Monday, June 19, 2006

Those of you who have known me for some time know that I had a previous life in the entertainment business. For five years, I worked on films, television shows, documentaries, commercials and music videos. On small projects, I took on various production roles, such as 1st, 2nd and 2nd 2nd assistant director and production manager; on big, professional projects, I worked as a general piss on, getting yelled at by and making coffee for people with much less education, or even intellectual curiosity, than ego and sense of self-importance.

Today, I got an e-mail from an old associate in Los Angeles. The subject of the message was "YOU ARE GOING TO BE FAMOUS!!!" (count them, THREE exclamation points). Before I left Hell-A, I worked with this guy, and his crew, on a television pilot for a reality show called Spotcha!. The show was something of a Candid Camera meets Girls Gone Wild, and I had a bit part as the eccentric "director" of the show. Shortly after the pilot was finished, I left LA, and to be honest, I haven't given a lot of thought to the show.

So I was surprised to get this e-mail:


You're going to be famous!!! SPOTCHA! is blowingup! Spread the word - we think we have the heat for real this

Tell everyone you know to become a friend!

- Brian

Much to my amazement, this guy is still peddling the pilot. He and his partner have found an agent and they have been pushing this project, as well as a number of other ideas.

Now, I have certain reservations about ever becoming famous, and my life has changed so much that I highly doubt I will be famous in the Hollywood sense (I would much rather be known for a byline, now). But I wish these guys the best of luck. If anything, they deserve success for their perseverance alone.

So go check out the page:

There are some video clips and you'll even get to see a much heavier Maile bounce about in front of the camera.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nicholas D. Kristof put this up on his blog (although he didn't write it). Silly.
The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The actions of President Bush are prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield,whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. "He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left. Didn't even get a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. So he tried installing speakers that blare Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through, and Rush annoyed the cows so much they wouldn't give milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons, drive them across the border and leave them to fend for themselves.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a drop of drinking water. "They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

As dear old Dad has told me time and time again, "in adversity we conquer."

I have found a new place to live, and I will have it all to myself. Yes, I will be paying more money, but I will have it all to myself. The location is not quite as good as the place I've got, but, did I mention, I WILL HAVE IT ALL TO MYSELF.

Woo-hoo! I am moving up in the world!

Photos forthcoming.

In other news. No word yet on the job for which I had the interview mentioned in the last post. The interview went very well, but it does not seem I'm quite the right fit for what they need. There are two posts: one to be the boss's personal assistant, and the other to be a consultant. After spending my formative young adult years in Hollywood, taking a personal assistant job feels a bit like walking into a fire, but at the same time, my Chinese is simply not good enough to be a consultant. But even is a position was found for me, I'd have to quit my masters to take it, and I don't know if I would do that. I am rather keen to stay the course...

The British Council gig is really turning out to be a kick (good thing). I've got the hang of it now and I just go in on the weekends and make 33 dollars an hour! For sure, in the States, for someone my age, 33 dollars an hour is nothing to sneeze at. In China...I'm bourgeois. To be fair, I only work a few hours per week, but still, it's an awesome gig. Plus, I get to travel. I am going to Wuhan next weekend.

Photos forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Forgive the last post. I'm clearly a bit frazzled...

OK. Kona people, I will be making a return on the 28th of June. See you then.

In other news, it's a gorgeous day in Beijing. It rained last night, so today is clear, sunny, blue and breezy. Here is the view from my living room. Hardly a Hawaiian sunset, but it's still quite nice. The tall building center-right is the new Poly Plaza, currently under construction.

Also, I have an interview on Friday with a business strategy consulting firm. I don't know much about them, but a friend referred me, and based on my CV alone, they were interested. (Ironically, it was the same CV I sent the international school who rejected me.) From what I understand, they do research for big foreign companies looking to get into China. It's foreign-run, which is reassuring and the office is located in the swank Dashanzi art district. We shall see how it goes...

You know, non-Americans here often talk about the "great American dream". I guess, to a certain extent, we really do believe that hard work, smarts and diligence will take us anywhere we want to go, but I must admit, at the present, I don't know anyone my age getting ahead. Most of the people I know who have finished college are either barely scraping by, or barely scraping by and living with their parents. Few of them are working in the field that they want to work in, and if they are, they work far too many hours per week, for less than a living wage, with few or no benefits and no vacation (standards based on "civilized Western nations"). To me, China truly is a land of opportunity. In just two years time, I'm making 6 or 7 times what I did when I first started. Very basic competence has taken me all over, and opportunities, while not always stable, abound. I have held jobs not only in teaching, but in marketing, media and voice work. I take holidays, usually when I want to, and I have travelled to Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and various cities in China, both for work and pleasure. I spoke one and a half languages when I arrived here, and now I speak three, at the very least to "survival" level.
Maybe I have an unfair advantage here: native English skills and an American, and a, in the near future, British degree. I can't imagine the opportunities are so wide from everyone in China, but to be sure, even the Chinese are doing much better than they ever have before.

Despite my pain in the ass is pretty good.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I need to bitch.

I have been uber-stressed lately. School and work has taken its toll, the weather is changing violently (a weak excuse...maybe, but everyone I know has been sick at least once in the past month, myself included), and a bunch of people I know are leaving--among them, a handsome, young man who announced to me that he thought I was the coolest thing since sliced bread, just before he hopped a plane for a three-year contract in Hong Kong. On top of all this, I will be making a return back to the island at the end of this month. While I know most people would be thanking their lucky stars for a trip to Hawaii, for me, the thought of a return to my hometown causes nothing but anxiety and indigestion.

Living with roommates is starting to bug the shit out of me. Since living with messy people, I've become rather tidy. (OK, maybe not in my room, but the public parts of the house are usually quite in order.) I don't like to see piles of dishes in the sink, so I do most of the washing. We have had endless discussions where everyone has promised to do more, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the person who cares the most--me. But more than just the mess, my roommates have become like siblings. And I'm the big sister. I look after all the bills and I make all the repairs in the house. It seems that I am the only one who grasps the relationship between going to the grocery store and having food in the house, though they still recognize the need to eat, and since they know I'm always up early, I get asked to wake them up in the morning. They come in, when they can clearly see I am working, to share with me the smallest of details as to why they think their boss hates them, and they don't understand why I look irritated when I come home, intent on studying, to find them attached to my computer. Indeed, it's nice to have people around, and my roommates really are good people, but I realize more and more, that I'd rather just be on my own. To be fair, it makes sense that I should just delegate more responsibility (though I have tried with limited success) and be more upfront about personal boundaries, but I feel that these people are adults and it's not my place to educate them. What's more, I don't want the situation to escalate into anti-social behavior where I hide in my room when I'm home and put my name on all of my food, nor do I want to sit in the dark because someone has failed, even with several reminders, to pay the electricity bill. The new guy is a lot better than the girl who was here previously--he takes instruction well and has generally a strong sense of hygiene--but it seems that the other girl, has slacked off to compensate.

It's all just pissing me off.

I wake up very early in the mornings, sometimes at 3 or 4 o'clock, especially when I'm irritated. I really enjoy the quiet mornings and I find it's the only time that I have to myself. I can study, read, think and listen to music interruption free. I also can tidy up around the house without anyone getting in my way, whilst feigning guilt for allowing me to look after things.

This morning I was up at half four. I read the newspaper, and then I went into the kitchen to do the dishes. I studied for a bit, then, feeling bored with that, I went back to the kitchen, deciding to undertake a kim bap project.

Not so many people know this about me, but I really, really like the process of preparing food, and I especially like anything where I can chop anything into very small pieces. Really. For some reason, I find it exceptionally relaxing. I also find it interesting to devise new methods for chopping. (Yes, I know, really, I am going off the deep end.) But there's a lot more to chopping than hacking something to pieces. Using a good knife, you can julienne carrots, dice pineapple, mince ginger and put zucchini in to perfect french fry strips.

Making kim bap is a very involved process that requires a lot of patience for cutting, cooling and wrapping. It's basically a Korean sushi roll, and today I used cucumber, egg, spinach, sesame seeds and shitake mushrooms for the filling. In a nutshell, this is how it goes:

1. Cook the rice. Let it cool.
2. While the rice is cooking, use the steamer basket in the cooker to steam the mushrooms and spinach.
3. Cut the cucumber into strips, salt them, let them soak, and then rinse and dry.
4. Beat an egg and fry it thin like a crepe.
5. Cut the spinach, mushrooms and egg into fine strips.
6. Mix the rice with vinegar, sugar and a dash of salt.

Once everything is cool and into appropriate pieces, lay out seaweed on a bamboo roller, put down some rice, smear the rice with sesame oil, add the filling, and then roll firmly.

That's it. The finished project:

Here are some of the things I used to make the kim bap. One of the great things about living in Beijing is that products come from a variety of places. Here, I have Korean vinegar, Chinese sesame seeds and sesame oil, Japanese seaweed and sea salt, in the grinder, from Australia. Michael bought the rice cooker. Being a good member of the club of those who have a Chinese parent, he was shocked and appalled to find that our kitchen was lacking one when he arrived.
And then, when it was all done, I did all the dishes. Mom and Dad would be so proud; possibly more surprised.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

On Tuesday, Ariston's dad came home while I was giving Ariston his lesson. Usually, when either of the parents come home early, I cut the lesson short because Ariston is no longer interested in anything I can offer; Mom and Dad are much cooler than me.

So Ariston runs off to play with Dad and I go back to his room to tidy up. Five minutes later I hear screams to high heaven.

"Give it to me, Ariston," I hear his dad plead. Ariston just went on wailing. Then Dad comes into the room carrying the screaming, tearing, red-faced kid.

"What's wrong, Ariston?" I ask. In one fist he's got a red one-hundred yuan note. "I had some money out, he took it, and now, he won't let go of it," his father explained. "Ariston, give it back!" the father asked. Ariston would not give up the bill to save his life.

"Give it to Maile, then," Dad said, hoping I would be enough of a diversion to loosen his son's grip. Ariston gave me one look, paused, then continued screaming and crying.

One hundred yuan is about $12. It's the largest denomination of money available in China. For a kid in China, 100 yuan is easily as valuable as a hundred dollars for a kid in the States. There was precious little coming between the 20-month old Ariston and the money.

The expression "tight-fisted Chinaman" came to mind and I burst into laughter. "He's learned early," I told his dad. "Money and the ABCs...the basics are covered," his dad said.

I went into the other room, got my things together and when I went back to say goodbye, Ariston was being fed by his nanny and the cook. He still had his fist wrapped around the red bill. I laughed again, and said "goodbye". Ariston looked up from his lunch, smiled, and in perfect English, said, "money".