Saturday, March 15, 2008

Interesting Times

I really wish I could have been in Beijing this week. My San Diego Padres played the dreaded Dodgers in the first MLB game ever played in China (for the record, it was a tie - typical for a spring training game, which this essentially was). I would have loved to have seen a 棒球赛 in Beijing. I'd have been there with my Caminiti jersey and Tony Gwynn cap, cheering on my team.

As it is, I probably won't get back to Beijing until this summer for the Olympics. I'm going with a good friend who is sort of an Olympics junkie; we already have our plane tickets, hotel reservations and events. It's something I have to see, the latest transformation of what was once funky Beijing to...well, whatever it will be. In my book I described it as looking like the set of some bad, big-budget science fiction movie.


That's just one piece of it, of course, the part that's China's leaders building their showcase to China's aspirations: to be a great power, to once and for all retire the last hundred and fifty years of history, when China was a victim, the "sick man of Asia."

But you know what they say about what comes along with great power. Great big pains in the ass. International scrutiny. Massive protests in Tibet, the biggest in 50 years, that began with Buddhist monks protesting restrictions on the practice of their religion and have escalated to Tibetans attacking Han Chinese and Chinese security forces now pouring into Lhasa. I direct you all to the Peking Duck, where you'll find a comprehensive post on the situation and a fascinating discussion by Americans, Europeans and Chinese from around the globe. Just about every shade of opinion is represented there.

I found one overseas Chinese' sentiments particularly poignant. He talks of the dream of a modern, multi-ethnic China, how he'd contributed to Tibetan students' funds, and how now, he feels betrayed by the explosion of ethnic violence, by seeing Han Chinese "ethnically cleansed" from Lhasa.

I don't exactly want to laugh. I think he is sincere and well-meaning. I more want to say, "Hey, welcome to the Imperialist Club!"

I'll meet you in the library for a cigar and a whiskey.

This is what happens. Those "ethnic minorities" just don't appreciate your enlightened attempts to bring civilization to their "backward, medieval, superstition-ridden society." Oddly enough, they don't like becoming minorities in their own country.

I know, it's tough to understand. Manifest destiny can be a bitch.

Another sentiment running through this discussion thread, expressed by some seriously pissed-off Chinese: Restore order. Send in massive force. Take an example from America and treat the protesters as terrorists. Shoot the bastards. And fuck the Olympics.

This last notion I found particularly interesting. The Chinese government has put so much stake into these Games. The Games will demonstrate to the world that China is a modern superpower, harmonious, friendly and formidable. But the Games draw attention to China's failures as well. Everyone with a grievance knows that with all attention focused on China, it's a chance to air their issues on the world stage, right next to the pageantry and prowess.

As for ordinary Chinese, I wouldn't presume to speak for their sentiments with any certainty. I'm guessing that a majority are proud of their country and excited about what the Olympics represent for China. I figure a sizable minority think there are far better things to do with the however many millions of Renmin Bi it's cost to put on this show. And then there are those who would rather "kill the chicken to frighten the monkey" and restore order at all costs, and if that means risking the Olympics, so be it.

It's going to be an interesting summer.

Update: Padres beat the Dodgers, 6-3, in the second and final game in Beijing.

Update 2: Good summary from Time Magazine, and protests spread to provinces outside Tibet.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Really Done...

No, really.

I did a little polish last week, emailed the book on Monday, and it's done, baby. Next up —

Well, that's a little complicated. The short version is, we start submitting. Rather, my! agent! does. The long version has to do with the intersection of my writing and my working in the entertainment industry. I'll leave it at that.

Mainly, my work on the book really is done for the time being, and it's up to the agent from here. I trust him, and I'm happy to have the MS off my metaphoric desk (which in my case would be my lap) and on his.

Being done is interesting. I did a lot of drafts of this book. Some were a lot more fun than others. Some felt like I just dragged myself to the end, to the point where I was so utterly exhausted by it that I couldn't possibly change another word.

The last major revision,when I finished, I was, for once, relaxed. For one thing, I already had the contract at that point, so I wasn't stressing out quite so much about how it would go over. Mainly, I knew I'd nailed it. Almost. Whatever wasn't quite right would be easy to fix. And it was.

But still...those few things I tweaked and moved and polished...those little things weren't quite right, and it wasn't until after I fixed them that I finally felt done.

It's hard to explain, and honestly, I'm not always good with words. I'm not an essayist, and I swore that I was not going to be one of those bloggers who writes a lot of narcissistic posts about my feelings; I'm not sure they are all that interesting to anyone, not even to me.

But being done is interesting. Feeling that sense of completion, like a bunch of tumblers in a lock finally clicked into place; it's done. I'm open.

Which begs the question, what now?

I have a really hard time starting new projects. Once I finally get going, I'm pretty consistent and obsessive. I don't write fast but I write hard, and I don't stop till I'm done. But starting...ugh.

I have a couple of ideas for new books but haven't done the prep to really start either of them, and in any case, I'm told it would be smart to wait for some feedback on the Book That Is Done before I commit to the next project.

I have some stuff I could work on in the meantime. Trashy Novel 3, I could finish that. I have an old screenplay that I still think is funny and relevant at its core, if I totally tore it apart and reworked it, that is.

Plus, I have this blog. If I'm fortunate enough to sell the book, I need to look at ways to promote it and myself as a writer. I've been looking at some writers' blogs, and they are really impressive — a lot of consistent work and thought, and many more bells and whistles than this one.

The focus of this blog has never been my writing; it's been a catch-all for China topics, political musings and the occasional post about how the novel has eaten my brain. I'm not a China expert, and as mentioned, I'm not an essayist, so it's not clear to me that I should focus exclusively on China-related topics. On the other hand, I might want to start a different blog that's only about my writing. One that uses my full name. Or the name I decide to publish under. I'm looking for pen-name suggestions, by the way...

So, do I build up this blog? Start a new one? What kinds of things do I need to add and consider if I want to promote my writing?