Since I’ve come back from my trip, a lot of people have asked me, “how was China?” I’ve struggled to answer each time. Usually I just said, “complicated.”
We in the west get a lot of the ‘what’ about China, but little of the ‘why’. In other words, we hear a lot about China’s totalitarian edicts, its sometimes-brutal crackdowns, its nonexistent copyright laws, and almost never does the reporting outlet even make a stab at the reasoning behind these things. We don’t hear about what the average people – not the shills employed by the Chinese government – say and think about it. Or what they think about each other. Or what their daily lives are like.
I’m going to try and write about China from a ‘why’ perspective, but realize – I’m a privileged white guy. I spent less than two weeks there. This is probably best ingested with a couple grains of salt. Maybe a brick.
In the past year, I have, in public, beaten strangers savagely with a pillow. I have made my opinion known as a judge at the LA Grilled Cheese Invitational. I have run down city streets with a shopping cart, handing out ice cream sandwiches to anyone who’d take them, amongst a shopping cart-wielding crowd of hundreds. I have witnessed the savage and erotic competition of the Los Angeles Air Sex Championships. I have tasted the most delicious that LA has to offer in the Cupcake Challenge. I have smelled the worst scent LA has to offer in the once-every-ten-year blooming of the Corpse Flower.
In the past year, I have thrown an impromptu house party at Ikea. I have ballroom danced in a supermarket produce section. I have joined hundreds of people in a spontaneous game of “Follow the Leader” at the most famous museum in Los Angeles. I have set up a “finish line” on a bike path, and given gatorade, encouragement, and medals to all cyclists. I have led a group of 30 to a busy intersection, held signs with them, and chanted with them, lauding all passersby as fantastic and important.
In the past year, I have brought down the house at a conference of 400-odd people by educating them about the practice of erasing animal genitalia from Hollywood pictures. I have helped another presenter inform the same crowd about the fecal Christmas traditions of Catalonia. I have every month stood shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the most interesting people in Los Angeles, and in so doing, been welcomed as one of them. I have been invited to join them in finding fascinating speakers, and I have accepted.
In the past year, I have learned at the feet of one of the most well-known foam monster-makers on Earth. I have made two Halloween costumes complex enough to send my friends’ minds reeling. I have signed up for more workshops at the same venue.
In the past year, I have started working at DreamWorks Animation. For my job, I have brought honor to my department by winning a Rock Band tournament, filmed myself throwing chimichangas at the intern for reference, and stared slack-jawed as Oscar-award winner Hans Zimmer jammed “I Like to Move It (Move It)” on guitar to inaugurate our new parking garage.
In the past year, I have written a great “Interesting things to do in LA” list.
In the past year, I have visited Japan, New Zealand, Chicago, and my hometown of Louisville. I have missed LA during each of these trips.
In the past year, I have, after a decade, finally made a home of Los Angeles.
For the past several months, I’ve been on a mission. One movie that I worked on, early in my career, introduced me to the concept of “tent removal” — that is, the erasure of an untimely erection through the usage of digital effects. I was very nearly tasked with it (and so very nearly earned the credit of “crotch wrangler”), but narrowly dodged that bullet. But it got me thinking, who else has had to do that?
So I started asking around.
And around a hundred emails and a half-dozen in-person interviews later, I’m likely one of the foremost experts on the subject.
So, in the interests of spreading the knowledge around, I am going to be giving a presentation on this very obscure topic this Thursday, at Mindshare LA. It promises to be a very entertaining, slightly insane thing. If you’re reading this and you’re in LA, I recommend that you attend.
When I was in Madrid, staying with my frined Amanda, I had a conversation with Moritz, one of her German roommates, about words that don’t translate well to other languages. As an example, he used the German word GemÃ¼tlichkeit, which he explained as the “feeling of being around a fireplace with your friends, comfortable and drinking hot chocolate.” We determined that “coziness” was the best equivalent, but that it didn’t quite capture the essence of the word.
GemÃ¼tlichkeit, it turns out, is what Munich was all about.