The Cause

I met someone for the first time recently, and in conversation the question of "Why did you become an actor?" came up.

I've answered this question in a variety of ways:

a) literally, as the chronological progression of my career path
b) some vague spiritual concept of destiny and the way my life has developed
c) an inherent love of story telling and blah blah blah

But when I was asked that recently, I decided to give an answer I always subconsciously felt: my desire to be an actor was to validate my own life's existence.

My childhood was always rife with feelings of inadequacy.  Much of it was due to being an awkward nerd and universal growing pains through adolescence (re: typical emo shit), but I'd say a large contributing factor is the lack of a firm grasp of identity.  This isn't uncommon in the second generation immigrant experience, there's a disconnect between how we're geared to adapt to the society around us and the principles instilled in us by our parents, principles which have come from a different society altogether.

Protesting oppressive governments has nothing on Korean pride.  True story, a Korean fan self-immolated to be the "12th man" on the field with the rest of the team.  

Protesting oppressive governments has nothing on Korean pride.  True story, a Korean fan self-immolated to be the "12th man" on the field with the rest of the team.  

From experiences in my adolescence, I've harbored a lot of resentment towards the "Korean mentality", cultural differences that I saw were hindrances to my own personal as well as the Korean community at large's assimilation into American culture.  I saw Koreans as xenophobic, misogynistic and generally hostile when I did anything that wasn't "Korean enough".  I hated the food (I haven't willingly eaten kimchi since I was 3), I hated going to Korean school on Saturdays trying to learn the language which I thought was useless because, hello, we're in America, and no I'm not going to pretend to be a fucking soccer fan and go all ape shit when Seoul makes the World Cup semis thank you very much.

Instead, I was obsessed with American history and culture at large, soaking in American movies and books and claiming them as my own.  In some ways, I lived American life by watching those stories and living them out in my imagination at home.  Being a relatively social pariah until high school, I was ripe for consuming "underdog" stories, seeing myself as one that needed to prove my own self worth.  

However, that didn't stop me from noticing that Asians were relatively invisible from the media, or even caricatured and derided.  But I thought to myself, "it's just because they don't know, they don't know what we're like because our parents are FOBs who can't tell them what we're like.  These Koreans are purposely differentiating themselves with their cultural quirks so OF COURSE we're going to be seen differently." There was a small part of me that would say, "You know what?  One day, I'll be the guy that changes things for Asian dudes everywhere and make them cool."  Back when I was growing up, I had no idea I'd ever leave New York, let alone live in Los Angeles, so this idea was more in the sense of, being a cool guy with cool accomplishments in my general community and have that be an example to all that we were indeed, cool, rather than "I'm going to be the Asian Brad Pitt".  But weirdly, I thought the way Asians were portrayed was something that ONE person could change and turn around.

It wasn't until college when I first started seeing racial nuances more clearly, and the hypocrisy of American "equality" and the institutionalism of racism.  This past year's political shitstorm has highlighted how clearly racism exists in America, and how there's still a strong sense of "us" vs. "them".  And it's silly to me how Hollywood pats themselves on the back for being the "bastion of morality", while the industry at large suffers from a clear diversity problem.  It remains one of the few industries that can legally discriminate based on race, by simply putting "Caucasian only" in a breakdown.


When I first thought about going into acting in 2008, I asked an Asian American actor what he thought about the landscape and how it affected his career, etc.  He told me that for him, it wasn't really a factor in his decision making process, that through and through he knew he was meant to be an actor and he pursued it and moved to Los Angeles, where he's carved out a nice career.  In a sense, he told me that he can only control what he can control, and while the prospects for AAs weren't great, they seemed to be improving.

A few years later, when I was visiting Los Angeles, I had a chance to speak to another successful AA actor about his views, and he told me that while he didn't shun the Asian American entertainment community out here, he didn't feel it was necessary to embrace it for his own career.  There's an unspoken stigma associated with AA talent in Hollywood: we're not very good.  And while this may read as a stereotype, there is some truth to this statement.  I won't go into why this is into too much detail (that's for another post) but it mostly has to do with the combined fact of the Catch-22 nature of the business (how can AA actors get experience when roles aren't being written for them) and the fact that the critical mass of AA performers is still in its infancy; many AAs simply don't pursue careers in entertainment largely due to the fact that its a hard field to break into.  They inherit a risk averse mentality from their parents, because as immigrants in a new land, it's doubly hard to succeed not only because of discrimination and language barriers, but without the network effects of having friends and family here growing up.

And the actor I talked to had a point, AA actors who have had enjoyed success in Hollywood typically came up independently, not tied to the AA community at large.  This put me in a mentality for a while in my early years that I had to think and act "American" (read: white) to be more "relatable" in Hollywood to the general public.  Part of me equated acting more American to distancing myself from other AAs, who held onto their more "emotionless" Asian attributes, and so I clung to this idea that being as "American" as possible would differentiate me from my AA competish.

However, I realized that it was Hollywood itself that had a major hand in portraying Asians as unfeeling robots, and that I had unwittingly bought into this narrative.  I also observed that even the most successful AA actors rarely lead the storyline, they usually serve as supporting characters at best.  This because Hollywood, while acknowledging we exist, are content to have stories that include us, but only insofar as how we are viewed by America (re: Caucasian people).  And the fault of this doesn't squarely fall on the shoulders of those in power, it also lies with us as AA creators.  So much content made by AA is as derivative as Bollywood, where AAs make versions of things we've already seen in America, only replacing them with AA characters.  Some of the only AA content that did well in the past 20 years was the Joy Luck Club, a story distinctly about the AA experience, rather than a romcom we've seen 20 years ago with AAs plugged and played in the leads.

Come to think of it, I don't know if EVERYONE in Lord of the Rings needed to be white.

Come to think of it, I don't know if EVERYONE in Lord of the Rings needed to be white.

The recent uproar over cutting out AA characters in comic book franchises has exasperated me because we're expecting Hollywood to solve this problem for us, to put us front and center into the stories they create.  But in any character based narrative, Hollywood will be unable to create a fully fleshed story featuring AAs, for the simple fact that many writers are not AAs.  AA writers in Hollywood are few and far in between, and those writing stories specifically for AA are even slimmer.  To wit, a friend of mine (who is Korean American) recently wrote a fantasy novel from scratch, his first attempt to write an entire fantasy saga.  He admitted to me that when he started writing, the characters in his head were white.  It was as if he wasn't allowed to even imagine characters that looked like himself in his own stories, stories that were supposed to be based in a FANTASY land.

Unfortunately, the AAs at the top in Hollywood are limited in what they can do and sometimes, what they want to do to help the community.  Case in point, some AA producers profit by taking successful Asian film properties overseas and "westernizing" them by replacing all the characters with American (read: white) actors with mixed results, without thinking of possibly putting AAs front and center in these properties.  AAs who wield any sort of power in Hollywood balance their efforts between trying to carve out a career or trying to tell AA stories, something that has virtually no track record of success.


Filmmaking is a collaborative effort involving many moving parts, all of them having to work together in sync to make a great product, and then somehow finding the money to pay them all for their time (filmmaking is expensive AF).  Having put together a TV pilot myself, I can attest to the difficulty in finding the right people who are not only qualified, but passionate about the story you're trying to tell.  And even though I spent a good chunk of money on the project, I was encouraged by people coming on board for cheaper than they normally would have, because they believed in "the cause".

There were a lot of blood, sweat and tears from this one....by me when I watched it.

There were a lot of blood, sweat and tears from this one....by me when I watched it.

I've researched a lot of black filmmakers who tell their own American story, and I realized that they have had to make their fair share of sacrifices and compromises to get any progress done.  But with recent success stories of movies like Moonlight, Get Out and Hidden Figures, they've shown that their personal stories could be universal and relatable, as large audiences come out to see films made with relatively tiny budgets.  The black film community is certainly reaping the rewards that so many of their filmmakers fought for.  They poured their blood, sweat and tears into perfecting their craft, but they also were able to come together and build from their culture and their identity together.

In order for AA film communities to have the same kind of progression, there needs to be a movement of filmmakers with an emphasis of behind the camera.  There's an overabundance of people (yours truly included) who think they will make a difference by simply being the onscreen talent (because that's the easiest thing for them to visualize), but the truth is strides need to be taken in all areas of filmmaking by AAs, ESPECIALLY writing.  We need more creators than performers.  And it'll be a lot more difficult given that our identity even as Americans is a story that is having its first chapters being written as we're living them out today, but if we're not the ones who start this movement, who will for us?  Are we going to continually blame Hollywood for not being able to create the stories that only we can effectively create?

That's partly the reason I've decided to keep the ball rolling after producing my own TV pilot.  I'm now assisting production on a short directed by a director that I believe in, Dan Chen.  Anyone who knows me will know how anal I am in who I choose to work with, and after working with him on my TV pilot that we shot last year, I can confidently say he is a director who respects the craft of filmmaking but is also about telling real and human stories.  These kinds of universal stories are the ones that normalize us, humanize us to the greater society and are the powerful ones that make differences in the world.

But the other reason is a comment from someone who's seen my pilot, who remarked to me, "I felt this visceral feeling that I don't think I've felt when watching a film before.  I wondered to myself, is this what white people feel every time they watch something?"  I recognize that I need to keep this train going no matter what, and that I know that I must be more of a content creator myself rather than trying to be primarily a performer.


JD was all like, "Fuck off, phonies."

JD was all like, "Fuck off, phonies."

I remember reading about when JD Salinger was alive, movie producers continually tried to obtain the rights to make a Catcher movie.  He refused, saying that the book wouldn't work as a movie, even after being approached by some of the biggest talents in Hollywood.  John Cusack said that when he turned 21, his only regret as an actor was that he was too old to play the coveted main character role.

AAs are in the unique position of being ensconced so firmly within American society, but have a culture and identity essentially in its prepubescent stage, figuring itself out and determining its own place in the world.  In addition to not being able to play Holden Caulfield, they essentially won't be able to play anyone in any story prior to the 1960s in America.  There are countless other roles they won't be able to play from the library of the American story, by very virtue of just not being here for the majority of its history.  (side note: I'm talking about Asian Americans, not Asians, who of course existed for ages but primarily in stories that took place in, well Asia)  Our plight of being invisible stems from not having a place in the American story.

That is, unless we realize that we as AA entertainers have to take responsibility and create the stories of our lives, that maybe someday will be looked at generations from now as an accurate depiction of what our lives were like, what we thought, what we feared, what we enjoyed, what we felt.

And throughout my experiences, I've realized the "no man is an island"-y aspect of a movement like this.  There will never be an AA "savior" that changes the game for Asians everywhere, it's a collective movement that needs hard work and effort from a multitude of people before we see progress and ultimately, great art.  Throughout working with other like minded people, I've come to a better sense of my own personal purpose by seeing this vision through, whether it be acting, writing or producing, or perhaps something else altogether.  I want to create a firm sense of identity as not only Americans, but as people who belong.

Chair

I have a Herman Miller chair that I bought that I still use today.  Around the time I graduated from college, the Herman Miller Aeron was all the rage, ergonomic chairs that were supposed to be good for posture, if one had to sit in chairs all day.  So a year after I had stopped working for the man, I decided I needed one of these chairs as most of my useless life was probably going to be wasted sitting in a chair in front of a computer.  Now of course, I couldn't just get the Aeron, so I got the Embody, a heavy fucking ass chair that cost an absurd amount of money.  I'm normally not the extravagant type, but I do like to get quality things that I feel like I'd get the most use out of, so keep that in mind if you look up how much one of these things costs.

I dub it, the "commando chair".

I dub it, the "commando chair".

A college friend recently moved into my apartment.  He's got tons of boxes, most of them shipped through UPS.  One of the things you figure out when you move across the country is that you have to limit the things that you bring over, bigger things like furniture is usually rebought on location.  When I moved to Los Angeles, one of the logistical things I didn't realize until it happened was that the Embody chair is a heavy fucking object, and it doesn't really come apart into many pieces, so compacting, packing and shipping it was a pain in the ass (not to mention the shipping cost was probably the price of most chairs in general).  So I brought it back to my parent's house in Westchester before shipping it over.

Suburban life doesn't change too much over time, but you notice little differences here and there, establishments that you go to tons of times as a kid growing up start going out of business.  It's one of those things my parents probably don't give too many shits about (I'm sure they're fine with the local A&P closing down), but growing up in it has a stronger feeling of change.  Intellectually, you know things are supposed to be different when you return to a place of childhood, but it does still elicit an emotional response of unexpectedness.

So when I went to the local UPS in Ardsley, I was somewhat surprised to see a middle aged Korean man running the shop.  The town is small enough that everyone knows everyone, so I'd have bound to run into any Korean family with a local business.  I surmised he must've been a recent transplant.

I brought the chair in and as anyone would, the ajusshi had a long hard look at it with somewhat of a puzzlement, as probably a combination of why would anyone own a chair like this, why would anyone pay to transport a chair like this.  After noticing my last name was Kim, he started engaging in a rapport with me.  There's a special type of chumminess that Koreans have with each other that I mostly disengage from (fighting!), but I obliged somewhat since the whole respecting elder thing.

Me and Doona go way back, she's bae.

Me and Doona go way back, she's bae.

He asked me if I was a college student (I still look somewhat young, I suppose), and when I replied in the negative, he asked me what I was doing over in Los Angeles.  I think moving forward, my default should be just to lie and say something pedestrian so as to not draw the disapproving look of an Asian parent (that isn't even mine), but at the time I did the stupid thing and told him I was pursuing an acting career.  Surprisingly, he seemed enthusiastic about it, asking me a bunch of questions.  He asked if I knew Doona Bae, a Korean actress who had "crossed over" into American media, as if all Korean actors knew each other in this small brotherhood conclave of Korean actors.  I said something to the effect of, "Nah, I'm kind of just starting out"  to which he gave me a look of utmost pride and expectation and said, "You're going to be big some day, I know it."  

I responded with a "haha/maybe/I hope so" but I think even then I had more doubt about my career than this man who had met me for all of 10 minutes about the certainty of his prediction.  Watching La La Land reminded me of how much of a pipe dream this all could be, but the fact that many people still pursue it because they "just knew".  I'm someone who's no stranger to rejection, one could say that rejection has shaped my entire personality and outlook on life.  Sometimes I do try to stir up the Michael Jordan-like mentality of "fuck da haters" and try to go HAM on my accomplishments, but there's only so much confidence one can self generate without confirmation from the outside world that there's something to be confident about.

Me in 20 years when I accept my Oscar.

Me in 20 years when I accept my Oscar.

Riding back from an Uber last month back home, a young Arabic driver gave me the same proclamation, that I was destined for greatness.  He remarked that I made him laugh just by laughing myself, and said I'd be a great comedian.  I couldn't help but skeptically thinking that just laughing during a stand up routine would probably not win over a crowd, and this guy was full of shit trying to get a 5 star Uber rating.  But it's interesting to run into strangers that have more confidence than you do in yourself (assuming they're genuine), because you wonder what it is they're seeing in their snap judgment of yourself.  Are they too naive to see reality and what it takes, or am I too cynical now to see my own potential?

It's almost because of these people that have given me their random vote of confidence, when I feel ready to give up and call it a life, that I have a responsibility to these people to fulfill their vision.  I remember every moment these types of things happen (pretty easily because they are so few and far in between) so hopefully one day if I reach the pinnacle, I can give them proper recognition.

Fear

"Since I was a child, I've always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition. And for my pains I got this — a prison of our own sins — because you don't want to change, or cannot change."

- Dr. Robert Ford (Westworld)

Camry

I'm being compelled to write more.  When you live by yourself, and with a pretty lame social life, fears start to pop into your head.  What if you had some sort of heart attack or seizure and you died because no one's around to help?  If no one sees me today, am I like that tree that falls in the forest that no one's around to hear?  Who's going to remind me what happened to me on December 14th, 2016?  Anyway, this entry kind of sucks, cause I'm just writing but whatever.

Time starts to warp too when you're alone with your thoughts.  Days become weeks, weeks become decades, etc.  Or maybe I should say decade.

I drive a 2004 Toyota Camry.  It's dirty, got a decent amount of miles on it, a bit scratched up, but it still drives well.  It's been in the Kim household since 2004, when I first became a legal adult.  So it's been around for most of my adult life, which is around 12 years.  I drove it to and from North Carolina a few times, and once across the country.  My mom used it mostly for 6 years when I lived in the city, but I took old Shadowfax (the name Michael gave it) once I moved to Los Angeles.

It's weird, 12 years is a long time, and then it's not.  When I was 12 years old or so, I remember riding the school bus looking out the window thinking, man, I've already lived 1/6th of my life in all probabilities.  Six more of these and I'm done.  That sucks.

Sometimes, living by yourself you do strange things to make it seem like you're not living by yourself.  So I walk by my car sometimes, and I just sit in it.  It's like a relic of the past, that I can just transport back into time by just being inside it, like I'm back in 2004.  Or 2005.  Or 2006.  Or any other year that I've been in that damn car.  I sit in the back seat, like I'm riding it, being driven around with my family or something.  I sit in the passenger side, imagining conversations I've had with people in that very seat.

Lots of things change in that first 12 years after you become an adult for sure.  Given the nature of my unpredictable path that I've chosen, I'd say the next 12 years there will probably contain significant life events that may change the course of my life, but I think the tone of them will mostly be the same.

Which is probably why I've held onto the car for so long, and will probably have it until it dies.  Getting into the car and sitting and taking it in is my opportunity to go back and try to redo my adult life.  It's sad cause when the car does die, the trajectory of the rest of my life will likely be set, as I drift off into nothingness like an astronaut untethered to his spaceship.  There will be nothing left to redo, I suppose.

Turning of the Third into Trumpland

it's been 3 years since I started this blog when I just turned 30.  Looking back, it wasn't so bad turning 30, you're still on the cusp of starting a new era and there's still time to turn it around so to speak.  Once you turn 33, it's like oh shit, it's only 2 years till 35, and then once you're that you're like oh god half way to 40, and then once you're 40, it's like am I still alive even?

No one ever talks about third-life crises when you turn 33.  It's probably because by this time, people are in their groove, set in their stride with their lives, or bookending their life by saving all of humanity.  You're not quite young enough to "die young" but you're not quite old enough to be like, that was a decent run, life.  I'm sure a lot of this is my neuroses talking to me about social norms and what not, but it's been a constant nagging feeling.

This is the reason I haven't been really celebrating birthdays anymore, cause of the reminder of this fork in the road I face of have I really done the things I've wanted to with my life yet?  I have trouble getting out of the house these days let alone feel like celebrating my inevitable irrelevance.

So, yeah blah blah chow meow, I was thinking this week on what I learned from all my experiences in the past 33 years has been, and of course this election has been the topic 24/7 for the past year.  And it's interesting that throughout this whole mess, I came to conclude that my philosophy has been shaped by my experiences in decision making in poker.  Poker requires one to be dispassionate about the results and to look at all choices as objectively as possible, and to also do the same for their opponent, figure out what he believes are his best choices.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that sometimes professional poker players have an irrational confidence in their own abilities to discern things objectively and accurately, and sometimes form laughably terrible ideas and opinions.  This stems from their experiences in the game, because the game involves making more "correct" decisions than your opponent, it reinforces the idea that you're an expert at decision making in every arena.  I've heard a poker player comment that he is somewhat an expert at acting because he's watched a lot of movies before.  I won't be going to him for Stanislavsky training any time soon.

So perhaps even with that caveat, I'm irrationally confident in my own mind in saying that my philosophy is even valid (after all it is an opinion and saying one's opinion is greater than another's well, is subjective in by very nature) or even that it's particularly original, but I believe in a few things from my experiences in poker and life, that as a society (in America, at least):

a) We tend to undervalue the importance of epistemology and suffer from HUGE confirmation bias thinking.  We lack the patience to figure out why other people think the way they do and explore the possibility that we may be wrong.
b) We overvalue binary outcomes where someone comes out on top, with our elections, our sports, our entertainment, etc.  As a result our positions and our ideas become polarized, with little room for nuance.
c) We get emotional.  This last part is human, emotions are what make us alive, and what make us care and gives us meaning to life itself.  But emotions tend to color our opinions, changing them from how we feel from one moment to the next, and can distort the way we process information.
d) We're selfish.  No matter who you are, this is an immutable fact as a society.  Sure, a few people may be altruistic, like mother teresa or something, but as a whole, people simply will not care about issues if it doesn't affect them, unless they find a way to relate to it.

Everyone seemed self assured (on my Facebook feed at least, since I'm not friends with too many Trump supporters) that HRC would become the 45th president of the United States.  Indeed, HRC seemed to be a favorite from polling numbers: on election night, gambling sites seemed to believe that her chance of victory was around 70%.  Even a friend of mine put down what I thought to be an absurd amount of money on Clinton winning, seeing it as "free money" in his eyes.  I successfully convinced him not to put even more money on it, to which he's somewhat grateful, but the point remains, 30% is not nothing.  People have a difficulty comprehending what 30%, 20%, 10%, 5%, etc. means in practice, because as humans, it's hard to process that probabilities and turn it into a feeling.  Poker players who have played the game for decades sometimes still get emotional when they run into a "bad beat", we feel that the pot has been stolen from us, that we are entitled to it when we are a 80% favorite.  In reality however, we should more think of it as that we owned 80% of the pot.

The fact of the matter is, no polling methodology is going to be 100% accurate, and there could be any number of theories why (polling participants giving false information, inaccurate sampling, biased methodologies, etc.)  However, social media heightens the idea that WE are right and THEY are wrong, being fed everyone else's statuses.  The problem is that if we get our information primarily through social media, it becomes inherently biased as the algorithms are designed to give us information we already believe (for more clicks), and less information that may be offensive and/or undesirable to us.  Social media becomes a circle jerk for people to just agree with each other's opinions, and defriend or block or ignore anyone who doesn't.

As I drove home, listening and furiously checking election updates on my phone, I was surprised and not simultaneously.  I didn't fully understand what had happened (one of my initial theories was that people were too embarrassed to say publicly they were voting for Trump so polling numbers were inaccurate).  But I knew that the numbers suggested that there was a lot more discontent with the Democrats than they would have you believe.  By the end of the night, I could almost believe Trump on his assessment of the bias of CNN, when they wouldn't even call Florida after 95% of the votes were in, presumably for the sake of making it seem like a close race for more viewership.


I'm going to make a few controversial comments here that I've mostly kept to myself for a while.  And I'm trying to think of the reasons why I've kept them to myself.  It's because the current social media and internet information does not have time for nuance, they can only process ideas in links, tweets or grams.  Anything you say can be retweeted out of context and/or twisted by the media to mean something else.  And no, this is not a defense for some of the things Trump said, because those are inexcusable, but it makes it hard for people to say something they believe without being demonized.  And part of the reason I care about that is because I have somewhat of a public image to maintain in the mere hopes that I become somewhat relevant in my industry any time in my life time.

But as I said, I'm getting old, so I'm getting to an age where I simply DGAF anymore about things and thinking the possibility of relevance in my industry may be slim anyway.  So here goes nothing.

To me, the new Ghostbusters movie was terrible.  It was not a good movie.  The jokes were flat, the special effects were cheesy, and the writing was simply lazy.  The reviews were mediocre, but even that was giving it too much credit.  When the first trailer came out, I thought it looked horrendous.  And apparently, so did many other fans of the original.

The reboot was intentionally made with an all female cast to a popular big budget franchise.  However it felt like it was almost too purposefully engineered to be that way, like a studio exec (I'm looking at you Amy Pascal, still mad about Spiderman franchises) said, "Oh we need more women on screen, let's make them Ghostbusters."  The problem was that it felt disingenuous, like they were morphing characters instead of creating them from scratch.  That brought about the label that anyone who disliked the movie to be a misogynistic and against equal rights for women.  I love Paul Feig's movies and writing, thought Bridesmaids was a comedy of that year, etc.  But I felt kind of annoyed that if I didn't like something, I was automatically a bigot, that I was blocking progress, that hey maybe I should stop hating women so much, when it was nothing about that, not on an even so-called subconscious level.  One of my biggest peeves is when someone questions my objectivity without basis.  

For me, these opinions kind of gave me perspective on how a fringe Trump supporter may feel right now.  They might feel ashamed of how they voted because of social media pressure to conform to what everyone thinks is the smart/moral/whatever choice.  And sure, it's easy to say fuck em if you know someone who voted this way and they should "know better", but that's not even giving them a chance to explain why.  And while there ARE racist bigots and you're probably more likely to be one if you voted for Trump, that doesn't make the whole voting bloc racist/xenophobic/misogynistic/etc.  To get the answer into who they are, we have to dig deeper.

I've looked at some of the polling data so far and have examined the narrative that this election was a "whitelash".  I admit, my initial thought hearing the results was that the white supremacists all came out last night and voted like crazy to take "their country back".  I've read a ton of posts saying that Trump voters value their lives over my rights as a woman, a PoC, a black, a Hispanic, an African American, LGBTQ, etc.  But the data shows that as a country compared to the election in 2012, white turnout was lower as a percentage overall (70% of the electorate compared to 72% last year) AND more white people voted for Mitt Romney than they did for Trump (59% to 58%).  Surprisingly, minority voters supported Trump more than Romney across ALL minorities, black/Hispanic/Asian except other minorities (which I suspect to be a lot of Muslims though I'm not sure if they are under the Asian umbrella, but even that percentage was not a great difference).

In reality, the staunchly Republican states were just as racist if not more in 2012 than they are now.  And although racism was definitely a platform on which Trump was running, it was ultimately a lot of pandering to his main constituents, people who were already racist, to presumably win the Republican primaries.  Our country's racists didn't become more racist, they just became more vocal.  To get a clearer story into what happened, we have to have a closer look at the swing states.  Did they turn "racist"?  Did more racists go out and vote in those states?  

Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were states in which Obama enjoyed decent polling margins in 2012.  However these states were the biggest losses to Hillary's campaign.  It's reported that Hillary even skipped going to Pennsylvania because she thought it was safe.  As we begin to sift through the data, we're finding that entire counties shifted from being pro-Obama to pro-Trump.  And sure, we can blame them for being self serving, but the fact of the matter is a lot of these areas have been ravaged by technological unemployment, and they simply don't have the luxury of voting for simply a social platform, they needed an economic one.  They voted for the Democrats in the past and they didn't get help.  And although it may be an irrational and perhaps not a "correct" decision, they felt that Trumped-up Economics™ would give them a better chance at economic hope than Hillary, which they saw as a continuation of the democratic platform, no help or jobs.   We're also finding that many Democrats in those areas simply just did not vote as they had in Obama's years.  They lost hope in the Democrats, but that didn't necessarily mean they endorsed the other side.  Hillary simply did not inspire as much as our current president.

We are so quick to judge the other side for not agreeing with our platforms we're ready to be all like fuck those fucking racist assholes, defriend me and fuck you the moment we face defeat.  But if we take a minute and think about who voted and why, we might get a better idea and understand the other side a bit better than quickly jumping conclusions.  Those voters in Pennsylvania, were they misinformed and given empty promises by a charlatan businessman?  Perhaps.  But HRC didn't even take the effort to make them promises, she took support for granted, running on "moral high ground".  People have time for morality once they have food on the table.  Can you imagine how a destitute worker in Bumblefuck, America must feel when they get told by someone who has the luxury to complain about their lives living in Los Angeles or New York on Facebook that they're a terrible and morally corrupt person for their voting decisions?


We're all bigots, we all have prejudices.  It's because we're ultimately lazy, we don't want to get to know anyone with different opinions than us, opinions we may find insulting or offensive.  And it's easier for us to process groups of people as one way or another, that's how bigotry happens.  

I was at a party recently, where I was probably in the upper 80-90th percentile in terms of age.  I came across a young white male who was wearing a MAGA hat.  Being in a fairly liberal city at the time, I asked him, "You're wearing that ironically, right?"  And he was like, "No, bro."  And that was it.  I didn't really want to talk to him anymore.  I labeled him as a probably racist bigot and went off to talk with my friends.  I didn't really give him a chance to explain why or find out more.

But politics requires us to find out and understand.  It shouldn't involve simply picking a side and blindly adhering to what they say every time.  Perhaps that's why I'm so disenchanted and uninvolved, I ultimately want to remain lazy and uninvolved.  It's too much effort for what I ultimately deem to be a pointless exercise, getting worked up over an outcome I don't have much control over.  But after the results, I feel compelled to think and form an idea on how to act on what's happened.

Unfortunately, this election has larger immediate consequences than ones in prior years.  The racists have come out of the woodwork and made their voices louder than ever.  But we were fooling ourselves if we thought these dudes were awakened by Trump (unwoke?), they were always around.  Perhaps if I gave that MAGA bro the courtesy of a conversation I could've began the process of unbigotrifying us as a people.  We need to be vigilant for sure and protect those attacked by racists that are unable to defend themselves, but we also need to understand that 50% of America does not believe in bigotry.  The same people that supported Obama in overwhelming numbers just 4 and 8 years ago supported Trump.  But we say that because it's easy, it's easy to want to blame something tangible and someone for what happened instead of learning and understanding.

If I could impart anything from my years of "wisdom" it's this: we need to take time to process and understand.  In the age of social media, it's tempting to be the first one out there with this provocative opinion that will galvanize people in a certain way.  Trump's understood that from day 1 of his campaign, and has used it to his advantage.  It's great to protest (legally) and make your opinions known, but I would always encourage keeping an open mind to having flexible opinions to developing information.  Reacting emotionally can only carry so far, and may ultimately have the adverse effect of what we all want, positive change.

As for my thoughts on actually turning 33, they'll probably come soon enough with more entries on my last project.  I've just been...lazy.  As per usual.

About that Thing I'm Doing (part 3): A Marketing Strategy

Back in the summer of 2008 after a terrible (poker results wise) summer in Vegas, I visited Los Angeles again to see what life was like on the west coast.  I ended up meeting an aspiring actor that I don't even remember the name of anymore, who told me that become an actor is the worst decision you can ever make if you're not totally and completely utterly in love with it.  The odds are so against you really of even making it that you have to love doing it despite the lack of success.  And this was coming from a white male dude.

In New York, a lot of what I heard from teachers and other actors was that going to Los Angeles isn't for everyone.  They would tell stories of people who made the move only to get burned out and return after a few years, and one teacher even went on to say that acting out there isn't real acting.  The theater, they would say, is still the purest form of the art.  And they're not wrong, there's definitely continuity and more of being in the moment when you act in a live performance all the way through, instead of starting and stopping the same scene over and over again for 2-3 minute bursts for a film.

But ultimately film was where my passion was, I grew up watching and being affected by films, and more recently, television.  And part of me felt like the actors who were "burned out" were just making excuses and turning to good old New York snobbery to explain why they came back, instead of just admitting they couldn't make it.  So despite the warnings, I packed my bags and moved out to LA, to find out if I had what it took to avoid the fate of so many of my New York actors who had came before me.

In my years in LA, I figured out quickly (or perhaps, not quickly enough, based on where I am now) what they meant.  There is a difference between wanting to be an Actor with a capital A, and wanting to have a career in acting.  At the heart of it, acting and entertainment is a business, a consumer pays money in some way to see you entertain them.  The bigger the audience is for your particular entertainment, the more money gets made.  Simple economics, right?  Yet most people, myself included, don't really FULLY understand this concept.  In acting studios, you're taught the craft and the life of acting, but you're not really taught about how to "sell" your craft.

There is no one pathway to success as an actor, and because of that, there's no blueprint to really put your head down and follow.  Some gain success by going to an elite acting or performance program, showcasing around town to catch an influential agent's eye.  Others climb the ladder, starting hustling from commercials and co-stars to bigger roles after they've proven they've paid their dues.  Still others slowly build a following based on self-produced content, such as stand up routines, theater shows, or internet videos.  Even the ways themselves are starting to change, as the way we consume content has changed drastically in the past decade.

No matter what, all of these pathways have a similar theme to them, they have to do with being at the right place at the right time.  Uzo Aduba, an Emmy winning actress on the show Orange is the New Black, said she literally decided to quit acting less than an hour before she had gotten a call saying she had booked a role on the hit Netflix show.  For every success story you hear about like Aduba's, you can bet there are thousands of other actors who actually did quit and couldn't wait until the "right time" came up.  You can't act if there isn't a role to act in, and the right role to showcase your talent.

Tom kinda looks Asian here, right?

Tom kinda looks Asian here, right?

After a couple years of LA really being immersed in the film/television culture and how it worked, I realized that the juicy Asian acting roles were going to be few and far in between.  Asians are still seen as outsiders to American society.  The most telling moment is when an Asian person goes to an area without many Asians and get complimented on their English, despite having lived in America their entire lives. The ignorance behind this compliment implies that we just got here, and sometimes, that we aren't here to stay.  Although things have certainly changed in the past few years (at a rate that has been exponential recently), the bulk of roles for Asian Americans are still in supporting ones.  In broader American society, Asians are seen as supporting characters who are backdrops for the true American heroes to succeed (predominantly white dudes).  It's hard to believe, but The Last Samurai was an actual movie that happened only 13 years ago.  A movie where a machine gun literally mows down every last Asian guy on screen but somehow spares Tom Cruise's character in the final scene (making the title apropos!).

But it makes sense.  Films are made from screenplays, and screenplays are written by actual individuals.  No one in the film industry (who's not Asian American) is going to write an accurate story about an Asian American story, because they don't see life from that lens.  No one who lives in Asia is going to do us a solid either, their experiences are different there.

When I first got LA, I was hesitant to associate myself with the Asian American "cause", because I didn't want to be associated with being an activist entertainer.  I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the Asian Americans who had made in in the industry, who had never associated themselves with the "cause".  I think it's because I thought there was a ceiling in the industry for those who made it about being Asian and about nothing else.  As an artist, you don't want to be known as that Asian guy who does Asian stuff.  There was almost a sense of pride when I booked or went in for roles where I would see a bunch of white dudes, it was as if I could compete without being affirmative actioned into the industry.

But I think over time it dawned on me that in order to get a juicy role, I most likely had to create it myself.  In the film industry, people tend to cast at extremes: if you have a certain look that's unique and "in", you tend to get more opportunities to shine.  At the moment from my experience, Hollywood seems to be looking for two "types" of Asian guys, the stereotypical effeminate nerdy Asian best friend, or in an effort to seem diverse and culture-forward, the exact opposite: a hyper-masculinized "sexy" type of Asian man.  The rest, like me, fall through the cracks.  And as I am getting older, I didn't want to wait until the expiration date on my acting career to take action.  As our South Asian contemporaries had done in the Mindy Project and Master of None, I started to write my own content that starred a "regular Asian dude".

I think this is the reason why Louie resonated with me so well as a model to copy.  The show is Louis CK's perspective on life on such a base human level that it is relatable and compelling to anyone without having high stakes, crazy personalities or tragic circumstances.  In my writing, I wanted to accomplish just that, create a relatable and compelling perspective on life that was also uniquely Asian American.  How would I get there?

About that Thing I'm Doing (part 2): What the hell am I doing?

In late 2014, I was depressed.  And I don't mean the type of depressed where it's like oh my dog died, wah, but depressed like life is pointless and the only reason I'm not ending myself is because the idea of death is even scarier.  It was around the two year mark in Los Angeles, and along with my advancing age, it felt like nothing was materializing the way I wanted to.  I was at the point most new actors to Los Angeles feel when they get here, the feeling of hopelessness, and that nothing is going to change.

If there was a checklist of things to do as an aspiring actor, I could probably go through them all.  No stone was unturned, no small sliver of hope unslived.  I probably wasted tons of money on things that were basically a tier up from being an outright scam in order to get an edge.  Marketing strategies, headshots, acting classes, workshops, showcases, wardrobe stylist (wat), color consultant (yes, that's a thing), audition classes, subscriptions to trades, making a fake reel to get into the union, etc. ...I could be a damn good manager by now.

What was most frustrating was people who weren't in the industry giving me advice.  Maybe I should do this.  Maybe I should do that.  People who had no clue what the fuck they were talking about thinking they had the magic solution as to why I wasn't succeeding.  The most asinine suggestion I got was something like maybe I needed to work as a server at a restaurant to know what it was like to be a struggling actor.  But the thing that annoyed me the most was the condescension in people's voices, as if I wasn't trying hard enough.  Or I wasn't good enough.  Or maybe, I should try something else.  Sometimes their inane drivel would weigh on me because there would be a lot of days where I would be doing absolutely nothing, because I felt I had exhausted all the things I could do.  I wasn't even really having fun, just sleeping in and mehing around, spending perhaps whole weeks without physical contact with the outside world save for getting food and running errands.

Lifewise, things weren't going so great either.  Although I had managed to make a few friends, I still missed New York, being home with family and the familiarity of people back home.  And romantically, well, I'm sure I've well documented my failings in that department for a while now.  I just never felt a support system, it was mainly doing things on my own without a guide, a mentor, or a group of people to just bitch and moan to.  Just this blog, really, and my friends thousands of miles away on tiny avatars of fb/google/whatever chat. (CAN'T A GUY FUCKING CALL A FRIEND ON THE TELEPHONE, MICHAEL)

There was a sense also, of just everyone really being out for themselves in this town.  I felt that my trust and faith in people had been shaken, that what New Yorkers always say about LA is true, that no one has any real artistic integrity.  While I know now that this isn't always the case, it was suffocating being in a place where it seemed no one was like-minded in creativity, especially in the Asian American community (more on this in a later entry).


One of my best friends, Bobby, is a very similar Indian version of me.  We had all the same interests growing up, which mainly consisted of Starcraft, poker and generally surviving the pressures of elitist Asian standards of education.  He was a year above me in high school (though he's actually a couple months younger than I am).  During HS we shared the dread of being put on this track of becoming doctors, like it was a destiny chosen for us that we were to be force fed by parents who thought becoming doctors was the equivalent of becoming demigods.  Our lives were not unlike those of Harold and Kumar, which is why the movie resonated deeply with both of us.

He had it a bit worse though, both of his older sisters are doctors, so it was more expected of him to follow suit, while my sister used her Harvard degree to pursue a career in fashion, giving me a little more leeway to do whatever I wanted (a few dollas in the bank also helps too).  Bobby completed a 7 year program at Northwestern University and became an anesthesiologist.  Throughout his journey, I commiserated with him about how much it sucked, taking board examinations, doing residency, having loads of student debt that wouldn't be paid off well into his 30s.  For me, I empathized mostly with the seeming lack of choice that he had going into it.

But as we lived together as roommates in New York, me going into acting school and him doing his residency, it seemed that he had made his peace with the life that was chosen for him.  It wasn't so bad after all, being a respected member of society and working at a job with a material benefit to others.  We had made becoming a doctor such a heinous thing in high school because it was what our parents wanted us to do, but in reality, maybe our parents knew a thing or two about life.

In November of 2014, I stood at Bobby's wedding as a groomsman.  He married another anesthesiologist in his program (who happened to be Korean, can't get away from our kind, it seems).  At various times in the past decade or so, I always viewed Bobby as what "could have been" for my life if I had stayed the course and did what my parents told me to, and the outcome has not been as horrific as we anticipated.  It was at his wedding that I became most acutely aware of the decisions I had made in my life, and wondered if I had made a terrible mistake.  I wondered if I had traded somewhat assured happiness for a pipe dream that would never materialize, if I had squandered the prime years of my life doing something that had no future.  The living vicariously tables had been turned.


During those long days and nights in LA in late 2014, I stumbled upon a show that I had never seen anything like before.  It was an extremely meta show about a comedian, Louis C.K., that blew me away in terms of artistic quality.  The show, Louie, starts off with Louie doing stand up sets interwoven with moments from his life that either highlight his jokes or colors them in a certain way from their juxtaposition.  While the show is definitely surrealistic at times, there are moments he captures that are so visceral that you wonder if you're watching a comedy anymore.  It's humor that hurts, but it hurts so good.

I felt like I was watching something revolutionary and started to examine television and the direction it was going.  I looked into similar shows such as Girls, Togetherness, You're the Worst, Man Seeking Woman, and saw that the comedy genre was delving into how life is in actuality, instead of that perfect idealistic sitcom life that always feels so forced and disingenuous.

I started to think about my own life and how it could possibly be a comedy of its own, a Don Quioxte like tragedy of an overqualified person throwing away all of the talents he's built up his entire life and trying to pursue quests he may have no business pursuing instead.  I started spending those days and nights coming up with ideas and vignettes of possible directions of what I could tell and what would be interesting about the failures I've accrued along the way.  But I had a lot of research to do...

About that Thing I'm Doing (part 1)

It's been a long exhausting week.  I've undertaken possibly the biggest project of my life to date, and it's been a truly rewarding experience.  As a perfectionist, it's rare for me to undertake something and not regret doing a million things, but I can say that for the most part (you'll never get me to admit 100%), I have no regrets.  Like I did 10 years ago, I took a large bet on myself, and now it's time to see how the ping pong balls fall.

Hugo Weaving's trying to help me through the headache of life

Hugo Weaving's trying to help me through the headache of life

Ironically, so much of my greatest achievements have been birthed from a source of pain and introspection, what went wrong, what I could've done differently and the meaning of all that has transpired in my life.  It reminds me of when Agent Smith in the Matrix tells Morpheus that human beings define their reality through suffering and misery.  Does it take adversity to create greatness?  Perhaps.  The question in my mind remains however: does greatness overshadow living a happier (and perhaps less "meaningful") life?

I can't tell you the answer to that, I'm still living the life that I have and am trying to get to the answer of that as I do so.  So much of what I feel fulfilled about undertaking this project was the fact that it was better than standing still, trying to wait for the world to change.  There is so much value in making a move without knowing how it'll turn out rather than being paralyzed with fear, as my perfectionism has constantly done throughout my life.  There's no way to get the answers unless you look for them yourself.  I think I'm beginning to understand the concept of "seek and ye shall find" a bit better.

My parents flew in this past week and they were happy to see me active and working hard towards a goal.  They fretted a bit over the genesis of why I was doing what I was doing, and noted that most of the things I did seemed to stem from an insecurity in my own identity.  They wondered if they had failed as parents not equipping me with a firm sense self before impinging on me the importance of a survival mentality, of doing whatever it took to succeed.  They essentially told me I need to have thicker skin about things, and just move on with life.  There's no need to make a song or story about every so-called tragedy in my life.

And in some ways, they're right.  My life is far from tragic.  It's actually quite the opposite in a sense that the amount of actual tangible suffering has more been on an emotional and psychological level rather than on a physical one.  It's the type of suffering one might characterize as originating from bouts of "affluenza", when I start creating things in my mind to worry about when in reality the things I have to worry about are far beyond even #firstworldproblems.  Who cares if you didn't have friends in elementary school when disease, war and other things are killing people halfway around the world?

My dad called me today after landing back in New York yesterday.  After watching me undertake the project and reading my script, he concluded that I might be a nihilist.  I wouldn't say he's too far off, I've always somewhat lived life with a sense of melancholy and hopelessness, concluding that most things in life are meaningless when looking at things from an infinite time perspective.  On the other hand, my actions reflected a tenuous grasp of a strand of hope that what I do does disturb the universe in some way, that there is a general meaning behind all of it.  

Making this pilot has been my way of clinging onto that strand, and pulling it as far as it goes.  I can only make the leap, and see how far the rabbit hole goes.  And so I leap, without knowing where it will lead me.  I semi-joked with a friend of mine that if this didn't provide some sort of closure, I'd probably just jump off One World Trade in New York and film that and posthumously make a statement about life, which I guess is another sort of leap.  Semi, in the sense that I have no idea what I'm going to do with my life if it's not acting or in entertainment.  Go back to ripping off the mob?  No, no, no...I need a Batman to complete me.

What drove me to the point of making the leap?  Tune in next time on...gaktown.

Paying for the Sins of America's Past

It's not often I read in the news about someone that's my particular demographic, and it's usually not for something good, outside of the movement of Linsanity 4 years ago.  We're invisible in many arenas in American culture, most notably the public services.  So when I heard about the Peter Liang story, I immediately pored over as much as I could over what was written about the case.

NYC edition: The Vertical Crawl

NYC edition: The Vertical Crawl

For those not familiar with the Peter Liang, he's a 1.5 generation Chinese American from Hong Kong who grew up in Brooklyn, New York.  He became an NYPD officer, and was given the task of being an impact officer in what's known as a vertical patrol, where officers would patrol stairwells of buildings known to have high crime rates.  It reminds me of the Raid: Redemption movie, only probably a few levels tamer.

18 months after graduating from the police academy, on November 20, 2014, Liang's on one of these patrols with his other rookie partner, a white officer named Landau.  They started the patrol with weapons drawn, as the stairwell was dark and known to be dangerous.  As they entered the stairwell, a noise startles Liang, and his gun accidentally fires.  The bullet from his gun ricochets and hits Akai Gurley, a 28 year old black man in the chest one flight of stairs down.  Gurley, frightened by the gunshot and not aware that he was hit, actually runs down two more flights of stairs before collapsing.

For a few moments afterwards, the officers were unaware that someone was hit (the place was pitch dark and the bullet was a ricochet hit on the next floor down).  There's a bit of discussion as to how they would contact their superiors about the accidental discharge.  Finally, as they start to look for the bullet, they hear Gurley's girlfriend's cries 3 floors down and realize what had happened.  Stunned and untrained, neither officer administers CPR as they felt unfit to do so, but it was later determined that such assistance would not have mattered.  They allegedly made a radio call to ambulances (there's no record of this but this was posited that the stairwell had poor reception), but Gurley ended up dying at the hospital.

Fast forward to last week, where Peter Liang was convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter and official misconduct.  He's set to be sentenced April 14th of this year.  His partner, Landau, was granted immunity for testifying in the case.  He was not even given official misconduct charges that Liang was given, and he was just as inexperienced and responsible for the delay of medical assistance.


As any person of color, we owe a lot to the black community.  They fought for equality and freedom that many of us now enjoy.  There is no doubt in my mind that if the Civil Rights Movement hadn't happened there would be Whites Only signs that would exclude Asians and Hispanics as well.  Yet the narrative has been shaped by America to pit us against each other, one as the "model minority" who gets it right vs. the other as the lazy people who don't take accountability for their lot in life, the foreigners who came over taking opportunity and the overaggressive less sensible neighbors who have not welcomed them with open arms.  

There have been changes since the LA riots in the early 90s, as 2nd generation of Asian Americans have become better educated about America's past and don't necessarily subscribe to the naive racism of their less familiar 1st generation parents.  But while there may not be outward animosity between the two, there's certainly no presumption of solidarity either.

There's no easy solution to America's race problem.  The backbone of American life was built on the backs of slavery (the Confederate States of America would have been the 4th largest economy in the world by itself).  Even after the abolishment of slavery, the continuation of segregation and Jim Crow laws prevented blacks from gaining any sort of meaningful progress for almost a century.  Though racism is definitely on the decline, black people still suffer from being in disproportionately socioeconomically disadvantaged areas.  It's not easy to pick yourself up by the bootstraps when you're only a few generations removed from total destitution.

Amidst all this, with the arrivals of first Jews, then Asians, America and other western countries have bought into and promoted the Goldilocks theory of race, that whites somehow possessed the best of both races.  Asians were too effeminate, intelligent but emotionless, blacks too aggressive, stupid and dangerous, but whites were "just right".  The idea, while not explicitly stated, is somewhat tacitly accepted and its main function is that it alienates both races as "other".  Many white Americans who want to "make America great again" view America as a country that is run by people who look like themselves, "the way it used to be", and see the current shifts as a danger to that status quo.

These same white Americans are the ones who pardon a white police officer who chokes an unarmed black man to death while failing to administer medical aid when he is unconscious, white police officers who shoot 50 times into a car with a black man on his wedding day, plainclothes white police officers who follow a suspect to his home and shoot him while he's unarmed, and decide instead to pay the victim's families a few million dollars as restitution.  In some of these cases, the predominantly white police unions even speak out in defense of these upstanding officers, and claim that they were officers in the line of duty simply doing their job.  In all of these cases, aggression was intentional and calculated, though perhaps poorly.


Unintentional crimes are always curious to me as to how they should be punished.  If I'm zooming down a street and speeding, but nothing happens to me, I merely would get a traffic citation.  But if it's dark and suddenly I hit and kill a pedestrian while speeding, the consequences are much more severe, usually I'll be charged with negligent homicide.  In both crimes, I'm doing the same exact thing, I just happened to be unlucky in the second scenario.  In a purely emotionless world, the consequences would be equal in both cases, because they are technically the same action, but when an actual person dies, someone needs to take the blame.  On the flipside, It would seem Minority Report-y if we started to jail every speeder for "future vehicular manslaughter".

Asians.  The real threat to America.

Asians.  The real threat to America.

I don't believe the prosecution argued that Liang shot Gurley intentionally.  Both sides agreed that it was an accident, though the prosecution argued one that could've been avoided by Liang.  But the Black Lives Matter people seem to tack this shooting on as another example of racial profiling gone wrong, when it is more of a wrong place wrong time type of situation.  They are satisfied to make Liang the poster boy for the epidemic of the shooting of unarmed black men. Unfortunately, this case doesn't fit that narrative.  If a white person walking down that stairwell, I'm pretty sure he would've died too.  The fact that the bullet ricocheted further gives credence to the fact that his discharge was accidental, unless he's some sort of video game character.

One bullet.  More than enough to kill an object you can't see in the dark.

One bullet.  More than enough to kill an object you can't see in the dark.

Of course it's a building with a predominantly black population, one that's also dangerous and known for crime, which is why the patrol was happening in the first place.  But neither of those circumstances were Liang's decision, he was assigned to patrol here by the NYPD.  Whether he was qualified or not was a decision that was up to his superiors.

The police union that was so behind Daniel Pantaleo in the Eric Garner case was somewhat distant when it came to Liang. The claims of the officer being an upstanding citizen were noticeably absent. It almost seemed like the NYPD was happy to have Liang be the fall guy for their previous crimes, as a sacrifice to the angry mob.  As long as the city didn't have to shell out a few million dollars again, who cares?  They can claim that they now have more accountability AND save the city some money!  It's a win win for both sides!

It's even more jarring when a case that's almost identical happened to a white officer, who was not even indicted.  He was merely stripped of his weapon and assigned another job in the police department.  There's a clear bias and inconsistent handling of Liang's case, and it's not even disguised.

Do I believe Liang should be punished for what he did?  Absolutely, there are mistakes he made that probably could have been avoided (perhaps calling for backup or phoning in his superior officer before entering the stairwell).  But should that warrant a possible 15 year sentence in jail as a former police officer? (jail's particularly not fun for former cops)

The NYPD will continue to conduct these vertical patrols, patrols that put inexperienced police officers like Liang into these terrible situations to begin with.  Make no mistake, there is no progress here for the "Black Lives Matter" movement.  Liang has made a tragic error at the worst possible political time, he's been convicted by public opinion rather than legal precedent.  He was painted as too heady, too emotionless, too selfish to aid Akai Gurney in his time of need, whereas his white partner was somehow left off the hook for just sticking around and arguing with him during those critical moments.  He's blamed for the death of an accidental bullet which would've just been a disciplinary action instead of a 2nd degree manslaughter charge, and tacked on an official misconduct charge when any sort of aid rendered to Gurney wouldn't have mattered after he was shot.  I only can hope that somehow we can stop this miscarriage of justice.

Body image/health and Strength Training and Goals

I grew up a skinny, tall, nerdy kid.  In many ways, I embodied the Asian stereotype, both physically and mentally: I was good at violin, math, and not much going on in the way of sports.  My diet growing up didn't help, as I ate the same thing everyday during my K-12 years.  Cereal and milk in the morning, a ham sandwich at lunch, and some sort of Korean dinner where I would mainly eat some combination of foods that invariably contained rice and bulgogi.  My diet, while not optimal, was probably a lot more regulated and "healthier" because my mom didn't allow many sugary type foods (she never got soda in the house, I only got it through other means).

I remember thinking that being skinny was part of my unchanging identity.  There was a moment in middle school when a girl had commented that I'd be so much better looking if I had gained some muscle.  Never mind my unspoken thought that she'd be a lot better looking if she lost like 15 lbs., I just gave it a shrug and thought, that's how I am, it's not going to change.  It was a combination of not being familiar with my own physiology and just having a set image that I didn't bother to hit the gym in any appreciable way, other than running for track (which made me leaner), and maybe horsing around the weight room a bit.  I was Doug, and Doug was skinny, and that was that.

My kryptonite.  It's...perfect.

My kryptonite.  It's...perfect.

It wasn't until my young adult life that I started to change physically.  Working at a corporate setting brought about a more sedentary lifestyle coupled with even more eating.  Because I had started with such a low base of weight (from 135 as a 5'11 high school senior to 145 as a 6' college senior) I was rounding out to be shaped like a normal sized human. 

Once I left work, weight gain started to become more noticeable.  According to American Express, I was having Shake Shack at least once a week for a two year time period.  It got to an apex around the start of 2011 at around 185 lbs.  I think that was the first time I became somewhat conscious about my body image.  So I started to train for a half marathon and dropped back down to 165 during my training.  Although I kept exercising after the race, my weight became sporadic and inconsistent.  "You can't outwork a bad diet", I was told.


Aging is something everyone knows will happen, but because it's a slow process (unless you have a whole host of other bad habits besides dieting such as drugs, cigarettes or alcohol), you don't really clock it until it hits you.  It's most apparent in professional athletes, where you see a definite trend of peak physical performance plateauing by your late 20s to early 30s and then dropping off precipitously after 40.  At my age, you start to see the superstars you've been following as a teenager get to the end of their careers, and how much they've dropped off.  Legends like Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant who stick around longer than they're really supposed to play worse than a replacement player in the final seasons of their career.

While looking older may vary from person to person, everyone will feel being older at some point.  After college and a bit of work experience, I would pull all nighters relatively easily, being able to power through with just adrenaline and caffeine when a task needed to be done.  Nowadays, I would be in a lot of pain and anguish if I tried to Jack Bauer through the day.  This could be partly due to being acclimated to a lifestyle that doesn't require me to usually do long nights of work, but recently I've just felt the weight whenever I don't get enough sleep.  Being heavier, running and getting into running shape takes longer simply because I have more weight to carry.

As I entered my 30s, it dawned on me that:

a) there's more life after 30
b) i don't look that young anymore
b) I should probably plan on living for the next 40-50 years or so
c) my current lifestyle was probably not optimal

Back when I was a kid, it was like I didn't even picture life as an old person.  It wasn't due to being a morbid person and believing in one's own early death before 30, it was more like like a kid who didn't comprehend a number greater than 10 after first learning how to count.  And it wasn't until probably right up to 30 that I realized that life was going to go on for a while, and I was like, "Hey, maybe I should go see a doctor.  AKA, my dad."  

The results of a blood test I got didn't show anything remarkably terrible, but it did seem to show that I was trending towards unhealthiness.  As my family does have some history of health problems related to heart conditions and/or diabetes, it seemed unwise to continue on this path.

In addition to being bad for my health, being fat or noticeably aging did concern me because of my career.  Acting requires you to look a certain way, and looking young and fit is important.  Although it's less pronounced now than it was in the past, casting is still somewhat dependent on your aesthetic.  When I went into audition for a big role that I thought I was really right for a couple years ago, I was told by a casting director that while she liked my read they were looking for more of an athletic type of actor for a role I went in for and straight out that I didn't really have a shot.

Now, I'm not really the "jock" type in casting anyway, so this didn't bother me too much.  But looking older and fatter probably wasn't going to be advantageous, you don't see many fat old Asian dudes on TV.  And although I look young for my age (fortunately), I didn't want to climb an uphill battle in extending my looks longevity.

I decided to research how to get in the best shape possible.


Prior to my start in strength training, I had lifted weights during a short period in 2010 with my friend, Bobby.  He had introduced me to starting strength, a method of strength training that is as simplistic as possible, just add weight to the bar every session until you can't.  Bobby had originally got me into poker in a similar manner, we both kind of read up on an "expert" and went on from there.  While we made some progress, we definitely made mistakes.  I once pulled a deadlift with what was most definitely improper form and was bedridden for a week.  After a while, I just quit because I wasn't seeing proper results.

Paul's a pretty chill dude

Paul's a pretty chill dude

So in September of 2014, I asked a friend of mine who seemed like he knew what he was doing health wise (he was always talking about being swole and eating kale and shit), what I should do, and he directed me to the only Starting Strength coach in Los Angeles, Paul Horn.  Paul is a trainer who also runs a gym called Horn Strength and Conditioning in the Westchester area near LAX.  I didn't know what to expect when I first met him, maybe some sort of stereotypical breh's brah, but it turned out when I went in for a consult that he had a very methodical and analytical way of doing things like myself, and was actually pretty nerdy sometimes (ask him about his spreadsheets), despite being jacked.

Similar to the book, we did the three basic lifts (squat/dead/bench), plus a shoulder press every week, 3 times a week, varying the exercises every session.  As I was getting back into it, I started off small, adding 5-10 lbs a session until we couldn't.  Every session progress was recorded into the "Book of Gains" (a notebook with the weight you achieved).  I was prescribed a diet of anything I wanted, provided I hit my weight in protein (grams of protein per pound I weighed) every day.  For around 6 months of training (more like 9 months because of breaks in between for vacation and what not), I learned how to lift and how to do it correctly.

Now, Paul's not a cheap coach, but there's something about paying a lot of money that gets you motivated to get up and go to the gym.  And it was definitely valuable because you always want to make sure your form is correct.  The gains were steady and certain, and it was always helpful to have someone motivating you to do the work.  His job was simple, to get me strong and thus healthier, and he definitely accomplished that.

the book of gains in graph form

Here's a look at the progress I've made.  The data is basically what weight I can lift for 5 reps.  Starting strength preaches doing lifts in 5s and then adding weight when you've successfully completed the lift.  

Some of the things you can see from the graph is that progress is logarithmic in nature; you're going to see early gains quicker when you're out of shape and then slowly progress as you become more advanced in lifting.  Another thing you can see is that both the shoulder press and bench press plateau a lot quicker than the other two lifts.  The dips downward are mostly from extended breaks from lifting (the large noticeable one is a 3 week break in July of last year).  And towards more recently, lifts have been plateauing (and even dropping off) very noticeably, and I'll get to that soon.

Taking a week off doesn't affect your progress that much.  But taking a few weeks off can really be devastating.  I get temporary gym memberships for 1-2 weeks whenever I'm in New York now, just so I can keep the gain train intact.  

But aside from progress, I noticed I wasn't really getting the body I wanted, dat aesthetic.  As a result of eating whatever I wanted to get to x amount of protein per day, I had ballooned into an all time high of 195 lbs by June of last year.  Unfortunately, I was also in a film program where I was (told a week before shooting) that I was to be shirtless in the film.  Needless to say, I wasn't too happy with the shoot after watching it, and I knew that I needed to make some changes in my regimen to look acceptable for my chosen career.  It was time to cut.

After I trained with Paul, I moved on to a popular powerlifting gym in LA called Barbell Brigade.  I like the gym because it's convenient, squat racks, deadlift and benches are all set up, and it's got a chill but intense environment.  I started to also lower the caloric intake (as well as protein), and as a result I lost weight but my gains started to drop off dramatically.  However, I've maintained much of my strength, while dropping around 10-15 lbs.


The ancillary benefit of looking more attractive towards the opposite sex hasn't really materialized, at least as far as I'm aware.  In fact, the opposite is true, I've had more dudes comment on me being bigger and asking about it.  I remember some guy saying that I looked like I would back a lot of dudes (I'm assuming he meant Korean dudes in a game of pick up) easily in the post as a power forward and wondering, what dude is he talking to right now (I'm terrible at basketball).  Swole recognize swole, but I do want the physique more of a point guard, lean-ish but strong enough to be explosive.  Athletes also seem to look super young, I mean Kobe certainly doesn't look 37 years old.  

I have recently incorporated cardio into my routine, partly because of a bet I had made with Bobby.  The bet was made back in 2011, when I said that I could run 3 miles in 20 minutes if I had a year to train.  I think the closest I got was 24 minutes, and I gave up and paid him the money.  This year, we made the same bet, now both of us in it.  While we won't race each other to the death (it'll just be if we can beat 20 minutes or not), it's an exciting challenge nonetheless.

But I estimate with the cardio training, I'll probably burn close to 1000-1200 extra calories a week.  I'm hoping to lose weight rapidly, we'll see how that goes.

As for diet?  My diet is still terrible.  I suppose there are improvements I could make, but I really need a nutritionist to help me.  Maybe that's the next step.

My goals at the moment are trying to reach a body weight of around 175 lbs with a 1 rep max of bench (262.5 lbs), squat (350 lbs), and deadlift (437.5).  Currently, I can probably lift approximately 205/350/380 at 184 lbs.  

I'm pretty happy with the progress I've made and the lessons I've learned over the past year and a half.  Hopefully it leads to greater success, both in health and in my career.

Asian Americans in Media (Fresh off the Boat thoughts)

I waited until after I saw the pilot and a few episodes to write this, because I wanted to give FOB a fair shake before giving my thoughts.  It was a good thing I had because this entry may have been a lot different otherwise.

Asian Americans are sorely underrepresented in American media.  Any Asian in entertainment can tell you the countless offenses that Hollywood has bestowed on Asians, from whitewashing stories with Asian characters (21, The Last Airbender, Dragonball), to having a single white hero triumph over a sea of Asian characters (The Last Samurai [how the hell is Tom Cruise the only guy standing after that battle], Wolverine), to having an actual Asian hero in a story inspired by Romeo and Juliet not kiss the female lead (Romeo Must Die).  Hollywood does not like Asian people, because Asian people to them do not represent sales.

Part of that is because of a lack of Asian Americans in entertainment to begin with.  While there are talented Asian directors, actors, musicians, etc. the fact remains that being artists as Asian Americans is a foreign concept, the vast majority of us are groomed to be, stereotypically, a doctor/lawyer/some other decently financially stable variant.  So you have a small percentage of Asians, who are a small percentage of the population, trying to be entertainers with many of them trailblazers finding their way in the business.  Then there's the whole chicken and the egg question, are Asians not marketable enough because they aren't on shows, or are they not on shows because they're not marketable enough.  And finally, it's the simple fact that the people in power in Hollywood are older, white men who inevitably shape content and media to fit their world views and biases, whether subconsciously or consciously.  One only needs to look at the demographics of Oscar voters to see that this is true.

So when I heard that "Fresh off the Boat" was being made into a sitcom last year, I was pretty excited.  As an actor, your first thought is, "jobs".  It's been 20 years since "All American Girl" was cancelled, and this was going to be the first show since then to have an Asian American cast.  But when I ordered the book on Amazon and read a few chapters, I began to wonder how it would take shape as a sitcom.  The book had a very raw and honest tone with stories that I would imagine would play on HBO rather than ABC.  While I'm not on board with everything Eddie Huang believes about race and identity, I also wasn't happy with the idea that his voice would be lost in its transmorgification into a sitcom.

How America sees azns.

How America sees azns.

Because Asians are few and far in between on screen, every appearance by an Asian in mainstream media is scrutinized by the Asian community to the highest degree.  For every Bruce Lee and Jeremy Lin, there's a Long Duk Dong or a William Hung that makes us into silly caricatures.  Asians that make it probably face an added burden of trying to "do their race proud".  And after "All American Girl" was received so poorly, everyone had the same thing on their minds, if FOB doesn't do well, we might as well resign to waiting another 20 years before we get another chance to prove ourselves.

I wanted FOB to be awesome, to be our "Cosby Show": the hit show of the 80s that opened the floodgates for "Family Matters", "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" and "Everybody Hates Chris".  So when I saw the pilot to FOB, my hopes were crushed.  I understood what Eddie Huang meant in his piece when he says that the network turned his life into a "cornstarch sitcom".  The show felt forced and disingenuous.

The biggest problem with the pilot is that it seems like the show doesn't know what it wants to be.  The family just seems like cookie cutter versions of sitcom characters who happen to be Asian, and the jokes heavily relied on the "white people make life miserable for minorities" trope that gets old fast (and I'm assuming faster for white viewers).  Some of the jokes fell flat (the 40 year old friend joke was just so much try too hard, especially after it kept getting repeated 100 times), and I was pretty sure that the show's longevity was in danger.

Fortunately, the show improves vastly in the following episodes.  It starts to focus on their struggles as ordinary people and their relationship as a family, rather than their struggles as Asian Americans.  And frankly, this is the way to go, seeing as it worked for Cliff Huxtable.  The Cosby Show and other black comedies after it touch upon race, but their main storylines are about the characters themselves, making them infinitely more relatable, even if you aren't black, the same way we relate to American media shows even though we're not white.  The more FOB taps into this universal experience of just being a person, the more it will be relatable to its non-Asian audience, and the more that audience will turn around and say, "Hey, these Asian Americans are pretty cool.  Let's have some more stories of those kinds of people."

That's not to say the show doesn't still have its faults, nor am I saying that it IS the next Cosby Show.  The show is still clunky as the writers haven't found their stride quite yet as to where it wants to go.  Part of this is due to the fact that ultimately, the writers have to divorce themselves from the source material (the part of Eddie's life on which the show is based takes up one chapter in the actual book) and find their own voice.  I don't envy their position, trying to simultaneously "get the story right", make it entertaining, AND appease the source material creator, who doesn't always give them his vote of confidence.

And I don't think that its wrong as an Asian to point out that it has faults.  All I've been reading from Asians who are in entertainment regarding the show has been glowing praise.  I've read stuff like "I was laughing the entire time." Part of me thinks that people want it to succeed so badly that saying anything negative could ruin its chances, because honestly, it ain't THAT good, guys.  We can't be so afraid of scrutiny that we don't seek to improve our craft when there are deficiencies, and then get upset when America doesn't accept Asians in media using the "just because we're Asian" crutch.

But I think that I (as well as Eddie, it seems) have come to terms with the fact that the show doesn't have to be 100% accurate or perfect to create change.  And because its on a big network, the soapbox we're on is that much bigger to be able to say to middle America, "At the core, we're just like you, human, people that want to gain acceptance and love and want to fit in."  And the strategy seems to have worked, FOB has already had high ratings and good reviews, looking likely that it will be renewed for a second season.  And because of the media's copycat tendencies for the latest trends, this can only be good news for Asian Americans who work in entertainment and want our voices to be heard.

I think Eddie Huang says it best when he talked about the premiere: “This got us on-base, but somebody in this crowd gotta bring us home.”  Our biggest work as Asian Americans in media may well start with FOB, but it doesn't end there.  There's a lot more progress to be made.

I'll continue to watch the show, because I support and have a vested interest in having more Asian Americans on screen.  I won't pretend like I'll enjoy every single minute of it, but I will admit that what we're watching is the start of something groundbreaking.  And if you want to see more Asian American stories represented on screen, you should check it out too.

Back from New York

I've been slow on these posts namely because I've been (or attempting to) write other material for acting purposes (more on that some other time).  However, I did hear that one or two people still read the stuff I put out here, and it does keep the juices flowing to write about anything no matter how mundane the average person must find it.  I'll write more on LA later, perhaps leaving out the secret ins and outs of the 101 and other similarly scintillating material, but this entry will be more of a one off update type thing.

Los Angeles is a place full of transplants, but I think that most people that come to LA love LA more than the place where they came from, because the place that they came from comparably was not as exciting.  If you're a transplant here, you're usually (in my opinion and/or anecdotally speaking) more ambitious than most people, and probably wouldn't want to move back to where you were originally from.  As a result, I've come across many a transplant from Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Cleveland, etc. that very much prefer living in LA and I don't see moving back anytime soon.

The case is different for people who are from equally enticing cities or areas, or cities that are specialized towards exciting industries.  New York and San Francisco are such cities where people tend to stay because they excel in their opportunities in finance, fashion, art and technology.  Now before this degenerates into a NYC > LA post, I would like to say that I'm merely trying to parse through my own experiences moving to LA and the reasons why I believe it's been harder for me to embrace fully, even though I know that I will be here for the foreseeable future.  While I have seen people from NYC/SF fully enjoy being in LA, I do know that the people that most speak about moving back are the people from those cities.

I went back to New York this holiday season as I have every year since I moved to Los Angeles, and every time I think I believe I miss it less and less.  Did you just read that right?  Did I just say I miss New York less?  I still think that one day I'll move back, or at the very least have residences on both coasts, but I think part of it is because my personal connection to New York grows weaker every year.  I try of course to keep in touch with many people back home and meet up with as many people as I can when I'm around, but inevitably, life in New York moves at a pace that you can't really keep up with when you're gone.  Also, I did notice that it was getting into the teens this week in New York, you kind of feel that in your older age and your bones are creaking.

I realized that the reason why people from those other cities are able to embrace LA so readily is because many of their own contemporaries back home have already left their respective cities.  In some cases, I know that some people's own parents have joined them in the LA area.  It's easy to disassociate with home when there's nothing attaching you to it.  Close friends of mine have left or will be leaving New York soon, and that personal connection will be even more tenuous than ever.  You can miss a city sure, but if the people you enjoy being with in it are gone, it just becomes a hollow cathedral of loneliness.

But another thing I realized, and forgive me for the stream of consciousness like nature of this post, is that cities like LA, NYC, and SF, because of their high intensity, are cities with revolving doors and transient populations.  People will come and go and it's hard to have that "crew" that you'll always hang with up to your middle ages and beyond that's more possible in places where people stick around.  Even the people who stay in New York eventually get married with kids and move to the outskirts of LIC, Jersey City, Westchester, Connecticut, etc.  No one lives that "big city" lifestyle forever. 

That's why I've resolved to try to invest more in the relationships and the situations I'm in rather than fixating on its impermanence.  I think I've been trying so hard to keep my past life in New York and tie that in with my present life, but I think it's foolish to keep on doing so.  I'm starting to realize that I have to do some spring cleaning, figure out what to keep and what to throw out.

Two years in LA (4): Traffic [basic strategy]

Traffic is the worst part of Los Angeles, by far.  The traffic limits where you can go in a day, and consequently, what you can do in a day, and at what times.  There will always be traffic during the daytime in LA, and for much of the nighttime as well, the only question is how much.  This entry will be the first of a series within the series of how to deal with LA traffic and how best to navigate it.


If you are driving in LA, the first thing you will need is a smartphone.  Download the application Waze.  There will come many a time when the route you typically take to a location will for some reason, whether it be an accident, road closure, road work, etc. will take infinitely more time than a longer, but freer road.

Now in using Waze, there are some minor deficiencies.

- Occasionally the program tells you to take high occupancy roads when you are only one person, this will optimize the route you will take to your destination.  (I'm sure you can program around this but I'm too lazy to do so.)

- Sometimes the address will be off.  (in unfamiliar locations, check to see if the application will take you to the ballpark area of where you're supposed to be)

- Sometimes it will tell you to take a left onto a multiple lane road from a back road that isn't protected by a stoplight, which may end up burning more time than expected.  Avoid these left turns if you can and make a left turn when you're able to snag a stoplight.


The next thing you'll need to do is follow some basic rules on the road.  Some of these are obvious, others are more subtle, but this is what I've learned over time:

- On freeways, go with the flow.  Some freeways like the 101 have 55 mph speed limits, others like the 10 and the 405 have 65 mph speed limits, but really, these limits almost mean nothing as long as you follow this rule.  On the road when driving in the fast lane, take away the outlier speeders (20+ mph over limit), and go within 3-5 mph faster at maximum than the fastest car on the highway, and more than that.  Speeding is all relative, I've heard of people getting tickets for < 10 mph infractions.  I've managed to keep away from those so far by blending in the crowd.

Two cars on a left turn.  Don't be the asshole third car.  But don't be the idiot that waits for another red light cycle instead of turning with the first car in front.

Know which areas are 3PM-7PM as opposed to 4PM-7PM.  Certain areas have parking restrictions during rush hour.  I can't tell you how many nub drivers that are that aren't aware that you can drive in those lanes during these times and cut time by doing so.  Some zones start earlier than others, so sometimes you can plan your arrival and departure times accordingly.  These will typically be on long East-West roads like Santa Monica Blvd., Sunset Blvd, Olympic, Wilshire, etc.

- "I don't want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light." - Woody Allen Ditto on how many nub drivers who just wait on that red...WHY

When the roads are narrow (2 lanes without a middle lane for turns), stay to the right (unless you can pass).  Getting caught on Highland behind a car taking a left while cars zoom past you on the right can be frustrating.

When roads are wide (3 lanes or more and/or a middle lane for turns), stay to the left.  More cars will exit the lane you're on as they turn left out of your way, so in theory all car speed being equal, you'll be progressing faster.

- On a yellow light (assuming you have sufficient time to pass), always keep a trigger finger on your horn.  Some people misjudge when you're going to go for it or not and try to take a left when the light is about to turn, be ready to preempt that instinct and save yourself from dying.

- A yellow light typically turns yellow when the pedestrian walk sign countdown hits 0, and turns red approximately 3.9 seconds afterwards.  Typically, I find myself stopping on the safe side, being used to shorter yellows.  Once you drive enough, you'll be able to feel when you can go on yellow or not, they're pretty consistent.  Plan your velocity throughout the countdown to be able to pass through it.


There are more cars then there are humans in Los Angeles, as a result, finding parking can be a hassle.  Here are some general guidelines:

Slightly less complicated than a LSAT logic game.

Slightly less complicated than a LSAT logic game.

- During the day, if there are tons of spots in an area that shouldn't have tons of spots, it's probably too good to be true.  Check the signs in the area, there's probably street cleaning going on, and/or it may be rush hour where certain roads need to be clear.

- Saturdays are considered business days for the most part.  Any restrictions USUALLY carry over on Saturdays, including meters and other locations.  Check signs carefully (they put that except Saturdays and Sundays print really small)

- Yellow and green curbs - use them strategically.  Yellow and green curbs give you five and 15 (or 30) minutes respectively during the hours of 7AM-6PM in Los Angeles county, Monday through Saturday.  They are fair game outside those hours and all day Sunday without restrictions.  Unless, of course signs say otherwise, but typically they won't.  After 6PM, keep an eye out for those yellow spots.

Unmetered parking are regulated by meter maids.  "They won't check if I'm parked for 2 hours."  Actually they do.  They do this by putting chalk on your tire and seeing if it's still in the same spot when they return.  If you're within vision of your car, you can spot them and then wait the appropriate time before either removing the chalk (risky IMO) or moving the car to another spot.  Check the signs for time allowed.

Read the signs.  Did I mention this?  Really though, they're not THAT complicated.

- New parking apps can also help.  Recently, Los Angeles has allowed certain applications to pay parking meters by phone.  You can scan QR codes and do so, and then save it so that when you go somewhere and have to refill the meter, you don't have to leave and can do so from your device.  Other apps use meter sensors to find what spots are available as well as parking garages with spots as well as pricing info.  In areas where you anticipate heavy parking trouble, it could be worth it to do a bit of scouting before you leave.


This covers the basic knowledge you need to know about LA traffic.  I'll go over specific areas and roads over the next couple of entries or so.  

Two years in LA (3): Weather

If you're American, or come from a predominantly English speaking or Western country, you probably know that LA is known for its year long sunny weather.  In Los Angeles, it probably rains a single digit amount of days on average per year (legit all day rain).  It's always some combination of summer and fall, a weird hybrid of a never ending season that is only demarcated really by a variation of hours of sunlight.  It's not quite hot enough to be tropical but it never gets below freezing.

It almost feels twilight zone-y, where the passage of time is thrown off because everything is just the same.  It's hard to say things like, "remember that time in so and so season in that year", because you end up scratching your head and wondering when that actually was.  It's funny when I saw people saying here how autumn was their favorite season, as we had two weeks of 90+ degree heat in the past month.

LA is technically a desert mediterranean climate, a climate really only found in the Mediterranean area and parts of Australia.  Because of this, there's a bit of variation from area to area in daily temperature, the more inland you are the more extremes the temperature changes will be (Santa Monica's highs are almost always in the mid to high 60s, while downtown LA highs go from the high 60s in the winter to the mid 80s in the summer).  

However, the weather doesn't really surprise you day after day.  If today was a shorts and t-shirt day, tomorrow will likely be the same.  There are definite pluses to this.  You don't have to really think too hard about what you will need to brave the outdoors everyday, you just throw some stuff on and go.  And going out in general is easier to do from a mood standpoint, there's very little from the elements that could stop you from feeling fine in leaving the great indoors.  

There is something to note however: Since LA is a desert, the climate tends to variate more from day to night, due to specific heat of water being higher than dirt/concrete/land etc..  More inland, like the downtown area, there can be a 20-25 degree drop off from daytime to nighttime, so whenever you go out for the entire day, you'll probably want to pack a light jacket in your car for the night.

If it ever became practical for me to do so, I would live in LA during late spring to early fall and early winter to late spring and NYC on the opposing times.  Of course there's a week or so I would enjoy the winter wonderland that takes place in the city, turning Christmas into, well, Christmas (commercial Christmas, I mean), but once I've had my fill, I don't think I would need it for three months.  Overall, it's pretty nice having consistent weather day in, but sometimes you need a little spice.

From the info session that I attended about LA, they advertised the fact that there are times in the year where you can be snowboarding on a mountain, chilling in LA in regular weather, and soak in the pool in the heat all in the same day as those three different climates were within 100 miles of each other.  If I were into that kind of thing, it'd be cool, but let's be honest, no one does that because of the traffic, which will bring me to my next entry.

Two years in LA (part deux): Car

I've decided to put these entries in the view of a NYC actor transitioning over to LA, because that's what I am.  And also, to educate Jesse on what he will (yes, will) experience when he moves here.  A lot of this will be obvious, but I wanted to give a full spectrum of what it's like to live in LA.

Back when the "city" of Los Angeles was founded, I was told that a guy was essentially like "Hey, let's build this city and instead of building you know vertically with tall buildings, we just build horizontally, because we have like cars and shit now to get places!"

On behalf of anyone who's had the unfortunate experience of being on the 405 during rush hours (plural): Fuck you, dude.  Fuck you.

I wasn't very familiar with LA growing up, the only thing I remembered reading a comic book some 20-25 odd years ago that "you can't survive in LA without a car".  While that adage isn't necessarily 100% true (I did meet one girl who apparently got around for the past 6 years on public transportation), your quality of life is the most improved in any American city when you do have a car.

Coming from New York, you always hear things from LA people like, "OMG, rent is SO high, why would you ever want to live there, etc. etc."  It's probably because everything is so damn easy to get to without driving.  And for the rare instances you do have to take a cab, it's not so exorbitant that you couldn't do it from time to time.  It only costs a $112/month MetroCard to travel in the city.  And most other cities in the US have some sort of workable transportation system.  In LA, public transportation consists of buses and a very small network of rail systems.  I've used it once in the past two years, and that was to beat traffic going to Hollywood during Halloween (a shitshow on the 101).  You need a car.

Here's what I spent on my car that was given to me by my parents (no outstanding payments)

Registration: $100/year
Insurance: $1200/year
Gasoline: averaging around 25 MPG (conservatively), and saying I drive 10k miles a year, at around $3.75/gallon: 400 gallons/year ($3.75/gallon) = $1500/year
Oil changes: $100/year
Parking: $200/year (conservative)

Other items:

Broken windshield: $175
Rear brake repair: $190
2 new tires: $180
2 smog tests: $120
120k mile maintenance: $1100
2 parking tickets: $100
2 traffic tickets (FML, both non-speeding BS IMO): $300 plus points or whatever
1 car wash (don't really have to catch me to find me ridin dirty) $30

Dude, where's my car.

Dude, where's my car.


So for two years, living in LA and OWNING a decent car costs: $6,200 (yearly expenses for two years) + $2,195 (other items) = $8,395.  Having a MetroCard in NYC for two years costs a bit less than $2,700.

Not to mention if I were actually paying car/lease payments, that number doubles (and then there's the amortization/depreciation of the car itself).  And I think I still pay relatively low for insurance, so this is probably on the low end of what having a car (that you already own) costs to operate and maintain.

Speaking of insurance, I've been fortunate enough (knock on wood) to not have any accidents thus far.  In public transport, you might bump into someone when you or they are hurrying to their location.  On the freeway, in the same scenario you might crash...and die.

Besides the whole death thing, using a car is annoying.  You have to coordinate with friends, driving in your own separate car, get them to go to one place, find parking, etc.  Hangouts are very difficult to coordinate and organize, resulting in just less hangouts (I haven't hung out with people in ages that live maybe 10-15 miles away).  Then there's the whole drunk driving isn't good for your health aspect, which makes all bars close at 2 AM (unless you're at some shady place in Koreatown, obv) and require someone to be designated driver (or again, risk that death thing).  Finally, there's the whole, it's a city, I'm supposed to be able to do city things like walk out of my place and find something decent to eat, instead of having to get into my car and find something or God forbid, COOK EVERY NIGHT?


So what are the benefits of owning a car?  Well, you can leave and go wherever and whenever you want, and you don't have to deal with the discomforts of public transportation (panhandlers, crowded stations, sweaty environments), etc.  There's a privacy and comfort in getting from place to place in your own self contained unit.  For the rich and beautiful in LA, it's another way to flaunt wealth.

But as someone who values efficiency and efficacy, I like to get places quickly.  In NYC, I could probably get to anywhere I needed to be from home in around 20 minutes, maybe 30-40 minutes if it was a total hike at any time during the day.  In LA, during suboptimal times, it can easily take an hour or more to get to a place 15 miles away.  And if you don't live within LA county, you'd better have a damn good playlist on Spotify to keep you company during rush hour.  It's a crippling thing that really makes you have to plan your movements in advance (something to keep in mind as an actor getting from one part of town to another).  Because traffic is such a large topic in LA, I'll deal with the intricacies of that in another entry.  

Using a car was a very large adjustment to make from New York.  Sometimes I even wonder how the hell people survived here without GPS (I guess MapQuest, and then before then, like paper maps and gas stations, but yeah that must have sucked).  For better or worse, I'll be needing my jalopy for a while here.

Two years in LA (part un)

Recently, I've come across two biannual events that have reminded me that I've been living in Los Angeles for two years, my car registration renewal (I still drive my mom's 2004 Toyota Camry), and my iPhone 6 purchase (I bought my iPhone 5 in Glendale at the Americana).

I didn't think much after being here for a year, but two years is when you really start to know a place for what it is and what it could be for you for the foreseeable future.

Before I moved here, my picture of what living in LA was like was colored mostly by a short trip to the OC in 2008, while I was figuring out my post corporate life after a somewhat demoralizing month and a half in Las Vegas.  I didn't know how different it was from LA, and assumed that it was a ubiquitous experience, where people kind of just chilled out, ate 4x4s at in n out, house partied and enjoyed the weather and the outdoors but didn't really do much.  It's somewhere I'd never imagine myself staying long term, but enjoying for a week or so.

It was early in 2012 when I came to LA for living scouting.  Although I love my New York based acting training and New York actors, I feel like there's this "above it all, don't sell out" mentality of the purity of the art, and that LA represents the cheapening of acting.  The reasoning behind that is that when acting becomes about making money or getting famous or how many twitter followers you have, it sucks the soul out of it.

And they're not 100% wrong, but at the end of the day, you have to figure whether working at an off off off Broadway theater to an audience of 5 people is worth the tradeoff of diluting your art a bit to reach out to the masses and making enough money to sustain a living.  It took a couple years for me to shed this mentality and cast off fears from leaving everything that was familiar to me in New York, to realize that I wanted more for my voice to be heard than to be 100% pure and holy about the business of acting.  

So I ventured out and visited for a couple weeks.  I went through the a program in New York that had an "LA trip" for actors where you would meet industry people for a week doing seminars and workshops.  I still even remember the host of the program drawing the 405/101/10 on a whiteboard in the first interest meeting in the trip and saying "This is essentially your world here, most of what you will be doing will be within the confines of these highways." 

Of course my first encounter with the 405 would be when the SuperShuttle took over an hour to get to Studio City from the airport.  Meeting industry people for a week was exhausting but the reception I got back was positive enough for me to believe that moving out here was the correct choice.  I was still very green in my mind of how the business operated, but I was convinced that it was time to move.

So two years ago, I traversed the fruited plains of America and drove with my life in a car.  It's funny how random people do want you to succeed when you are in a field like acting.  I remember shipping my chair (it's a nice chair) to LA from my hometown in New York, and a Korean guy working at UPS around my dad's age was wishing me the best of luck on my career enthusiastically as if I was his own son, asking if I knew of Doona Bae.  I knew a few people from college, but I happened to be one of the few Korean families out there with no family at all living in LA or had ever lived in LA (how is that possible, I have like around 15 cousins living in America).

In these two years, I feel like a lot has happened, but yet almost nothing has happened.  Starting life as an actor in LA is really like a startup business, probably like 95% fail or something like that.  There has been progress for sure, but there's always that two steps forward one step back feeling you get.  I've definitely learned a lot however, and become less green about the whole business.

In these two years, I also feel that I have probably been to more places in LA than most people, including people who have lived here their entire lives.  That's because LA isn't really a city in my opinion, it's a collection of several cities.  That 405/10/101 hexagonal trapezoid I was talking about?  I basically perfected how to get from one part of it to another depending on time of day.  These next few entries, I'll try to expound on what I've learned about Los Angeles, that hasn't already been covered ad nauseam by NYC vs. LA articles everywhere (I've read them all, btw).

Art and Commerce

The crowning achievement of human civilization.

The crowning achievement of human civilization.

Louis C.K. is right, modern human society doesn't appreciate what it has and how much it took to get them to that point.  If you live in a developed country, things are the best they've ever been.  So much has changed even just within his lifetime; it boggles my mind sometimes when I think about how much things have changed from like early civilization.  Like how we pour water out of faucets.  And have air conditioning.  And iPhones.  And shake shack burgers.  I still don't understand how a car works exactly, something about sparking gasoline to expand air in pistons and rotating things to make bigger things rotate fast and something.  I mean how did we come up with these things?

It's funny how civilization itself was made possible through something as simple as irrigation, the first true technological breakthrough (I suppose tool making, language and other things probably came prior to that, but semantics, breakthrough vs. invention, etc.).  Way before when we were spending our waking hours hunting and gathering, we probably had no time to really sit down and ponder the meaning of life, but being able to settle and spend time creating and developing things afforded us the luxury of having art in our lives.

I'm aware that I'm using art in the most broad sense possible.  But truly, much of life that isn't reduced to simple survival can be seen as some sort of art.  Indeed, a quick wiki search states that "Though the definition of what constitutes art is dispute and has changed over time, general descriptions mention an idea of imaginative or technical skill stemming from human agency and creation."  This can even be reduced to, "anything of physical substance made by some force of human intelligence".


I remember recently watching a trailer for Monuments Men and thinking a couple things:

a) This movie looks terrible and boring.  Like if you imagined Ocean's Eleven, but the terrible and boring version of it.

"What we're doing is really, really important."

"What we're doing is really, really important."

b) One quote I remember thinking, that sounded so stupid and oozing of self-importance was: "But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, then it's as if they never existed." as if to say, "Look at us, we're saving art, we're so much more important than you know the actual soldiers losing their lives in battle and stuff."

But after I thought about a little more deeply, there is a modicum of truth within that statement.  Art is how we remember the ideas and thoughts of mankind throughout time.  It is sometimes surreal to be able to peer into the minds of our ancestors by reading their literature, viewing their paintings and sculptures, listening to their songs, being able to imagine what life was like in different times and worlds.

It's no coincidence that we're given these loud messages from our predecessors.  The pyramids are a simple example for evidence of mankind's need to try to escape our unavoidable transience, by attempting to leave a permanent physical manifestation of their own existence.

All great artistic movements, from ancient times to classical Greek and Roman times to the Renaissance, had to be financed somehow.  While these movements coincided with technologic improvements that had practical benefits to human survival, artistic improvements depended on either financial backing from governments, or rich patrons of the arts.  Art that survives the test of time passes a standard of beauty decided by people, and over time they decided with their wallets. (Or gold pouches.  Or choice flock animals.  Or virtual bitcoin wallets.)

This makes the Vatican 80 million euros a year, so money well invested way back when, I suppose.

This makes the Vatican 80 million euros a year, so money well invested way back when, I suppose.

In the past half century or so, the way media is distributed is based on a system that maximizes profits.  Whoever thought 100 years ago where a song you sing could be heard, or a film you shoot could be seen or a piece you've written could be read by everyone and anyone in the world?

The cream rises to the top in this model, but a lot of crap does as a result as well.  The other driver of artistic creation is vanity, where art is created as a means to self-serve, rather than to inspire and illuminate.  Such art survives because much of the masses wish to live vicariously through it and feel as though they have a connection with this elevated sense of self.  And although not all art driven by vanity is deplorable, but much of it probably won't last longer than a generation.


As an artist, it's tough to balance the line between art and commerce.  Moving to LA makes you realize that being an artist means being a business, if you want to make work that survives.  The NYC artist attaches themselves to the Salinger-esque philosophy of abhorring "selling out" but to have a lasting impact, you have to realize that you have to create something that sells, or the creative powers that be will not give you a platform to perform.  As an artist, you realize that you pay a large opportunity cost in your pursuit, and I think that most artists will have to quickly realize that self-monetization is necessary if they want to have an extended stay.

My favorite art in terms of for self consumption is actually that of early 20th century British and American literature, narratives that challenge social and moral ideas, as well as human existence itself, stuff that inspires change and improvement of the world.  However, in today's society, the art that has the means to impact today's society is film and will be for a while.  Films are often now quoted or explicated to make a point in daily conversation, inspirational talks, sermons, speeches, etc.  They come the closest to capturing a sliver of life as it is being lived, even if it is artificially conjured.  

Unfortunately, film is also the most expensive palette in which to paint with.  Any film worth making has to run the gauntlet of investors and producers making sure there's a viable market to support it, and this trial by fire trickles down to the creatives involved in the film's production.  What writer, actor, director will help capture the best story, and as a result, net the biggest profits?  And because of the film industry's opportunity for fame and fortune, the process of sifting through endless amounts of charlatans makes it that much more inefficient and costly to create something pure and golden.

I'm in the fortunate position of being able to create, within certain limitations, content that I feel that is true to my artistic vision.  I try to be judicious in terms of what I create, however, because I would like to be in this business for the long run.  (And having money to like spend on a home and food and a car and stuff is good too.)  I've learned a lot through creating and making mistakes along the way, carefully honing my skills and thinking ahead to future projects.

It's funny because recently, my sister as a fashion designer back home in New York is now also beginning to realize the same lessons I've come across in my first couple years in LA.  She's understanding that she can't design things that are geared towards niche markets looking like they just came out of Alexander McQueen's attic when the proper distribution is not in place, and that she needs to first break in by building her brand and marketing.  She hopes to improve upon that on her upcoming line next Spring.

My sister and I, both as artists, are just now beginning to marry the commerce part into our respective crafts.  I pray that we'll soon see success as a result.

Thoughts on the Whole #cancelcolbert Fiasco

I've never watched an entire episode of The Colbert Report until this whole thing came to life yesterday.  I already have a cynical view on politics as it is, and a liberal playing a conservative in a meta-show just doesn't really hold much interest for me.

However, I felt compelled to say something about the whole issue even though I'm still working on several posts that are more dear to my heart because I think a lot of points were missed in the whole melee.  I've also given myself a day or so to process and digest, to prevent myself from making the same kind of instinctive reactions as other sources have raced to be the first to say something about it.  Here are some of my thoughts on the issue.

1. Knee-jerk offensive responses don't create dialog, they just create social media wars.

When Suey Park decided to start the whole episode with a "fuck you" there's no mistake that she was gearing for a controversial outcome.  Her hashtag, #cancelcolbert, is equally almost clickbait-y, basically calling for an extreme measure to rectify an observed slight.

When a network, Colbert or even Colbert's supporters see this, what are the chances that they will want to engage in a productive, intellectual dialog?  They see this for what it is, a full frontal attack on their show and their content, and they will respond as such, on the defensive.  And of course while the trolls who came out of the woodwork to hurl insults and such at Suey are not excusable, knowing that such trolls exist on the internet was it really surprising that her campaign wouldn't be met with such ire?

Suey Park calls herself a fan of the show prior to the incident.  If that were true, she would've known that the Ching Chong Ding Dong character and others like it was a pre-existing character and would've commented on it a long time ago.  I think it's a bit laziness when she says she wouldn't have gotten the amount of attention if she didn't use such extreme language to start the topic trending, but perhaps the issue doesn't deserve the attention it has gotten.  If she took a breath, and dug deeper, she might realize that Colbert is someone on our side, and although his comments could still be offensive, maybe there's a better way to approach it.  

2. Stephen Colbert is on our side.

There is a segment where Stephen Colbert rips into Rush Limbaugh for his Chinese impression in 2011, and uses the same segment to satirize his comments.  Rush Limbaugh, an actual conservative talk radio host, rants in an unintelligible tirade imitating the Chinese president in an attempt to mock and berate an entire language.  Colbert takes the time to make fun of Rush as well as call to attention the way Asians are stereotyped.

It's clear that Colbert's agenda is to make fun of people that are racist in nature, as is evidenced by the point he is trying to make with the Redskins idea.  So where does he go wrong?

3. The Ching Chong Ding Dong character as satire is highly confusing, especially in comparison to some of his other caricatures.

When I first saw the tweet, I was like, "Hmmm, let's see the footage to get what everyone's talking about."  As someone who's reasonably intelligent and actually makes and appreciates satirical content, I believe that I could "get it".

I saw the clip about the Redskins, which was well done, and then it went into the whole CCDD bit.  I remember when I first watched it through I thought, "So he's comparing the racism of Redskins with the racism of this character, but the connection is a bit lost and executed somewhat poorly."  But then again, I thought to myself, ok, let's give ol Stephen the benefit of the doubt, for those who claim you have to watch 9 years of his show to understand.  So I did a bit of research on CCDD.

I've searched for clips of CCDD, and the 2005 segment where he randomly grabs some tea and does a 10-15 second bit is the only one I could find.  Before and after his impression, he's Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert, so it's not really clear that he's doing an impression or if he's doing it as a character.  He out-metas himself in a way that is confusing to me, someone who's taken in and analyzed Asian American portrayals in the media for a long time.  There are still many in America (the UCLA student in Asians in the library, the Indiana kid in "Why I'd Hate to be Asian" video and the Duke Kappa Sig racially themed fraternity party, etc.) who actually view Asians in this CCDD light, so for them I can imagine that they wouldn't "get it" as the joke was originally intended.

Colbert has another character he plays, Esteban Colberto.  During these segments, it's easier to tell he's playing another type of character, where Colbert actually has a back and forth with him and it's clear that even Colbert thinks he's ridiculous.  The segments are executed a lot better because it's a lot less meta and random and you can see that Colbert is laughing at racism.  

The CCDD character is a somewhat lazy thrown in segment that if used, should be developed a lot better to hit home and make sense.  Otherwise, Colbert really needs to retire this shtick because it just doesn't work comedically and/or satirically.  And in my comedic opinion it doesn't really even add to the points he made against the Redskins owner previously in the segment.  The fact that he has to explain the character on his show itself in this segment:

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/xul3qa/intercepted-satellite-feed

proves that it doesn't really work.  Good comedy should be able to stand on itself without 'splainin.

4. Racism against Asians is a lot more nuanced than other races.

The most explicit racism in America has been and still is against African Americans.  The history of blacks in America have been from being slaves, to being lynch mobbed, to being segregated, to being racially profiled.  There has been progress in American history, but to this day the racism against blacks is easy to understand and catalog.  Other races like Hispanics and Native Americans have suffered just as much racism as well.

Asians on the exterior seem immune to such racism, they appear socially and economically to be doing just as well if not better than their white counterparts, but there exists this permeating other-ness about Asians within America society.  In my mind, I almost see racial hierarchy in America as this hypothetical totem pole, with white on the top and appropriate races populating the bottom, but with Asians almost as a completely separate entity.  It's as if the other races, while discriminated against and considered inferior at some level, are still American, but Asians don't possess this intrinsic quality of Americanness and are "other".  In other words, it's as if we know its wrong to be racist against other races because they're underprivileged, but Asians should be able to take it since they're "privileged".

But the truth is that racism against Asians is very insidious.  More Asians are bullied in America than any other race.  Names like Vincent Chin and Danny Chen instantly come to mind about the tangible and tragic effects of racism that essentially treats Asians as outsiders.  I believe that there's a permeating but unstated view that it's wrong to kick other minorities to the curb because they've already suffered, but that Asians haven't earned that initiation in order to be included in the overall general American society.   In this view, Asians are just coming into America uninvited and taking opportunities away from true Americans.  It's more ok to say racist things against Asians because "Really, what have they gone through?  It's not like they're actually suffering actual racism.  They should just lighten up and take the joke, they're just being overly sensitive."

Imagine if Colbert did Blackface and had some sort of character named DeShawn Johnson with the "Negro Foundation for Sensitivity to Niggers or Whatever".  The outrage would shatter not only twitter, but every imaginable media outlet.  Colbert would be forced to retract his statement, no matter how satirical it would appear.  And case in point if this article:

http://deadspin.com/gooks-dont-get-redskins-joke-1553907157

had the title, "Niggers Don't Get Redskins Joke" to tell blacks to calm down, you sure as hell would have a shitstorm on your hands.  Yes, I understand that the title is supposed to be satirical itself, but again it doesn't work.

5. As an Asian American community, we need to stop being so butthurt and reactive all the time.

There is a bit of offhandedness when it comes to racism against Asians for sure, but that doesn't mean that we should be incensed at every small things that come our way and start a full frontal offensive and gather the troops for something as small as an out of context tweet.  I feel that a lot of Asian American outlets almost scour the internet and search for any little way Asians are discriminated against and put them on full blast, giving every little offense equal weight.  

It also doesn't serve our cause at all and doesn't create effective dialog when you go on blast and do what the racists do, make it an "us vs. them" campaign.  Suey Park was on record saying that white liberals don't get it, white men don't know what they're talking about, etc.  It doesn't help anyone when you start attacking the people you want to start a conversation with.  The problem is you alienate the people you're trying to educate,; the situation is exacerbated and distance is created preventing any sort of peaceful and thoughtful resolution.

All of this adds up.  Pretty soon we become the race that everyone rolls their eyes at like the boy who cried wolf.  We need to save our collective ammo for the issues that actually matter, the Vincent Chins and Danny Chens of the world, the policies of reverse affirmative action in California, immigration law and the undocumented, etc.

This is not to say that the Colbert segment may not have needed some dialog to begin with.  I think understanding and breakthrough needs to be made to prevent that kind of scenario again, but I don't think the response was befitting of the episode.  I think everyone can learn to work through the racism that exists and the underlying factors that caused this battle, but that can't be achieved when we take the offensive on the people who are generally for us, not against us.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bitch

So I'm lazy, and people have been hankering about my next entry.  While I think of an actual interesting topic to write about, here's something to tide you over until next time.

Although I air out some dirty laundry here and there on this blog, I usually keep the underpants under wraps.  You can enjoy my last blog about Valentine's day here if you so desire:

http://sweetjuicyjustice.blogspot.com/2010/02/heart-break.html

Or you can enjoy this quickly put together video about a song that pretty much sums up my romantic career and this stupid day, a holiday I've never celebrated for the 30th time.  

The video is as raw as it gets, a one day take right when I woke up from bed, didn't do any of my makeup, in my pajamas, just from a long House of Cards (Frank Underwood bitches) binge.  Max emo level.

"So what do you do?"

Contrary to popular belief, I'm somewhat introverted (an INFJ for all you Myers Briggs inclined folk).  Most of the things that I do in social settings are somewhat learned responses in order to subvert actual socializing, so as to conserve energy in engaging multiple people at once in an efficient manner.  Some of this is probably because when I do have relationships with people, I invest fully into them, and I don't want to do that upfront if I think that it is unlikely that we will connect on a deeper level.

So when I meet new people, I hate getting hit with the occupation question.  Sometimes I ponder making something up so I don't have to explain as much, because saying, "I am an actor" is a loaded statement.  A successful young actor had told me that even after being somewhat established, he still feels pretentious sometimes saying that statement.  Even writing this blog entry about being an actor feels pretentious.  What qualifications do I need to say "I'm an actor" or blog about an experience of being an actor?  Training?  IMDb credits?  SAG membership?  Supporting oneself solely through acting?  Doing classical Shakespeare?  A play on Broadway?

The next question they invariably ask is, "Oh do you have any other job?" which for the more aggressive interviewers is code for "Well, clearly you must not be very good at acting since I've never heard of you and have probably no source of income you dilettantish shit, so what tables in West Hollywood/Santa Monica do you scrub?"  Upon hearing my well prepared 30 second answer condensing the last 8 years of my life, they wonder, "So why did you decide to become an actor?"


Most of my life, I've worked towards specific and tangible goals.  Study this hard, get this grade, and you'll achieve a desired result that's somewhat predictable.  This mindset doesn't work with acting at all because measuring progress is a haphazard process that sometimes doesn't make any sense at all.  Jon Hamm is a prime example of someone who is an excellent actor represented by a top flight agency, but because of his older looking appearance, couldn't find work because he didn't look "youthful" enough.  He got his breakout role when he was 36.  Michael Emerson also got his breakout role when he was 42 after years of theater and off-Broadway plays.  But for every success story like that, how many other actors, equally fantastic in ability, have been passed over and quit because they didn't have the same resolve to wait for that breakout role to come along?

I am the one who smokes a lot of cigarettes.

I am the one who smokes a lot of cigarettes.

What's frustrating to me is the whole catch-22ness of the business.  If you lack credits, you can't get auditions, if you can't get auditions...well you know.  The whole actor evaluation process is somewhat inefficient.  Unlike other performance artists, actors can only showcase their talent when they have material to showcase it with.  The musician, writer and painter all have a tangible product : a song, a book or a portrait, respectively.  But what does an actor have to show his work in an easily consumable form?  A showcase showing brief moments on stage in the hopes of catching an agents eye?  A one minute reel created by directors/writers with their own artistic vision?  A two minute monologue interview?

It started to come together for me when I realized that the entertainment industry at its heart is a business that comes from generating ideas and intellectual property.  Because of that, it is subject to the whims of public opinion and interests, rather than cold hard needs.  Jobs that fulfill needs, like healthcare, finance, etc. are easy to improve on (provided you have the talent and the motivation), because weaknesses and inefficiencies are easier to define and adjust.  But there is no proper framework in improving your acting career.  All you can do is try to find a platform in which you can perfect your craft and shape how you're perceived from a marketing standpoint.

Perfecting the craft was almost the sole thing emphasized at the studio I trained at.  Sure there were audition classes and on camera classes that may have helped a bit, but there was a bit of that "anything that isn't theater isn't REAL acting" type of stigma towards LA.  Acting purists tend to believe you can play anything and do any part, which clouded my focus in creating an effective marketing plan for myself as an actor.  

"You always double down on 11."

"You always double down on 11."

But so far from my experience in LA, I've learned that casting directors don't have time to sit down with you and see how you do every role.  They only have time to look at your headshot, make some snap judgment, and see you in some sort of role they picture you in.  What I've found is that I need to create a Venn diagram of sorts, where one circle is "parts I'd be good at and want to play", and the other circle is "parts I would be cast for", and hone in on the overlapping section.

As an Asian American male actor, that section is pretty small.  So one goal I've set for myself is to actually write material for myself and actually do it.  While I've done something like that so far, this needs to be more of a priority now, because parts for Asian American dudes aren't just falling out of the sky.  I'm becoming more aware now that I need to take more control and not wait for things to happen.  This story about how Swingers was made has been really inspiring, and really what I need to be doing myself, actors creating roles for themselves by filming their own movie.  


So why did I decide to become an actor?

Unfortunately, the answer to that can't be condensed into a simple sound bite.  I think for me personally it came from a longing to be heard after a life of having been summarily ignored.  As someone who's routinely been kicked to the curb emotionally, I felt like my mind has been a valuable repository of experiences and observations that have come together to conclude certain truths about life that ultimately others could benefit from hearing about.  Combined with my love of storytelling and performing, it just felt right for me to pursue a career in make-believe. 

I realize that some of that probably sounds somewhat narcissistic.  But I also believe that in order to be successful as an artist, you need to have a healthy dose of narcissism.  That's not to say that everyone who's a great artist is a jerk who's full of themselves (though many can be).  But what I mean is that artists must have a belief that they have an intrinsic and unique nature that they need to share with the rest of the world.  This is because inevitably, they will come across people who doubt that they do in fact, have anything different to offer, and they must have the strength/insanity to believe that the doubters are wrong.

One thing I've learned is that there is a truth to "faking it til you make it" in Hollywood.  If you carry yourself as if you aren't worth it, why would a casting director believe that you're worth it?  Unfortunately, I'm a terrible self promoter.  Part of this is because I don't believe that I have done anything of note so far, so I don't believe I have anything of value to offer.  But going forward, I have to ignore that and remember my own creed and believe in what I have to offer, that I'm money and I don't even know it.  So let's make some movies, baby.