, happiness. That rush of buying something is like a dopamine hit, but because this isn’t something that can be maintained, we buy more and more stuff. And I get this, as I type on my Mac, listening to music on my iPhone, and stalk, I mean, research literary agents on my iPad, while my midlife crisis car sits in my garage along with four snowboards.
Now, I didn’t go into debt buying all this stuff. I clearly knew I wasn’t getting happier attaining snowboards, but I loved the graphics on them, so I hang them on my wall. My Mac is seven years old, and though, I would love to upgrade to the new Mac with retina, I don’t think I need a faster processor to type on MS Word, since my typing speed hadn’t improved much. I have an iPad 2, again I’d love to upgrade to the fifth iteration, but with Apple holding back on some of the features, like Touch ID, I chose to wait. And the car. Well, that’s another story.
I’m content writing, telling my stories, ranting, and traveling. I’m planning another trip to Hawaii for three months. I’m coming back!
January 5th, 2014 / Author: Jimmy Ng
“Here…fix my watch. Your kind made it,” a bully 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, the statement is racist.
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – Buddha
A friend of mine watched THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, directed by Martin Scorsese. He 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 would 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.
It’s like anything in life. If it’s important, you’ll do something about it.
When my niece gave birth to her daughter, she 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 about women.
“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” – Marilyn Monroe
December 29th, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
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.
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.
“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?
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.
My fellow Asian brothah (not the one pictured) played 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 for it 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 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.
December 20th, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
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.
It seems, however, that I 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.
Outside of that, I’ve really had a hard time connecting with non-writers. On a recent 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 silenced. Even the stars seemed to stop twinkling. Double entendre. Common! The width of the lens is an important factor as with the penis. Ask any woman. Pencil dick is a real term.
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 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.
Yup. And circular like a circle.
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 rain and overcast ever exist. 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.
December 13th, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
Tis the season for agent hunting. I gots me a gun and am trudging through the vast wilderness that is the Internet, stalking agents like a jealous boyfriend. Dat don’t sound right.
Part of the process is reading interviews that agents sometimes do, as it may reveal something that could help me make a connection, or even write my query letter. One agent had this to say, “You’re writing not to get published. You’re writing because you love the act of doing so, and you cannot imagine doing anything else.” I love that.
I’ve heard people describe writing as an incredibly solitary act. Tell that to the voices in my head. If we as writers want to get published, or somehow get our work out there, then we need people. And to lure them into our trap, we need to do some research on how to write a query letter, how to write a synopsis, even how to write a book. Shocking!
I’ve also heard that writing the book is the easiest part of publishing. I’ve already gone through a round of rejections about four years ago, so have some idea of the difficulty. And most people don’t even know that getting an agent is the first of many steps before a book is even released into the wild.
And every time I visit my brother, he asks me: What’s my plan. My response never changes; I shrug my shoulders.
Like so many things in life, hunting in the wild takes a lot of patience, following your intuition, and preparation. If I run into the plains of Africa with my gun, I’ll most likely scare away my prey. If I run into those same plains without being prepared, I’ll get eaten alive. And if I rely solely on my instruments, then I may blind myself to the real prize.
A friend of mine didn’t do any research or get any feedback on her query letter before sending it out. She got her first rejection and sent it to me, and it was obvious why she was rejected. The premise of her story, as she presented it, was cliché, an innocent young woman meets a mysterious man. She didn’t give away the hook; for example, the lurking overbearing vampire (TWILIGHT), or sex addict deviant (50 SHADES OF GREY). I’ve not read her story, she may be afraid of my honest feedback and it may not help in the end, but she relied on her “intuition” alone.
It just doesn’t work that way.
I don’t care how wise a person is, I ain’t lettin’ anyone perform open heart surgery on me unless they know what they’re doin’. But that doesn’t mean that the most qualified doctor has all the answers. Many alternative and new treatments are being worked on every day. So doing at least some research is always a good idea, take in what you learn, then let that inner part of you create.
And this is the hardest part of it all, I think. It’s trusting that somehow everything will work out, something that my brother doesn’t understand.
A couple weeks ago, I went to a party at some remote place where the bus only showed up once an hour. I use public transportation as much as possible. But by the time I realized the last bus back had left, I was having too much fun, I was stuck without a ride back to BART.
I didn’t consciously say everything will work out, but I tend to live my life this way. After walking around the hotel where the party was held, I found an hourly shuttle that went to the San Francisco Airport, a BART stop. Had I panicked and yelled and cried and complained and pounded my fists, I may not have found my way home, or at the least, made the whole process difficult.
So when agent hunting, I can only do my best with what I know and learn and query these elusive creatures, and if I’m able to bait one in and form a great relationship, then great. If not, great. Either way, I’ll trudge on.
All of life is a long road. We can’t see more than a few hundred feet, even less in the jungle, but the only way to reveal more of the road is to just keep going. Sometimes the road ends quickly. Others will lead us for the long haul. All we can do is find our passions and follow them until it takes us to where we need to be.
December 1st, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
Back in 1996, I had bought the seminal vehicle that would shape my life for the next few years, the Honda Civic. It was beautiful. Red, shiny, manual transmission, and the entry-level car into rice rocket folklore. My girlfriend at the time was Japanese, my car was Japanese, I was into Japanese cartoons (anime), and totally into Japanese air fresheners. Fellow import car enthusiasts will know what I’m talking about.
Much like the main character in The Fast and The Furious film of 2001, I worked in a car shop that specialized in ricing up, fixing up, modifying imports, though the focus seemed to be Hondas and Acuras because most of the kids doing this kind of thing could only afford those cars.
Meeting some of the car clubs, I was led to the illegals. These were races that took place mostly in industrial areas that had long straight-aways and no prying eyes. Bets were taken, egos bruised, and accidents often occurred. We were—are talking Asian drivers. Time doesn’t erase slanty eyes. Kidding aside, anyone who partook in the illegals was at risk because it wasn’t just the drivers but the bystanders who gladly crowded the sides and watched the loud raspy motors speed down the road. When the police showed up, hundreds of people rushed to their rides and escaped the wrath of tha man. The routine would be to find the next meet up and continue the races. Often, this would continue into the early morning hours of the next day, and the crazy thing was we wanted the cops to come because the excitement of the escape added to the rush of the illegals. It was impossible for them to catch most of us because there could be hundreds of cars winding through the streets away from the few who got caught.
Most of the illegals occurred in the South Bay, what most people know as Silicon Valley, and it got so bad that a special task force was created by the popo to try and subdue the races. Undercover cops dressed as racers would report where the races happened, and a tactical force would block all the escape routes. I know this because my friends and I were caught one time and were forced to pop our hoods open. The cops ticketed for every mod that was done, increasing the fine, even if the parts were street legal. We were a little more intelligent in that we always observed and never raced, and we had gotten wind of a task force trapping our fellow ricers, so we brought a stock car, a car that wasn’t modified. As a result, we were let go. Obviously, what the police were doing didn’t really avert the racers, so they started to give out tickets to the observers as well, despite bringing a stock car. I had stopped going to the illegals at that point, as with most of my passions, my love for hot imports dwindled and died.
Before that happened, the shop that I worked for sponsored my car, which led to other sponsors, and off I went on a tour of the import shows that imbued California at the time. I’m not sure how popular they are now, given the economy, most tuners of that time having grown up and spawning kids, and not to mention wives. Despite my engine being stock internally—no work was done on pistons, bore, etc—my rice rocket edged closer to a rocket. I had all the bolt ons—cold air intake, header, cat back exhaust, suspension, body kit, etc. I even had stickers on my car of all my sponsors along with graphics to liven the color scheme and joked that it added five more horsepower. However, my Civic was transformed when I introduced it to force induction, an Eaton supercharger. It was like driving a real sports car.
So the natural next step was to see how fast I could go. I had a friend at the time who had a supercharged Integra GSR, so we decided to go to Sacramento and run the quarter mile. On the day that we were supposed to go, a Ford F250 Super Duty truck decided to kiss the ass of my car, hard. It hit my car so hard, the impact broke the rear wind shield into the back seat. Anyone sitting there would have been seriously hurt. I don’t know if the universe was telling me it was time to move on, but that ended my import car days, and unfortunately, my red hot Civic.
One of my fondest memories of those years was meeting Paul Walker. Many of us had heard whispers of a movie being made based on the huge tuner scene, but we didn’t know who was involved and what the story was like. Along my tour that led me to Southern Cali, my friends and I were walking around, checking out all the modded cars. We happened upon one, a Nissan R34 GT-R. At the time, GT-R’s were the Holy Grail of sorts because they were only sold to the JDM, Japanese Domestic Market. One wants what one can’t have. I couldn’t afford one then and was left to drool on this particular one that was imported from the motherland. On the window was a blurb describing who the owner was and that Paul Walker was starring in the upcoming The Fast and The Furious movie.
Having little filter, I said out loud, “Who the hell is Paul Walker?” I looked over to a table next to me, and this good-looking guy, six foot two, was signing a poster for a fan.
My friend said to me, “Ask him where the Asians are.”
By then, we had seen trailers of the new movie and my complaint was Where are all the Asians at? I wasn’t a writer at that time, so ending a question like that with ‘at’ was all right. Most of the attendees at these import tuner shows were Asians of all kinds, hence the term rice rocket—aside from the fact that they were modding Japanese cars.
Nervously, I sauntered up to Walker and said, “Where are all the Asians at in your film?”
He smiled and said, “They were cut,” then shook my hand. Man that guy was tall.
He spent the next ten minutes talking to us about the movie, when the sequel was being filmed, and allowed us to take a picture of him next to his GT-R. He was incredibly gracious.
Rest in peace Paul Walker.
November 25th, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
As a man, I’ve never told a woman which brand or type of tampon to use. The reason seemed obvious. But just in case, 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 his 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…I can imagine an interesting story.
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 lives in humans. And with a little research, he can write a well told story about the need 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!
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 following 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 the true failures. To use a simple example, you have to be in it to win it.
November 9th, 2013 / Author: Jimmy Ng
What is story? According to Robert McKee, it’s a quest. Whether the main character is looking for love, redemption, or the villain that will destroy the world, it’s a quest for something. Like in the Karate Kid (1984), it’s the search for enlightenment. Love that movie.
In the beginning of my own writing journey, I went to many different sources to learn what story was. The first big lesson came from a Japanese film maker named Akira Kurosawa, who made what many consider one of the best films, THE SEVEN SAMURAI. Diving deep into the learning process, I decide to buy the Criterion version because it included about five hours of commentary from academics and experts of his work.
Excited to watch, I sat down, threw the DVD in, and said, “What tha hell?” On the surface, the story was about villagers who are threatened by raiders that steal their food every harvest, so they go to hire Ronin to defend them. Problem is that they have no way of paying. This is a good film?
After watching the commentary, I got a really good education of how Kurosawa told story, the layers he lathered in each scene, and how many of today’s film makers take from him without even knowing it. Or maybe they do and I don’t know it.
Continuing my education of what story is, I went to a writing conference in San Francisco, and one of the lecturers taught how to break down a large three act story into tiny parts, something that severely helped me complete my books. So following him on Facebook, I came across the following article that I will paste in completion. See the cliffnotes below for a summary:
“Gravity: REALLY good. But. Arguably, strictly speaking, by a VERY strict Aristotlean definition, not actually a “story”. Please understand me — I’m not going to spend a lot of time below responding to comments like “but it IS”, or “but it’s so GOOD”…I said that above, I refer u to the first sentence of this post…it’s something REALLY good…and it IS a “story” by the layman’s definition thereof, a relation of events via mimesis (that’s one effete layman) but maybe not a “story” by strict Aristotlean standards…there is no personified antagonist…the forces against the heroine do not/cannot embody opposing values…and therefore the conflicting values of hero and villain cannot yield “theme” by synthesis, or at best only simplistic theme. What’s the themeof Gravity? Survive!!! Basically, that to survive is worth fighting for? Also, most (3 of 4, look it up) revelations in stories are twists about the antagonist, and with gravity as your bad guy, we can’t really learn your best friend is working with gravity to betray you, that gravity planned to betray U all along or that this whole thing was part of gravity’s plan for world domination or to steal your husband, etc.
Therefore, all it has to wow us is ascendingly larger spectacle. And it does an incredible job with that. And is wise to only try to sustain 90 mts.
But this has always been the issue with your “man against nature” story (which arguably didn’t exist when Aristotle wrote his Poetics). And most people still call them stories…so, tell me what a dope I am below, but I will cling to the hope that what I really am is a scholar drawing an obscure distinction that will matter only to Poindexters like me, or perhaps even only this Poindexter, me. And Aristotle. Again, it was a REALLY good thing, but maybe not a “story” thing. And I could write one of whatever it is.”
I wanted to paste the whole thing so you could see that I wasn’t bullshitting you. The basic gist is this: The bad guy is not a person, so there can’t be any real twists, or the exchanging of opposing values or ideals.
Clearly, this guy has never heard of the phrase, “You are your own worst enemy.”
The spectacle he talks about is the special effects director Alfonso Cuarón uses. And it’s pretty freakin’ awesome, especially with 3D glasses. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, who is trying to do some repairs on a space telescope when satellite debris from an explosion destroys the shuttle, complicating her trip back to Earth. Now, along with Mathew Kowalski, played by George Clooney, they must find a new way back.
Warning: Spoilers are comin’! Spoilers are comin’!
Kowalski asks Stone what kinda music she listens to. She states that it doesn’t matter. She gets off of work, gets in her car, and drives so she doesn’t have to think (about the daughter she’d lost through a freak accident of no fault of her own). And that is what the story is about. Letting go of the past. At this point, I knew that Stone would have to confront her own mortality, death, hitting rock bottom before she would let go of her past, and move on with her future, which required a really clever way of getting back home. The space that she created when letting go of her past, allowed the solution to appear, and as such she grows from this and becomes the woman she’s meant to be.
Essentially, Stone was her own worst enemy. Once she got out of her own way, she was able to think clearly enough for a solution to appear.
Now, if this expert in story doesn’t think that the ability to move on from one’s past, or that letting things go instead of holding on to things is worthy of story, then he’s a freakin’ idiot.
I used to have a life coaching business before giving it up to write. And the one thing I always tried to teach is let things go and don’t argue for your own limitations.
One of the fundamental mistakes that traditional therapists make is the exploration of the past. I’m not belittling the past or saying that it isn’t important. But why hold on to it? Here’s an extreme example:
A woman was molested as a child and develops an inability to trust men and form intimate relationships. What’s the problem? A little mistrust of men is healthy for a woman. No. The man who will love her is not the man who molested her as a child, but often, in her mind, he is.
Let’s take that same situation and go to another extreme: this same woman gets in a car accident and forgets her past from amnesia. Will her past now haunt her and prevent her from forming intimate relationships? No.
The key difference is her letting go of the past, which must happen internally.
If we look at this from a general point of view, most of our hang ups in life were formed some time in our past, DUH, but the mistake is we carry it with us, baggage. If we were to truly let go of the baggage, we’d be a much happier people.
McKee also said that story must have change. Whether we exit a scene or end a story, something must have changed, good or bad. And, as storytellers, we know that the change in the character must happen inside. Yes, external circumstances may be the catalyst, but for the person to grow, become the person they’re meant to be, that change must be realized from within, that the character finally sees the light. All change comes from within, or happens within. Therefore, you don’t need an actual person to be the antagonist.
A great example of this is another Japanese movie called TWILIGHT SAMURAI. I absolutely love this movie. There is no bad guy. The samurai in question just thought so little of himself that he didn’t think he deserved anything better than what he had. Things change when a woman he’d been in love with, still is, comes back into his life. Always about the women. And he decides that he does want more out of life and does something about it, becoming the person he should be.
I always caution people about experts, that experts don’t know everything, and I count myself in that group, meaning take what I say with many grains of salt. And this guy makes his living by traveling the country and teaching writers what story is. That doesn’t mean he knows everything about story, or is even open to what story can be. He even missed the title having layers of meaning. Gravity doesn’t just pertain to the weightlessness of space, but can point to the gravity of carrying baggage, the gravity of losing someone special like a child, and the weightlessness of finally losing that baggage and being free to be who you really are. I’m sure the director had other layers of meaning, but that’s for him to know and for us to discuss.
Aristotle? Come on, pal. There’s got to be some evolution here.