China Trouble Coronavirus Visa and More

As most of you know, I have been working in China for the past 18 months or so, and now I am having some trouble with the Coronavirus and my visa. To be fair, there were difficulties even before the growing epidemic struck.

First, I intended to return to the States for the winter holiday on Jan 6 and return on Feb 3rd. Well, there was a problem on my employer’s end, so I had to visit the States on Jan 1st. I was still set to return on the 3rd of February, assuming I had a new visa, but then China trouble struck in the terms of the coronavirus. So now, I am waiting news of when and if I get to return to the country I have called home for the past year and a half or so.

On one hand, this is bothersome. It bothers me that my life is essentially in limbo right now. And, it bothers me that I have no real idea of when it will end. Furthermore, I left a bunch of stuff there, and a messy kitchen, and want it back. I don’t know if I will get it. I could do without cleaning the kitchen; necessary evil, I suppose.

On the other hand, my issues are not terrible. Sure, they seem awful to me, but then I’m living them. They pale in comparison to what the people of Wuhan and the people of China are large are going through. Spare a thought for them if you can. And also, please refrain from racist jokes about them and their dietary habits.

What do this China trouble with coronavirus and visa mean? That my future is uncertain. But then, aren’t they all?

Beating China Trouble Coronavirus and visa

So what am I doing now in the States. Well, aside from indulging too much in too much booze and food, I am writing. I know, you wouldn’t think it if you’ve been checking on this blog. I haven’t written here for over a month, and for that I apologize. The thing is, since returning to the States, I’ve been tired, and creating. And it’s hard to create while tired. Hell, it’s hard to do anything when you’re tired. That’s why sleep is so important.

What have I been creating to keep my mind off of China trouble, coronavirus, and visa issues? I’m glad you asked.

The biggest thing I’ve created this year (2020) was finishing a short story for a competition. I’m certain I won’t win, but I am proud of myself nonetheless. G I Joe taught us that knowing is half the battle. Well, here’s that in action: I know my works won’t find publication if I don’t finish them. Besides, completing a short story, or illustration, or any other work of art is fantastic. It grows confidence and reminds us that yes we can do this. I don’t make new year resolutions, but I do resolve to finish more projects this year. Even if the end result stinks.

Other creations include a comic story I’m working on. I just started thinking about it a few days ago, but I have notes and ideas to spare. I’ll be using the Comic Experience Guide to Writing Comics as a guide, appropriately, in this endeavor.

The image shows Comics Experience guide to writing comics, the book I am using to write a comic book to withstand China trouble, coronavirus, and visa
One of my comic book writing resources

I’ve been doing some reading and watching some movies, but otherwise life has been mostly relaxing during this time, despite the trouble I’ve been having with my China visa and the effect of the Coronavirus on world travel.

Thanks for reading. Comment below.

Please follow and like us:

Adventures in Chinese Banking: It Stinks

I’ve written about my adventures in Chinese banking before, and now I have another story. Yesterday, I took a bunch of RMB to a bank in order to exchange it for USD. I am going home in January, and would like to have some money. Or rather, I would like to have some money I can actually spend. Now, you might think it would be easy to accomplish this goal. After all, one only needs to take the cash to the bank, hand over the money for exchange, and get the dollar bills back.

The image shows some Chinese RMB that I wanted to exchange for USD in my newest Adventures in Chinese Banking.

And in a sane world and a sane system, you’d be correct. However, Chinese banking is not sane, as my adventures in it have shown. I did some research before heading to the bank because I know the system here will screw you any chance it gets. (Also, the info I found turned out not to apply to those working in China.) Sadly, I wasn’t able to find out a whole lot, but I knew that I needed a Chinese citizen with me. Thankfully, the university has a foreign liaison this semester, and she was willing to accompany me. So, we made plans to have lunch and then head to the bank.

The first bank we went to didn’t have the USD on hand because we didn’t call first. Okay, there’s something good to know: call the bank first if you want to exchange money. We then called another branch, but they also didn’t have enough USD on hand. Finally, we decided to call China National Bank: the big bank of China. It was our last hope. They had the cash on hand. We were feeling good about things.

Adventures in Chinese Banking: Even Citizens Jump Through Hoops

Well, we felt good about things, until we actually got to the bank. Unrelated, but an indication of how things would go: the parking attendant was rude to us. When we asked him how to get out of the parking garage on foot, he just shrugged and said walk around. Super helpful.

So, we get into the bank and find someone to help us. After a long discussion between my liaison and the bank worker, we ended up nowhere. See, the problem is I can’t just go in and exchange the money. I need a copy of my contract and my tax information, neither of which I have. Well, I have a copy of my contract, but I didn’t have it with me. I don’t have a copy of my tax information because my company takes care of my taxes.

The next thought was to have the liaison just exchange the cash for me. After all, she’s Chinese, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right? Again, in a sane world and sane system, you’d be right. But this is not a sane world or system. They told her that she could exchange the cash, but if she didn’t go to the US soon, she could get into trouble.

Now, I didn’t want that to happen so I told her not to worry about it, and that we’d figure something else out. As we were leaving the bank, she decided to call the first bank we visited to ask the person there if they would have the USD by Monday. I leave on Tuesday. He told her they wouldn’t but that they had the same policy. He also told her that she could always change her mind about traveling once she changed the money.

The System Almost Won

Armed with this knowledge, and her willingness to take a chance, my liaison returned to the bank and exchanged the money. My nerves were on fire as I waited in the lobby for her to completer the transaction. We’d just been in there trying to do what we were now doing. Would they let us? Was trouble in the cards for one or both of us?

After the exchange, we left the bank. I worried the security guard would stop us and take my money and send us to speak to the police. Not really, but that’s the thing about places like this. You just never know what will happen. We hadn’t broken any laws, but then that doesn’t always matter.

So, that’s the latest of my adventures in Chinese banking. Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned a little about what my life here is like.

Please follow and like us:

I’m Sick of Baby Yoda: And I Haven’t Watched Much

I’ve still only seen the first episode of the Mandalorian, but already I’m sick of Baby Yoda. Does that make me a monster? In the eyes of the Internet, probably. Everyone seems to be going crazy over the character, sharing gifs and memes and their overall enjoyment. To them, I say, I am glad they’re enjoying the character. I’m sick of Baby Yoda because he’s inescapable. All I see on the internet is people talking about him. And now I’m doing it, too and I hate myself for it.

Look, I want to be clear that there’s nothing wrong with sharing what you love. The world is so dark that we need to find joy where we can. I’m not even asking people to stop sharing stuff about him. And, I’m not saying there haven’t been a few things I’ve seen and appreciated concerning him. One was a Lone Wolf and Cub cover with the Mandalorian and BY instead of Ogami Itto and Daigoro. It is awesome . Overall, though the obsession wiht BY feels like it’s too much for me.

The image shows a mock cover of Lone Wolf and Cub with the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda, who I'm sick of.

I don’t mind that he’s cute. I like cute things. And I love Yoda and think it’s neat that Star Wars is bringing in another one of his species. I mean, clearly the character is not really the Jedi Master, but that’s what the world has dubbed him.

I know I must sound like a curmudgeon. The thing is, because I’m sick of Baby Yoda, I kind of don’t want to watch the series. Which is a shame because I was looking forward to it. Yes, this is my own issue, I need to get past.

I’m Sick of Baby Yoda, But That Could Change

I still plan on watching the rest of the Mandalorian, and giving Baby Yoda a chance. I am not THAT closed minded. Still, it has been difficult for me to find the motivation to watch the series. Not all of that has to do with the green child, but a lot of it does.

I am sorry if I have upset anyone with this thread. It is not my intent to be a dick to people who love the character. As I wrote earlier, we can love what we want, and I am happy that people share that love. So, please, if you comment, don’t be too cruel. We are all allowed to have opinions, and disagreements, but let’s try to be respectful when we do. Thanks for reading.

Please follow and like us:

Disney Vault Has New Material to Hide

When the House of Mouse bought Fox film studios, I was quite upset, and with good reason apparently because now the Disney vault has new material. To be fair, I didn’t consider that they would hide some of their newly acquired goodies, but I am not surprised.

Image shows South Park's Mickey Mouse with some new material he has for the Disney vault
South Park knew Mickey was evil long ago.

I remember people being super happy about this merger because it meant that the X-Men and Fantastic Four and other comic book properties could all join the MCU. And, sure, that’s fun. But, I didn’t care so much about that then, and I care even less now. I understand why people were excited. Lots of possibilities to see characters they love done right. I get it, I really do. However, I don’t know if that’s good enough reason to give one company so much power. Sure, Disney already had a lot of power, and now they have more.

I don’t think whatever great X-Men show or movie we’ll get is worth it, considering how much new material Disney now has for its vault. As the article above cites, movie theaters often show old films to keep their bottom line afloat. Additionally, these showings help people discover and experience films in a different way. Disney is all about making money, sure. But, they are also all about scarcity. They have been for quite a while. The vault isn’t something new. I’ve always hated it.

Thus far, their vaulting isn’t widespread. However, there is nothing to stop them from making it so. Beyond ensuring that Disney has new material for its vault for a long time, the merger is harmful in other ways.

New Material For Disney Vault Means Fewer Risks

Mass entertainment is already fairly homogeneous. To an extent, that makes sense. Companies want to make money, so they produce what people buy. It’s been that way for a long time. Now, however, it’s easy to see just how much further than concept can go. Disney now has the power to control which films the majority of theaters have access to. This limits small and independent film makers. Also, it diminishes the possibility for mid range budget films. It’s either go big or don’t go at all.

Sure, I have no evidence for any of this, but it all makes sense. Create scarcity by vaulting films. Ensure profits by betting on known franchises. Don’t take risks because they might hurt the bottom line. As a lover of entertainment, and many Disney films, I hate this. Alas, there is no way to stop it. So, some advice, buy physical media while you can. I know, digital is more convenient, but unless you are willing to take illegal roads, it is impermanent. What is available today, may not be tomorrow. That’s what the Fox/Disney merger gives you. Well that, and the potential for good X-Men films.

Please follow and like us:

I Hate How The Mist Ends Movie Version

I hate how The Mist ends so much. Why? Because it’s unearned cheap manipulation. It tells the audience how to feel, and it shoves bleakness in their face. Granted, it’s been a long time since I saw the movie, but I remember nothing in it foreshadowing that ending. It’s there to shock. To that end, it succeeds. But it’s cynical nonsense.

How could the ending have been effective or earned. First, set up the choice earlier. Second, have the final shot be of the Jeep. We hear gunshots and see muzzle flashes. Fade to black. We wouldn’t know who lived and who died. It’s still bleak, but it leaves us wondering. Or don’t even have the gunshots, just the Jeep.

The image shows the movie poster for the Mist, and I hate how the Mist ends.


I hate how the Mist ends: it’s cheap emotional manipulation. It says, if he would have just waited, things would have been okay. Moreover, it says, if they had left in the beginning with Carol from the Walking Dead, everything would have been okay. Having the Mist dissipate is dumb to me.

I don’t mind dark and bleak endings. I especially didn’t mind them when this movie came out. But, I feel they need to be earned. They need to mean something. They can’t just be bleak for bleakness’s sake. Cynicism is not thought provoking or powerful. It’s cheap.

I know King says he wishes he would have written that ending, and fine. I prefer the ending he did write. That one is just as bleak, but it’s not as cynical. Sure, people are still alive, but it’s not a happy ending. The Mist is there. It’s everywhere. It ends on the chance at hope: maybe we’ll find a safe place, but don’t bet on it. Lots of people like it, but I do not. What are your thoughts?

Please follow and like us:

Don’t Root For Villains: They’re Awful

In the past ten years or so, if not longer, an idea has taken hold in storytelling circles. The idea is that the villain should be sympathetic. Well, maybe not sympathetic, exactly. Rather, the villain should be relatable and realistic. The reasoning goes, no one is the antagonist in their own story. Therefore, readers or viewers should be able to connect with the villain. To some extent, I understand and agree with this. After all, mustache twirling villains grow tiresome right quick. However, I also hate the idea that a villain has to be complex or sympathetic, or relatable. Villains are villains because they have chosen a path that leads to harming others in order to gain their objectives or get revenge. This is not something to cheer for. Don’t root for villains.

It is not difficult for me to understand why people see the need for well rounded villains in our entertainments. As I wrote earlier, one note villains are boring. Single note heroes are boring too; there needs to be more to the characters. Where I take issue is the idea that a story is better if the villain wins, or that it’s more interesting if the bad guy obtains victory. Should the bad guy be clever? Yes. Should they be a match for the protagonist? Of course. Does that mean we need to hope they win? No. Don’t root for villains.

Is a story sometimes better when the hero suffers, or even loses? Yes. Such things go against audience expectation, which is usually a great thing. Furthermore, it sets up the idea that the hero is fallible, which is not something that is always clear. Nevertheless, if the villain wins we shouldn’t feel good about it.

Don’t Root For Villains: They Don’t Deserve It

Look at Game of Thrones, for example. (The TV Show as I haven’t read the books.) That is a show where there are very few straight up heroic characters. It is also a show where the villains tend to win more often than not. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is some hope that good will prevail at some point. Does it have to be all roses and rainbows for the heroes? No, but it would be nice if they somehow managed to overcome evil and win the day. But should we be rooting for Cersei? Or the Mountain? Joffrey? The Night King? Are those the characters we really want to see win? And if so, why?

The image shows the Night King from Game of Thrones. He wants to kill everyone, which is why we don't root for villains.

(Note: I started this post before the new season of GoT started, and now I add Dany to my list. To be fair, though, I have never really considered the Mother of Dragons ascending to the throne a good thing.)

Generally, the structure of stories go something like: hero is big and bold, faces villainy, villainy wins for the moment, hero wins the day. Many people find this formula boring, and I admit it can feel routine and silly. If the hero always wins, it seems like there is no reason to tell the story.

Victory at a Price

However, just because a hero wins, doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer. In fact, some of the best stories are the ones where, yes the hero, or protagonist if you prefer, wins, but also suffers. A victory that comes at a great cost to the hero is the most interesting to me. In the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Batman achieves victory over the three adversaries he faces. Each coming at a cost. The mutant leader bruises his body.

Then, the Joker murders a bunch of people and stabs Batman repeatedly. Batman beats Joker within an inch of his life, but doesn’t kill the Clown Prince of Crime. Even at the end, he fails to take action that would ensure Joker never hurt anyone again. Then Joker manages to break his own neck, rendering Batman’s code pointless. Here is a two-fold example of failing while succeeding. Bats failed to save the bystanders, and then he failed to stop the Joker. Joker did that all on his own.

Additionally, this scene provides us with a glimpse of Joker’s triumph. He failed to goad Batman into killing him, but he did murder a bunch of people that Batman wanted to save. A win for a Joker, and a loss for Batman.

Finally, still in the Dark Knight Returns, Batman fights Superman. He has a plan, and he wins, but again at a cost. Not only does bats get some broken ribs for his troubles, but he also has to fake his own death. Essentially, after this, the Batman is no more. (Until Dark Knight Returns 2, that is.)

We don’t root for the villains in this story, but their successes make Batman’s failures, and ultimate victory, more meaningful. He faces adversity and overcomes it.

Why Root for the Villains?

The real world is scary enough and is full of enough real assholes and villains . Do we need our entertainments to reflect reality so much that we watch the bad guys (or antagonists, if you prefer) win? Have we become so jaded that a heroic victory is boring and predictable?

I am not arguing for boring stories. I am, however, arguing that a story can still be interesting and entertaining, even when we know the heroes will win, most of the time. Heroes win, and they should. People read stories to escape, and a happy ending helps.

A good story about a villain you want to see reach their goal can work. I’ve read and seen a few. There’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy stories told from the villains’ perspective, as long as they still fail and get their comeuppance.

The Americans is a good example. Elizabeth and Phillip are villains presented as protagonists. However, they are evil, murderous liars with few redeemable qualities. I wanted them to live, but I didn’t want them to win.

My issue is the idea that a story is boring or uninteresting if the heroes win. The journey matters more than the ending. If you need the hero to fail and the villain to win for the journey to be fun for you, then we have distinctly different ideas about stories.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


Please follow and like us: