Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Scented Candles

Thirsty? Got Pet Sweat?

On my way back from a perfectly lovely evening of Korean food with my new adopted Beijing family by way of Australia - I was reminded of an old game my wife and I lovingly like to call:

Unsavory Scented Candles. (inspired by David Letterman)

Our personal favorites

Scorched Flesh
Chicken Factory
Noontime Pakistani Bus
Hershey Squirts
Gas Station Bathroom
Wet Dog

And the newest addition:

Chinese Taxi Driver.

One day left...and I'll be leaving - on a jet plane....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Big in Japan....

I've been working in China for a year now.

This is my third stint here.

First one was with Discovery Channel - back in 1994.

Next was with my company, partnering with a US company and a Chinese company in 1998-2000.

This is three.

Times have changed. The place has changed. The world has changed.

I learned Chinese growing up as a missionary kid in Taiwan. Wasn't something I set out to do. Just something that happened.

For some reason - moving to Taiwan in 8th grade was really good for me. Those difficult formative years were made all the more interesting by growing up in a foreign country far removed from American life.

I was fascinated with the people and the culture - and while I didn't really go out of my way to learn the language any more than taking classes in school - I found I could pick it up pretty well.

Most kids can. Language just seems to seep in better when you're that age.

At the time - while there was a large amount of internationals there in Taiwan - we still weren't the norm. I got used to being starred at everywhere I went. I also got used to getting away with things I would never dream of in the States - mostly because we were different - but also because most people didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to speak English to us and tell us what idiots we were.

I took Chinese all through High School - ending up in classes with kids who had lived there all their lives. Never got a long with any Chinese teacher I had - in fact, I think I was sent to the office more by Chinese teachers than any other teachers - and most teachers there hated me - to the point of one teacher actually announcing to the class that she hated me...

Ah the Joy of Missionary school...

But unlike most families there - we actually lived in the villiage as opposed to a compound - where families would all live together in a little walled off community in a semblance of the suburbs - surrounded by others with similar colored skin. Just being in an all Chinese enviorment meant that you had to learn. Had to speak.

I got to use my Chinese all the time. I worked in a pizza place. I taught English. I went out with my friends. Our school was a boarding school - but in my class there were 7 of us that actually lived in town - and we would go everywhere on the island - hiking mountains, traveling to the beach... where ever the train or bus could take us. We loved being there. In fact - out of the 7 - 3 actually still live in Asia - with me, the 4th - traveling back and forth to this day.

We couldn't drive till we were 18 - which I didn't turn till college - so bikes, buses, taxis and trains were our friends. We loved getting out as much as possible.

And then it all ended. Most missionaries do about 4 years, then head home for one - then back for four. Since I would have left for my senior year - we stayed an extra - so I could graduate there.

Then I headed back to the States for college.

My parents went back. After I got married - my wife and I went back for a month together. I spent a summer there in college with some friends. Got to go back and shoot a TV show there during my 98-00 stint.

I miss it.

But China is where the action is now.

The Olympics are less than a year away.

Watched Discovery Channel the other night and there was a big special on the building of CCTV's new tower here in Beijing. It's right across the street from me. I wake up every day and watch them building. Weird to see it being talked about in English...

I heard there are immersion schools in Texas right now teaching half the day in Chinese.

The Weinstein Company just announced a near 3 million dollar fund that is going to be totally devoted to doing films in Asia.

Never in my life did I think that my minimal language skills would come into play professionally.

Never imagined that I would keep coming back like a Yo Yo to this part of the world.

And now my kids have got to come and spend the summer here - getting it in their blood.

The world is changing. Don't know what this yet means for me. Guess in some ways, I'm lucky to have a marginal career on two different continents... :)

Never heard of me... but I'm big in Japan....

Sunday, August 26, 2007


It's Monday morning here.

It's the last four days before I can get on a plane and head home. Even though I get to go back for just one week - it still is awesome. Not that I don't love China - but I do love seeing my family and my dog.

My daughter is doing a report on Amelia Earhart and I will actually be home to see it. If I can drag myself outta bed.

Cause day here is night there and night there is day here.

So in prelude to my weekend, here's how things broke down at the end of last week.

We finally had approval from the stations and from the government for our show. We had done over 25 versions and sent them out and everyone was ready for the September 1 launch...

When I got a call on Thursday morning.

Greg. We have bad news.


One of the product names is wrong. The Character and Voice over need to be changed. On every tape.

Trust me. Most would panic. I didn't. I'm so over panic. If this was the first change, maybe. If it were the 50th change... possibly. But I have gone through 6 months of changes - and this one doesn't even make me twitter. I just pull out a pen - get the offending character written down - and start making changes.

On Friday - I see that the actor we have an offer out to has signed for another film. Doesn't mean he's turning us down - just means that he's doing something else. But it probably isn't good...

So what does that mean for me?

Does that give me the motivation to go out and write another script? Work on new ideas?


I got married two weeks before I started Film school.

We had just got out of college - worked all summer and saved - and then got married, went to my grandparents for our honeymoon and then moved and started grad school.

While I went to school - my wife worked two jobs.

I watched movies all day. Cause it was homework.

That lasted about a month before I found out who the real boss in our relationship was.

This weekend reminded me of those old days.

I watched a plethora of movies.

Weeds Season 1 and 2 - really interesting show. Great cast and writing. Very unrealistic and quite dirty - but an amazing show about a bad mother who is still quite sympathetic.

The Lost Room - Sci Fi mini-series with a great premise - a lot of fun episodes - and a weak ending.

Chinese Movies-
Invisible Target - great first half, lousy second.
Undercover - weak Wong Kar Wai wannabe - nowhere in the same league.
Blood Brothers - Produced by John Woo - very melodramatic
Perfect Love in Peach Blossom land - Really fun old Taiwanese film about two plays being put on the same stage - sometimes at the same time.
Flashpoint - The new Donnie Yun movie. He did Iron Monkey. Lots of Brazilian Jujitsu type moves - but really fun.

Korean Movie -
Comrade - great little double agent film. Very restrained and well done. And depressing.

American Film -
Resevoir Dogs - sigh. Interesting to watch it again and admire it. Horrible to hear Tarantino talk in his interviews about what a genius he is. Kinda makes me throw up in my mouth... just a little bit.


All of that should serve to be very inspiring. But it isn't yet.

But I'm still brewing. Ideas are easy. Good ideas are hard.

Just got a call from America - Everyone is at my little sister's engagement party.

Guess it's time to make the donuts...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Bold and the Breathless

There are a lot of great things about China.

But here is one that not so much....

And by saying its not a great thing... I mean that we find it uncomfortable - in a way that when you are confronted by the truth it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Cause here's the thing.

The Chinese are like your mom.

Or a really blunt, overprotective mom who thinks that she's doing you a favor to tell you that your clothes don't match. Or that you look awful. Or that you have a giant zit on your face.

The Chinese are just like that.

Once they get to know you even a little bit - they have no problem telling you what is wrong with you. Or what they perceive to be wrong with you.

And frankly, as a midwesterner who always answers "Great" when asked how I'm doing - even if I'm carrying the gun to kill myself in my pocket - it's all a bit disconcerting.

I like my truth where it belongs: covered over by polite insincerity.

There is a reason we have politeness. There is a reason we tell people what it is they want to hear. And usually the reason is:

We don't care much for the truth.

Sure there are time when the truth is great. Necessary even.

But there are other times... when we don't.

Case in point.

I'm walking out the Hotel the other day to head to work. I run into one of the ladies from the executive lounge where I used to eat breakfast every day before I moved to the apartments.

I haven't seen her in about a month.

Hey - I warmly said. How are you?

Good... she replied. You got fat.

Huh...? I stammered.

Yeah... you're fatter.

I kind of just starred.

You should exercise more.

I am... I said. I play basketball three times a week....

Oh. Well. You should do it everyday.

OK. Well. Thanks.

(I start for the door. Ready to get outta there...)

Wait. She said.... How are you doing?

GREAT! I say...

Reaching for my gun....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Can't we all get along?

I felt like I was in a mini-united nations. Or the cast of Sesame Street.

Let me explain.

The company pays for my stays here in China. Of course they do - cause I'm here for them.

Last December - when we were getting ready for our first shoot - I moved here to the Kerry Center because we had two locations here we thought we were going to film. Two day before the shoot - they told us they changed their minds and didn't think it was the best idea.

Happens. Not often. But it does happen.

Lucky for them I had already moved my crew in and we were here for a month.

For some reason - even after that slight - I didn't leave.

Mostly because I knew the Sales guy - and it was easy to email him when I was coming and get a room. The longer I stayed - the cheaper it got - and my stays got longer and longer.

Once we were done shooting - Company suggested I find an apartment. Which made sense - since my family would be coming out.

Lucky for me - hotel has aparments attached to them.

So we moved to the apartments - where I've been for the last three months.

The apartments are funny things. Expensive things. But nice. Furnished. Private. Cleaners come through twice a week. Have your own washer dryer... That kind of thing.

Last night they were having a party for the residents.

I haven't really met anyone. Most of the time - the elevators are empty. I ran into a guy from Singapore who has lived here 10 years with his family. 10 YEARS! Oh my gosh...

The other guy I met is John. John is from Australia - looks to be in his early 50's. We met after seeing each other at different places in the hotel 3 times in one day. Since then - we continue to run into each other all the time. He moved here with his wife - left his life behind - and is studying Chinese. They planned to stay a month - and now they are one their third.

So my table was me - American.
John - Australian.
Chu - John's wife - from Singapore.
A Finnish lady and her daughter. They have been here for 10 years - and she had an extensive knowledge of Chinese history - going as far as to tell me the book on Mao that I was starting was complete rubbish.
A Frenchman who works for a gas company and his wife from Shanghai and their 13 year old daughter. I tried talking to the wife in English - because they had only been here 10 days and I didn't want to assume she spoke Chinese - but as soon as I did - she breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Three Japanese ladies who we never talked to.

A mini-United Nations. With less fighting.

The conversation was thrown around the table about everything from morality, to politics, to Chinese customs and history.

The dinner was billed as a BarBQue and wine meal. Very strange combo I thought. Stranger still was the meat which really didn't resemble any BarBQue I've ever tasted.

But the entertainment more than made up for it.

A Chinese clown - who doubled as a magician. He had a whistle in his mouth that he would blow loud and incessantly whenever he felt people weren't paying enough attention to him.

Three Chinese dancing girls - who changed outfits 5 times - and seem to get into skimpier and skimpier clothes. Not sure who ordered them - but the old Japanese men loved them.

And last but not least:

A 20 year old long haired European kid with a saxophone. He looked like an extra from the Simpsons. He insisted on walking through the crowd - blowing notes at the back of your head until you stopped talking and paid attention.

Quite enjoyable.

All in all - a really interesting and fun night.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I am alone...

Utterly... alone....

Not been writing.

Finishing up the Rape of Nanking - and have been a little sad ever since. I guess there's a reason why I don't read a lot of non fiction.

Cause life can be pretty disgusting.

Worse than that - I followed up to see what else author Iris Chang had written - because she wrote this brilliant book at 29 - and found out not only is she dead - she is dead by her own hand.

She was working on a new book and apparently had a breakdown that had her convinced she was being followed by the CIA and she shot herself - leaving behind her husband and 2 year old son.

That's just another log on the fire of depression.

The book is so gripping and amazing - as any account of heroism is in the face of overwhelming odds. It really is crazy that there hasn't been a film about this. There were so many people who basically gave up their lives to stay in the city and help when there was no hope of them ever really getting out alive.

If you don't know the story - The Japanese - in their march across China - took over the city of Nanking in about 2 days. Then they systematically killed close to 300,000 people in a matter of days. Afterwards - they occupied the city and raped any girl they could find. If not for the bravery of a few doctors, missionaries and a couple Nazis - the rest would have died as well.

Ms Chang also goes into the mindset that would allow a group of people - in this horrific case - the Japanese to be able to kill and rape as they did. I personally believe that we all have black hearts and released to our own instincts will always do what best suits us. If you remove societal restraint and law - and replace it with a fanatical devotion to the emperor - coupled with the authorities telling you this is what you do - I can see it happening.

It would never happen again though. At least, not during a war. Not in this age of embedded reporters and 24 hour news channels.

But at this point - the world did know what was going on. Just not to the extent of what really happened. And that ignorance still continues. Most have no clue of what happened here - let alone even where "here" is on a map. Until this book came out in the mid 90's - I doubt most Americans even knew about it.

On one hand - you ask yourself - If I was there, and Japanese - would I have been part of doing these unspeakable things? Could I have somehow been the lone voice of reason or dissent? And at the same time - you ask - would I have had the balls to be one of the ex pats who stayed behind to set up as safety zone and defy the Japanese army - taking my life into my hands every day? Roaming the streets at night without weapons - trying to save lives - like those men and women did?

It was a different time - in a place cut off from the rest of the world with people on both sides feeling as if they were answering to a higher moral authority - but in the end, no one can doubt that everyone there was singularly touched by the atrocities committed.

To this day - people are still affected.

And yet - it still happens. Rowanda. Dafur. And others.

I guess I've answered my own question.
I'm the guy who sits by and watches bad stuff happen.

And on that happy note: Off to work.
I promise to be back with more silly distracting pictures and happy thoughts later...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007



Tueday was a long night.

For some reason - I got sick. Not like, puking sick... just like - you've been going in and out of highpowered air conditioning to 104 degree heat too many times - type sick.

My head was pounding and my nose would just run uncontrollably. We have no 24 hour Walmart here - so I was forced to use napkins to blow my nose - and it got uglier from there.

Needless to say - I was thankful we have a clinic in the basement of the Apartments here - and when I went in and told them my symptoms - they told me to talk to the pharmacist - who promplty gave me medicine. No doctor visit - nothing... and I feel much better.

Who knew?

We finally got approval for our latest show - so it's a flurry of activity here in Beijing. Onlining - mixing - and preparing versions. I love versions. Millions of shows with just tiny little tweaks that are so easy to miss - all going out at the same time under enormous deadlines.


I'm also hanging under the weight of the fact that my family is leaving me.

The kids start school next week and so they must return home. Unfortunately - I must stay for another couple weeks. The days do seem to get longer and longer when they're away.

But what do you do?

You keep on keeping on... I guess. Till something else happens.

They head off for the Summer Palace today - one of my favorites - and a great way to spend your last day in China before going back to the middle of Indiana.

I'm halfway through Iris Chan's Rape of Nanking - and dear God is it a depressing book. I don't know if there are many great pilliaging books that make you feel triumphant - but wow... this is definately a dark day in the history of China and Japan. It's amazing to see the selfless acts of the people who stepped up and tried their best to stop things - even when their own lives are at stake. You always think about what you would do in a situation like that - but who knows if you really could. Just reading about it makes me want to crawl up in a ball and cry for mommy.

But - like all tragedies - they are very quickly forgotten and we move on. The promise of never again seems to ring hollow in our ears. But hopefully in this case... it truely will be so.

And on that happy note... :) Off to work.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Letting the days go by...

This is not my beautiful mall. This is not my beautiful Goth...

My God! What have I done!?!

I was playing basketball last week at the language university with my old high school friend. That is strange enough as it is. Then it turns out one of the other white guys on the court not only grew up in Virginia Beach - where my family lived for 15 years - he went to the same Grad School as I did.

Then another guy was here in China on vacation. He currently works for Harvard University. But not so long ago - he worked for a company here in China that also paid for one of my TV Series here. And he knew a lot of the same people I did.

And we all met up on a basketball court.
In China.

We talked about a lot of things - and I got sort of philosophical as I am wont to do - and they started glazing over as I drew all sorts of universal truths out of a seemingly random meeting...

But it did make me think about a lot of stuff.

I have often run off on a tangent about isolation. When people are isolated and surrounded by like minded individuals to the point that everyone looks the same and thinks the same - that start to assume that the rest of the world either:

a. Looks and thinks the same as they do. OR
b. Needs to look and think the same as they do. Or die a horrible death. Preferrably by fire.

Isolation leads to trouble. The best way to avoid becoming crazy is to surround yourself with people who don't think the same way you do and constantly re-evaluate why you have the world view you do. It doesn't mean that what you think is wrong - but it does give you a reality check.

China is a great example of what happens when you grow out of touch with the world. They were removed from modern life for a long time - and now they are starting the long road back to try to reach the present day. But they are doing it without a lot of discernment. They are reaching and grasping so fast that a lot of what makes them unique is going to get lost.

Racism is another great example of people developing thoughts in isolation.

Really - it all comes down to fear. What we don't know or understand - we fear. That black guy. Those Communists. Harry Potter...

And that fear makes us search out others who see the world like us. And we talk about our fears - and it makes us feel better. And soon we've created a group of people who all worry and fear the same things as us and we don't want to be around others who don't - cause they just don't get it - and boy will they be sorry when we are proved right.

But somewhere - somehow - people break out of that. And they do the impossible. They leave Italy and go to China and discover a new world. They quit their job and move to South America to live in a villiage. They bring medicine to Africa. They go work in the inner city. They write scripts about people doing those things. Or... they talk about writing scripts about people doing those things...

Years and years ago - my dad decided that working for the MAN was bringing him down. He was being asked to do things that he was morally against - so he quit. We were living a nice upper middle class life in a nice suburb in Southern Ohio. To keep up our house payments - the neighbors took pity on him and he started painting houses in the neighborhood.

One day he came down off a ladder and told us that he felt God was calling him to be a missionary.

I was in forth grade.

By the time I was 12 - I was growing up in Taiwan. Which is where I learned Chinese. Which is where the world first opened up to me. Which is where I saw firsthand the way isolation can ruin your heart.

But back to basketball.

At some point in each of these guys lives - they decided to leave what they were doing and do something else. Even halfway across the world. And they love it.

So many of us struggle with the job and the family and the writing - that we forget the adventure of the road less traveled. We get to open a window to a world that so many never see.

Three years ago - my family spent the summer in Puerto Rico putting up satellite dishes so that remote schools could get the internet. In truth, its probably so that the pricipals of those schools could get the internet - but it was a great experience for the kids.

This summer - they've got to spend a month in China. Seeing the world. Visiting new places.

Once you move past that one circle of influence - the world opens up and you start to see things in a whole new way. You can't go back to the little place you came from and forget.

There's nothing to fear. There are a lot of big ideas out there - and your ideas should be up for the challenge. In the process you get to bend and grow and change.

Every year I try to change a deep seated habit of mine just to prove to myself I can still change. Its hard and unpleasant - but I always feel good afterwards.

I hope as my kids grow up they see the world as one distinct place - completely open to them - ready to be explored.

As my daughter said to me yesterday: Daddy? what cool new place are we gonna go next summer?

Sorry for the rambling nature of the post. Its early... :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Made in China

Week became a blur.

It's so great to actually be together with my family. But its also easy to forget the little things. Like blogging... or writing... or sleeping...

The show continues to move forward. Everyone seems to be very happy with me and with the results of my work - but honestly - what else can they say? They so desparately want something to get on the air - they have little to no choice but to use what I'm giving. It has taken way longer than I figured to get this done - but seeing how corporate we are - I don't think it could have happened any faster. Especially across two cultures and languages.

My producer is now in Spain - working on his other films. He does a couple over there a year. He hadn't heard back from anyone by the end of the week - so we are still waiting. When he gets back - we continue the push. I've played this game before. And I've mentioned on here - optioning and selling the script are exciting - but are in no way indicators that you are near the end of the tunnel. If anything - you're just entering it - and in all probability will never see the light of production at the other end.

Probably just end up crashing and burning somewhere along the line.

Sigh. That doesn't at all sound bitter and cynical does it? Really? I thought I just sounded like a pragmatic writer...

Since we got rained out on the first trip - we spent Saturday trekking to the Great Wall. Now my Chinese friends laugh - kind of like we do when someone wants to go see the Statue of Liberty. It's nice - but who wants to deal with the crowds and the tourists. But my kids really wanted to whole experience - and far be it from me to deny them this - when I so readily deny them so much else.

There are a lot of places to see the wall - but the one most people go to is Ba Da Ling. The two times I've been there have both been to Ba Da Ling. Most tourists go there as well - as its the closest spot to Beijing.

If you have a choice - Don't go there.

We went instead to MuTianyu. Its a bit farther - but only by 30 minutes or so. The wall is in a lot better shape - and the scenery is way better as its more up in the mountains. You can see forever on a clear day.

I recommend getting up early to head out. We left at 7 - and there were only 30-40 people there when we got there. By the time we were leaving - buses were arriving.

The great thing about MuTianyu is that you get to take a ski lift up to the wall location - and then toboggan down. The wall is basically like climbing a thousand of the steepest steps you've ever been on in your life - so you'll get enough exercise - but the ride up and down are really great.

My kids went nuts for it. Nervous on the way up at how easily you could fall off the lift - and thrilled on the way down at the prospect of slamming our sled into the one in front of us.

The toboggan is a little lunge type sled with a brake. You ride on a silver tube track all the way down.

Here's a little video to give you an idea. Its actually much faster if you don't use the brake...

Friday I played ball for two hours. Actually did OK for a guy my age. Scored well and played decent defense. Paid the price though as my knee kept me awake all night. Wore my brace on the wall and did OK and managed to make up for my lost sleep on Sunday.

Time to jump back in. Only 5 days till the family heads back to the states. I hate to see them go - but they start school soon.

My daughter asked me if I would ever be home for the first day of school for her. I told her - I don't think we're that type of family. We miss some of the little things - but we get to do big crazy things - like sledding down the mountain by the Great Wall instead.

She didn't look impressed.

Time to make the donuts....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

More Drifting to do...

In a world - where dinosaurs and drift racing make sense...

Brilliant. Thank you internet.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Back in the PROC

Hit the ground yesterday about 3 China time.

Its grey and wet here. Still overcast and dark this morning.

Whole family is back - piling back into the apartment. They did great on the flight - way better than I would have at 7 - jammed in a tiny silver tube and told to sit still for 13 straight hours.

But they were restless getting off.

I crashed at 11 last night - and today I start back in on a month straight of trying to get things up and running for the end of the month.

We are somewhere in the middle of three different versions of three different shows - and they all are supposed to start airing September 1. Lots to do and not a lot of time.

I came to the realization that I have lived in China more than America for the last year.

But we are getting closer to the finish line. It keeps moving - but its the finish line nonetheless.

The movie is still moving forward. More great reviews of my producer's last movie are starting to hit the web. He's getting a lot of great offers - but he is still pushing my script - along with handfulls of others I'm sure. We have another company now that is very hot for it. The head guy reads it this week. And we still await news from our top choice. His management company asked a lot of questions last week - and we should be getting close to a decision.

I sent out a copy of this article on producing to my producing friends:


Producing is like magic. As soon as you try to describe it - you've lost it.

My friend David responded with this:

"The one I normally use to answer the question, "What do you do as producer?" is:

I make of list of things to do and then do them."

To which Shawn responded:

"I tend to make a list of things to do and figure out how to get other people
to do them. Using as little money as possible."

Both are brilliant breakdowns of different types. Both are equally true to producing and life... :)

I'm still struggling through my next idea.

I did 10 pages one way - then took a character from those 10 and wrote another 10 - then took a scene from each of the two and started again. There's always something that pulls me in another direction. I guess the good news is that I'm writing. The bad news is I don't really know what.

But that is also the joy.

Out to face the grey...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The secrets that I keep...

My identity is not the only one...

Having a blog is a great outlet. You always balance saying enough to be interesting with saying so much that you get in big trouble. I never know what the line is - and usually don't care.

The fact that some people - ok... 3... actually come by here and read stuff is really flattering.

Mr WC Dixon comes by often. Strange - cause he is a real professional. He knows what he's doing - is very prolific - and talented. So what he's doing here is as much a mystery to me as it is to you...

Anyways. He tagged me. And while I have been tagged in the past and ignored it... I figured its time to man up and be a sport.

Rules were as follows:

Once you’ve been tagged, as I have, you must write a blog post with ten weird, random things, little-known facts or habits about yourself. At the end, choose at least 5 people to be tagged, list their names and why you picked them. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says “you’ve been tagged” and tell them to read your latest blog.

Sad to say that my life is such an open book, some of these are repeats. But in case you missed my torrid past:

1. I'm Cheap.

This could come from growing up lower middle class? We were never poor - but we certainly weren't well off. It was never like we didn't have stuff - and no matter how many times Mom would say there wouldn't be much for Christmas this year - there always seemed to be enough... but we never were extravagant. We were never the ones to run out and splurg - or go on vacation. We lived within our means. From the time I hit high school - I had a job and made my own money. Always. If I needed something - I was taught to work for it. When I got married - for the first 7 years, we never had a credit card cause I saw too many friends go nuts and go into debt. Never liked to go out to nice places to eat cause the food was gone too fast and seemed too expensive. I remember in Grad school - when we would go to Olive Garden - we would try to drink a 2 liters worth of soda - cause it was 99cents for a drink.

Yeah. Cheap. Tight. Still am. Helped when we went two years trying to stretch a buck and get the movie going. Sad when it all fell apart.

2. I don't work for the money.

I have been ridiculously blessed. I have no complaints. And believe me, I thank God everyday for an incredible wife. We have no idea what tomorrow holds and we usually don't freak out about it too much. God has always provided and continues to provide. I got my first break as a director/producer two years out of grad school. I went claiming 12 grand combined income for the year to making 40. It was a huge change. But 10 months later - I quit. The job was becoming the same thing and I wasn't learning or doing new things. Switched to Discovery Channel and started producing. Wanted to direct - and when they wouldn't let me - I quit. A year later I was back - producing and directing. All through my career - I've quit good jobs for new or different jobs. A lot of times it was to make less money. But I've never regret it. I always want to do something new - or take a job where I learn something new. Don't let it be about the money if you can help it.

If you're just starting out... take the job. Get experience. Then quit for something new.

Plenty of people who've worked with me have gone on to make a lot more money than me and work higher profile jobs than me. I'm really proud of them...It's just not what I'm looking for.

(Just keep telling yourself that Greg....)

3. I've had the same Stereo since 1985.

I love movies. But more than movies - I love music. Always have. While kids here save and work for their first car... Growing up in Taiwan - where we couldn't drive till we were 18 - we saved for a new stereo. Between my sophmore and junior years of high school - I taught English for the summer. I saved all my money in a big pimp roll in a can I kept under my bed. I had a picture of this Aiwa component system that I saw in the International Herald Tribune. My senior year - our basketball team went to Hong Kong for the big tournament. I took my wad of cash and bought the system. My dad called it Darth Vader - cause I'd go to sleep with music on everynight and all you'd see in the dark was the lights from the stereo.

It's almost dead now. The speakers are rotted out. The turntable doesn't work. The auto reverse tape deck has been out for years. But its a hell of a receiver and the amp still kicks pretty hard - especially for a 20 year old system.

4. I have never...tasted coffee.

This is great for getting everyone to take a drink. When I was little - my dad was a big coffee drinker - and I think I'm the only person on earth that doesn't like the smell of brewing coffee. All my life I would smell that and feel a bit quesy - so I never tried it. At this point in my life - its more a point of pride and a deep seated desire to be different in one thing that keeps me from doing it.

Oh well...

5. I have produced/directed over 100 hours of television.

Maybe 20+ are any good....

Enough said.

6. I have a lot of two wheeled accidents.

When I was five - I was run over on an Olympic Time Trials Bike Track. The beveled kind. Snapped both bones in my legs. Growing up in Taiwan - I followed that up by have at least 20-30 motorcycle accidets. One time - we were riding motorcycles at night at a college in the dark - with only one bike that had a working headlight. Two of us sped ahead of the guy with the light - only to find out the road deadended into a 3 foot brick wall. I was thrown about 15 feet - but my buddy ripped his knee open. I took the bike with the light - the only one that worked - and threw him on the back. One the way to the hospital - we crashed again.

Needless to say - my wife doesn't want me near a motorcycle. She's a killjoy...

7. I've run four marathons.

None since High school though. Trained for one a couple years back - but ended up getting a job and had to leave on the morning of the race. My first race - I took ninth place in my age range. It was on the roads near the ocean on the southern tip of Taiwan. My coach got all pissed off cause the kid that took 5th road by us on the back of a motorcycle...

I really didn't care. I was happy to still be alive. Why I ever did it again is beyond me.

8. My wife is way more talented than I am.

She is an artist, a songwriter, a writer, a craftsman and a mom. She can draw, sing, play the piano and guitar, make necklaces and sell them, cook, write the most witty, insightful things - and take care of the kids.

Me? As I've said, the director is usually the least talented person on the set. I am the epitome of this statement.

I just hire good people, sit back and complain.

9. I taught Jessica Simpson Chinese.

For my show.
She's a hard worker.
Harder worker than I thought.
She wouldn't give up till she got it right.
And she did.


10. I was Jason Mewes ass double.

I was also kissed by Paris Hilton. Both in the same movie.

You can read about it in one of my first posts ever:


and here.

Now - I'm supposed to tag 5 people.

Here you go:

DAVID - Cause you're smarter and a better writer than me.
RYAN - Cause you're a punk kid with time on his hands.
MATT - Cause you're just starting out and deserve more links.
DANTE - Cause you're nice enough to come by - and smart enough that I want to know more about you.
SARAH - Cause you're the only one from writing class that actually still writes.

Have at it kids. Looking forward to seeing the results.

I'm on a plane tomorrow to return to China. Be gone another month.

God have mercy...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Surreal day...

Interesting day.

I'm still on the "stay up all night - sleep during the day" schedule for when I come back from China. Otherwise - I just end up sick in two different countries. However - it inevitably ends up being that I sort of make it a mix of sleep part way through the day and part way through the night - never committing to either - so that I see my wife and kids and don't make them want to kill me...

Too much...

After staying up all night - I met with Ryan - the other half of my Indian writers group. Although neither of us have been prolific enough to call it a writers group much anymore. Ryan has written a lot this year - but since his marriage... not so much. I continue my quest to sabatoge all good will I generated from my movie by not doing anything. So mostly we get together - solve the problems of the world - and in the case of yesterday - talk about Harry Potter.

Good times, Good times.

Crashed about 11am.

Woke up last night and the wife was determined for us all to go see Ratatouille - which I really want to see. I love Pixar and still believe they haven't made a misstep yet - and the reviews of the film sounded incredible - but everyone had seen it but me - and so I suggested the Simpson's Movie instead.

She agreed. Reluctantly.

I talked with two people yesterday about the appropriateness of the film for kids - and I didn't really hear any red flags - but I should have just used my head and thought better.

The movie is hillarious. Wildly so. I laughed harder and louder than anyone in the theater. But there is a lot of content that flies by really fast that is probably not best for little kids. My kids - like all kids that get to see something they know they wouldn't get to see otherwise - loved it. My wife slugged me. She wasn't too happy with me or my discernment.

While the movie is wonderful - with the benefit of hindsight - we would have stuck with our first choice - and gone to the Simpson's on our own.

Where else can you hear the line "why do all the thing I whip end up leaving me?"

Or my son's favorite "I'm a weiner."

Now a normal post would end here. But this is not a normal post. It is a specially enhanced all night in America post.

After getting home from that - and talking things out with the wife - I climbed back in the car to drive an hour to a real theater with my buddy to go see Bourne Ultimatium at the midnight show.

A long time ago, Shawn and I moved out here to do our movie. In the time since - the movie crashed and burned - Shawn got a real job traveling the world and manipulating global events like a tiny Dick Chaney - and I go to China to do TV shows.

Every now our schedules sync up and we get to do something fun - like seeing a movie. Even if its the midnight movie.

On the way up - my LA producer called. We got call backs from a couple of people interested in the project from an investment side. The big star he had dinner with the other night about another project is interested in my film. The big star we have an offer out to has set a meeting with his manager for today. So there was actually some movement forward. He is really excited and he is pushing it.

Or so he makes it sound - which is all I care.

We saw the movie - which opens today - which is really great. Best finishing film of a trilogy - possibly ever. It is what it is. Hardcore. Serious. Great filmmaking - even with the shaky cam - and great acting. Really great writing - even though there are huge sections of the film without any dialog. Just relentless from start to stop and probably the most existential film series ever done as big action movies go.

Set it self up for a sequel - but ended in a great way for the franchise to be done.

On the way back - Shawn was swept up in events in New Zealand and Australia on his cell phone for most of the ride home.

Hard to believe two losers from Virginia are still making things happen - even on a tiny tiny scale - from a 3000 person town in the middle of nowhere.

Two great films. One you need to go see today. And a really nice time with a great friend. All in all - not too bad.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Do you love hip hop?

Probably the only thing more pathetic than white kids across the country acting like they are black - are almost 40 year old guys who love hip hop.

Like me!

Nothing makes me smile more than rap and hip hop. The beats. The things that they say. The mix of crass and class. Sometimes witty. Sometimes foul.

It makes me smile.

I think R Kelly takes the cake. He is the funniest, most sincere dude on the planet. And he keeps making money - even though everyone knows he likes to pee on people! I am flabbergasted.

This is the weirdest, most uncomfortable song I've heard in a while. And wow... it is so close to being a guy's love song to another guy... But funny nonetheless.

And here's the white girl's answer back.


I've completed another all night writing session. Trying to make something out of the mess of scenes I've got. It started with an old scene from another script. Then added a new scene from another discarded start. Then a little tweaking...

It's slowly becoming something.

And at the same time I've been doing a double dose of dangerous downloads.

Jay Z and Bruce Springsteen. Hova vrs the Boss.

That's serious business.

Still silence on the movie. But tomorrow, my fellow producer is meeting with the manager of the star we made our last offer to. Producer had dinner with a big star last night that wants producer to do his next film. Star is a really big star from the 80s/90s who has since been kinda quiet - but at that time he was an A lister - and would be great for the film.

So things could take a nice turn.

Or not.

Either way... I got R Kelly to keep my spirits up. And I know him like a preacher knows his word....