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Thread: All That Glitters is not Gold

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Default All That Glitters is not Gold

    Once upon a time, there were these super rich, super famous, super beautiful actresses who seemed to have the whole world at their feet. But sad to say, nothing was what it seemed, and all that glitters was not gold, not even in cloud 9 where they seemingly reside.

    Quote from Harrison Ford:
    AAH, vanity:
    [When asked: If heaven exists, what would you want God to say to you at the pearly gates] "You're a lot better looking in person."

    1. At all cost, project a glamorous image
    “Where do you think you’re going, young lady?” said Mdm. Mao, her arms akimbo.

    “Out for some fresh air. Do you have a problem with that?” said Bactress, insolently.

    “Yes, I do, especially dressed like that. Look at that hair, and no makeup to boot. What were you thinking,” Mdm. Mao shot back. “The paparazzi will have a field day with that get-up.”

    “So let the sleazy goons snap away. I don’t care. I’m tired of wearing a public mask everytime, everywhere – a gracious one – no? Maybe a happy one? No? Pensive maybe, or God forbid, a ‘Me’ mask? Hah, that would be scary, won’t it? Wearing my very own natural face?” said Bactress, sarcastically.

    Mdm. Mao sighed at another one of her superrich, super famous superstar’s defiant outbursts. Her gold mine of a protégée had been rather uncooperative lately these days. But she was an old hand at dealing with temperamental superstars; after all, she had been in the entertainment circle far longer than these super moody, flash- in-the-pan celebrities. Wearily, Mdm. Mao walked over to Bactress, draped an arm around her, and in her most syrupy voice, placated, “I know, I know, dearie, it’s tough being a celebrity. Always having to care about your appearance, but do you really want your unadorned self gracing the web and newspapers tomorrow with these headlines: “Bactress: Before and After photos." Do you truly want that?”

    “Do I really look all that different without make-up?” asked Bactress in a small voice, her defiance quickly quelled by her insecurity.

    “You are naturally beautiful, but what your public want and expect from you at all times is, ‘glamour’, that extra glow that could only come from cosmetics and careful grooming. Look around you; beautiful women are a-plenty in China, each more beautiful, more talented, and some even younger than you. Your stardom could be gone tomorrow, snuffed just like that,” Mdm. Mao stubbed her cigarette into the ashtray to emphasize her words.

    “You’ve an image to upkeep, to protect, and that’s my job. Remember we’ve talked about this before. Come, let’s go get the glamour kit and put some colors on you.”

    Bactress felt a scream rising deep within her soul; all she wanted was to breathe in the fresh air outside, to go out as herself, not as a superstar. All she wanted was the freedom to explore the world, as herself, not as a celebrity, was that too much to ask for. She reached into her jacket pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes, her very action, defiant.

    “Oh, my God, cigarettes? Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know a picture of you puffing away on a cigarette will destroy your ingénue image? Your young fans will be devastated and …….,” fumed Mdm. Mao.

    Bactress slowly flicked her lighter, lit her cigarette, took a deep drag and exhaled the smoke onto her manager’s face, now bloated with anger. In a honey-dripped voice, Bactress cut off her manager’s rant, “But we’re not in the public eye right now, are we?”

    They glared at each other; Mdm. Mao broke off the eye contest first. She went for a different tack as she said nonchalantly, “Oh, by the way, Director Zhang phoned and said you need to loose a pound or so. Your face look far too chubby on the screen.”

    Mdm. Mao took a sadistic pleasure at seeing Bactress’s defiant face crumbled into dismay. “Yep, you’d better pop some more of those diet pills. Wholesome looks are out, super thin is in.”

    In times, Bactress became adept at making glamorous and sensational public appearances, the perfect mask always in place. Whereas before, she had cringed at wearing revealing gowns, now no necklines, front or back, were too low to show off her sculptured body. Whereas before, her face had felt stiff with thick make-up, now she felt naked without them on. Whereas before, she had liked windswept hair, now she liked it elegantly coiffed or teased, and colored. Whereas before she couldn’t careless about her looks, now she wore her ‘image’ everywhere she went. Her “me’ mask had long since forgotten, for a book is indeed judged by its cover, at least, in showbiz.

    Superstar Bactress was imprisoned on cloud 9 by glamour
    Last edited by grace; 06-26-06 at 10:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Quote from Harrison Ford:
    "I think I did have a reputation for being grumpy. I don't think I'm grumpy. I have opinions. I have an independent vision. I am a purposeful person. But on a daily basis, I think I'm other than grumpy. I think it is a case where I am coming to do business and not there just to be flattered and cajoled and used."

    2. At all times, protect your nice girl-next-door reputation.
    “Bah, this script is ridiculous! The loopholes are so big that my head can go through them. And look at these trash talk, there’s no way I’m going to say these lines. I’ll look like a complete, illiterate fool!” exclaimed Cactress, flinging the script onto the floor.

    “You’ve no choice. No matter how famous you’re, you’re but a pawn in the entertainment circle. If the bigwigs say jump, you say “How high, sirs?”” said her manager, Mdm. Su, lounging languidly on a sofa.

    She had been through similar scenes many times with her client. She agreed with Cactress; the script was stupid, but be that as it may, this series was a big budget, star-driven, and high profile production. So what if the script was bad. It was a win-win situation for her client; big money, big publicity, and if the series fails at the ratings, there’s the scriptwriters to blame. From her cache of showbiz knowledge, the mantra she most dearly ascribed to was: “Shut up, perform, take the money and leave.”

    She reminisced of the many a sad tale about actors who actually cared and took pride in their works and the end products. They audaciously, in her mind, naively, dared to voice their own opinions on the script, on the directing, on the costumes and even on the kinds of props used, usually to the detriment of their reputation even careers. What were they thinking? Despite her outward appearance, China is still ruled by a group of communists, so it goes without saying, dissenting opinions and independent thoughts are definitely discouraged, much less tolerated in an exclusive entertainment and media society. She shuddered to think of all those high-minded actors who strove to better their craft by challenging the old guards. Her lips lifted in a wry smile, they were such innocents, such idealists, such optimists; however, she could not help but admire their audacity, and that all-consuming fire and passions igniting them from within, in hopes of bettering their craft. Unlike them, she knew to survive in this elite but soulless circle; one must play by its rules, even to the extent of repressing one self. If nothing else, Mdm. Su prided herself as the master of China showbiz game.

    Mdm. Su corralled her reminiscences and turned to Cactress. She waved at her to join herself on the sofa. Cactress allowed herself to be thus persuaded but her rigid posture showed her displeasure. Mdm. Su looked at Cactress’ stony face for a few moments, then smiling indulgently, she said, “Look at me.” Cactress slowly turned her face toward her, her eyes stormy with mutiny. Mdm. Su held her client’s eye and said firmly, “One of the most important rules of showbiz is at all times, a star must project a good and beautiful image to the public. And that means be cooperative with the powers that be. Take Tom Cruise for example, without his previous publicist to work on his image, he is now the laughing stock of Hollywood.”

    Cactress opened her mouth to speak, but Mdm. Su overrode whatever retorts she was about to make.

    “Whereas in Hollywood, personality and individualism are traits that are admired, even encouraged, but here in mainland China, they are definitely frowned upon. Image is everything, reputation is everything, and online polls especially Sinai’s can presumably make or break a star, ridiculous as they may be. You see, show business is still a fairly new gold mine in China, jealously guarded and ruled by a clique of rich but tightfisted show lords and media moguls.

    “Do you know how many times I had to kowtow to the media and the producers and the directors and the marketers, pleading your case, always obsequiously? Do you know how I had to bribe, to grovel, to pull all kinds of strings to finally get this role for you? Do you know how I had to sweet talk those stupid reporters and their editors just so they would write you up in a good light? Do you? So if you ever utter one tiny bit of your opinion to challenge the powers, believe you me, I will drop you like a hot potato. No one, and I mean no one wants to listen to the opinions of actresses or actors, even if they are superstars like you. With one call to the Sinai chief editor and other media heads, your rep. will be in shreds before you could even say ‘boo’, and you can be sure I won’t be there to fix it.”

    Taking a deep breath broke her harangue, but not for long, “So, dearie, those lines will sound fine coming from your lips. The audience is used to such lame dialogues, anyway. All they care about are how beautiful your costumes is, how beautiful your hairdo is, how compatible you look with your screen lover, how romantic even if improbable the scenes are, and of course, how beautiful your face is. Roll those pearly teardrops one by one down your face, and you’ll have your fans eating out of your hands. So what if the script doesn’t make sense; who cares. Look at some of those ratings on those gagging Taiwanese series. As we all know, TV series are just for entertainment, not for intellectual pursuits. Anyway, most of your fans are just those teeny boppers. They couldn’t care less about the script. My advice to you is, keep your thoughts to yourself else you’ll be branded as an uncooperative diva. D-I-V-A. You’re not getting any younger, so make money while you’re still hot.”

    “Yeah, and lose my own self-identity in the process,” retorted Cactress.

    “So what, you have your money and fame to comfort you." snorted Mdm. Su.

    Cactress never found the carefree young woman she used to be before her stardom. She was deemed a cooperative person, always considerate of other people’s opinions while giving none of hers, always doing what she was told without so much as a demur.

    Superstar Cactress was imprisoned in cloud 9 by her 'good' reputation.
    Last edited by grace; 06-26-06 at 06:27 PM. Reason: typos and grammar

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    Default Coming attraction!

    3. Say Goodbye to your Privacy, because Rumor has it

    "The loss of anonymity is something that nobody can prepare you for. When it happened, I recognized that I'd lost one of the most valuable things in life. To this day, I'm not all that happy about it.” Harrison Ford

    “I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.” Johannes Kepler – German astronomer 1571-1630

    “I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all, there would be news from Hell before breakfast.” (American Civil War general) William Tecumseh Sherman

    “Rumors that go around are rumors - until you experience it for yourself.”
    “I've discovered that the less I say, the more rumors I start.”
    “A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of thinner as it is spread.”
    “RUMOR, n. A favorite weapon of the assassins of character.

    “What is told in the ear of a man is often heard 100 miles away. “ ~Chinese Proverb

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    3. Say Goodby To Your Privacy, For Rumor Has It.

    “God dammit! What’s this obsession with my love life?” exploded Dactress, slamming the newspapers onto the coffee table. “Why can’t I have friends of both sexes without wild rumors being circulated. Damn! Now I’ll be hounded to death by those stupid reporters asking the same stupid questions over and over and over again. God dammit!” She jumped off the sofa she was sitting on to mindlessly pace the floor. She stopped short in her furious strides, scooped up the offending newspapers and shoved it right under Linsey’s nose, her best friend since kindergarten.

    “Here, read this.…this..sickening garbage. I bet Alan won’t talk to me anymore let alone date me, and I do like him so. Oh…,” moaned Dactress, slumping disconsolately back onto the sofa like a deflated balloon.

    Linsey drinking her coffee at the kitchen table was startled by Dactress’ torrent of disgust. She took the newspapers and skimmed it. With an exaggerated calm, she then slowly re-folded the newspapers. She glanced sidelong at her friend, whose fury having spent itself, now looked a picture of utter helplessness. Ay, the price of fame comes high indeed, she mused. However, she was not a little stunned by her friend’s emotive display for usually Dactress would simply shrug off such an article. In fact, when the mood took her, she would make snarky comments about the dubious intellect of such reporters and that of their readers; “imbeciles” was the word she most often applied on them. Linsey pursed her lips and let out a breath. Dactress looked up and said irritably, “What?”

    Taking a different tack, Linsey stood up, walked toward her friend, right hand clasping an imaginary microphone, she bowed as she minced in a low, gravelly voice, “Yo, Ms. Dactress, super goddess, whom we all adore. What kind of men do you look for in your life? Is it true that right now you’re dating Mr. Right? Or is Mr. superhot Andieo your one true love? What about Mr. superhot singer Jayo? Is that romance off now? Or..?” Linsey broke off as she nimbly avoided the kick on her shin from her friend.

    Without missing a beat, Linsey continued her act, this time affecting a high girlish voice, “Erm, no, Mr. Niceguy Reporter, we’re just friends having a wonderful dinner together. As to what kind of men I like..erm, first of all, he must be rich, of course, and prominent.. of course. Then he must be smart, kind, romantic, and oh, he must have hair, lots of it, and is not pot-bellied. Looks is not that important but he must be tall, well, at least taller than me. Just between you and me, my new flame of the moment is hot Bobo, the singing actor or is it the acting singer. Oh, whatever, but he is truly talented and super hot. Thank you, thank you, thank you very muchie, xiexie.”

    Sensing the tenseness leaving her friend, Linsey segued into a caricatured voice of Datress’ manager, Mr. Song, “Oh, my heavens, (tian ya!) girl, that’s a no-no answer. It’ll flush your career right down the toilet. Lets rehearse the socially correct answer one more time.” Widening her eyes dramatically into a horrified, goldfish stare, Linsey wagged her right index finger vigorously at her friend, left arm akimbo. She grinned when she saw Dactress shook her head, and unwillingly broke into a rueful smile.

    Dactress stood up and crushed Linsey in a hug, saying, “Oh, Linsey, what can I do without you. You’re the best, you know. You should be an actress. You’re so much better at it than I.”

    Linsey broke away, arched her eyebrows and in a mocked voice, quipped, “And have a miserable life like yours? No thanks. I like having my privacy, intact.” She instantly realized her thoughtless remarks upon seeing Dactress recoiled.

    “I’m so sorry. I was just kidding. Tell me what’s really bugging you. It can’t be that stupid article. God knows, we’ve read enough of those for it to really upset you so much,” cajoled Linsey. She solicitously led Dactress back to the sofa and they sat down. Although Dactress tried to rein in her emotions, her face said it all. Seeing her thus, Linsey felt a lump in her throat and wished fervently that she could retract her impulsive rejoinder.

    Unable to hold back, the emotional dam broke inside Dactress as previously restrained tears now streamed freely down her face. She slumped onto the sofa sobbing uncontrollably. Linsey let her cried it out, hard and long. Finally, the sobs turned to sniffles then subsided.

    Raising herself off the sofa, Dactress took the tissues offered by Linsey and wiped her tear-stained face then blew her nose. Taking a deep breath, Dactress said, “I’m sorry for falling apart like this. It’s just that I feel my life has been so empty lately. I wish that people would look beyond my stardom and love me for myself, just like how Dave and the kids love you."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    Dactress lifted her eyes at Linsey and winced when she saw the pity on her friend’s face. She let out an embarrassed little laugh, then said, “Look at me, I’m a total mess. I’ll go freshen up a bit.”

    “Go ahead, I’ll brew us another fresh pot of coffee,” said Linsey.

    A few minutes later, a freshly scrubbed face Dactress joined Linsey at the kitchen table. She sipped appreciatively at the scalding aromatic coffee, instantly feeling much better if not still a little embarrassed. She put down her mug, smiled sheepishly then said, “Sorry for being such a drama queen. Guess old age gets to every one of us, eh?”

    “Don’t play coy with me; are you ready to talk now?” quizzed Linsey.

    “You know, in a few months, I’ll be thirty; thirty, imagine that. I don’t know about you, but I feel that life is rushing by me. I feel this restlessness, this new urgency to find meanings in my life. Somehow, along the way to stardom, I lost myself. I don’t know myself anymore. In fact, I’ve lost touch with myself. I’m always in and out of these filming projects that I don’t even truly like; they’re mediocre at best and at worse, suck. I don’t even know why I did them. Wait, I do, I did them because my manager told me to. Worse thing is, those character roles are just variations of the same kind – a sweet, innocent, kind girl who cries so winsomely with those big, sorrowful, bright teary eyes. Oh, for heaven’s sake, I’m a woman turning 30 soon, not an ingénue. My critics are right; I suck as an actress. My life sucks, my pictures suck, everything sucks,” said Dactress, dejectedly.

    Linsey smiled, “You’re too harsh on yourself. You’re a good actress. You just need an extraordinary role to showcase your talents.”

    “Yeah, but in the public, I’m always this sweet girl. Maybe if I get rid of these dimples I might erase my sweet innocent girl image. You think?” asked Dactress, widening her eyes, stretching her lips up and dimpled.

    Their eyes met, shaking their head in unison, they chorused, “Nay!”

    Dactress took another sip of her coffee, and eyed her friend thoughtfully. “Are you happy with your life?” she asked abruptly.

    “I’ve no complaints. The kids keep me busy,” said Linsey, tersely. She knew Dactress was just bidding her time.

    A lapse of silence ensued. “I do so envy your kids. I would like to have a kid of my own, but without a husband, it seems out of the question,” said Dactress, wistfully.

    “Yeah, they’re great,” Linsey smiled and waited.

    “Do you remember a few years back when Frank opined that God must be playing a joke on mankind because He purposely had them procreate and perpetuate these never ending lines of progeny so that He could watch the human drama unfold from up there. And that parents are extremely selfish because they brought forth their children to the world, knowing very well that their children would suffer somehow just because they live,” said Dactress.

    Linsey chortled. “Oh, do I? We were so shocked at his blasphemy. Now that I think back, he did have a point there, especially now that I’m a mother. Undoubtedly, parents are selfish indeed. Like me, I have children because I wanted them, not for their own good but because of my own needs. However, I still believe in God.”

    “I wish I have your faith in a loving God, Linsey, maybe then I won’t feel so empty spiritually and so discontent with my life. But in my mind, I see God as a capricious chess player moving us, the hapless chess pieces, around the board, on whims.”

    Linsey shrugged off the bait on her God because she knew Dactress was just throwing stuff off her chest, groping into what really is bothering her.

    As if in a trance, Dactress continued, “It reminds me of an old movie, “Trading Places” with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. Such a wonderful comedy. Remember, we watched the movie together.”

    “I think so. Wasn’t it about this snobbish white investor who suddenly finds his position reversed with that of a black street con artist because of a bet between two callous millionaires?” mused Linsey.

    “Yep, just like that story of Job in the bible when God made a bet with Satan,” said Dactress.

    Without waiting for Linsey’s response, Dactress segued, “Look at me, I’ve so much and yet so little. There’s this insistent emptiness inside me. Everything about my life is an illusion, from my public image to acting in make-believe stories, all so very surreal. I have fans, thousands of them, stroking my ego, professing to love me, even forever, and yet I don’t even know who they are or even care. They are surreal, too.”

    She got up, pushed back her chair, and started pacing as if unable to contain the agitation in her. She had so much inside her that she wanted out. She felt suffocated by the mounting emotions slowly drowning her.

    “For too long, it had always been about myself, about garnering ratings and accolades for my performance. It used to be that critical acclaims would send me to cloud nine, while bad reviews would drop me straight to the dumps. But they have long since ceased to matter any more.” She stopped pacing, spun around on her heels, looked at Linsey and enunciated, "I -want- out."

    Linsey, her eyes sparkling with amusement, smiled and continued to sip her coffee, unperturbed. She had heard the announcement far too often to take it seriously. Dactress saw her skepticism. She walked up to the table, glared at Linsey, and snapped, “And I mean it this time, so wipe that smile off your face.” She flopped down onto her chair, picked up the coffee mug and drank from it.

    “Truly, Darling, do tell me how you really feel,” said Linsey, her grin broadening.

    “Yeah, you’re right. I won’t quit. I love acting too much...and I love the money too. I wish I could go back to when it all started – when we set the world ablaze. We were brilliant. Those times were so exhilarating,” said Dactress, dreamily.

    Dactress put down her coffee mug, leaped off her chair, and stepped quickly into her den. After rummaging a while, she returned triumphantly holding a scrapbook. She flopped onto the sofa and quickly turned to the first page. It was a group photo of people attired in bright, colorful Ming costumes. Dactress giggled as she pointed herself out in the photo and the others. “And there’s Vixy, Rea, Alan and Jay, and the Emperor and Empress, and Dame Mo. Oh, those were heady days indeed, ” said Dactress, as she flipped through the book, making little excited remarks and exclamations here and there.

    “Oh goodness me, I remember when this shot was taken, poor Vixy,” laughed Datress, pointing at a photo. It captured Vixy grimacing as she sputtered out water while lying half immersed in a puddle of muddy water, soaking wet. “Jay had warned Vixy to do the shot at one take else she would be ingesting water flavored by the horses, mud and other gross stuff. But poor Vixy had 20 ngs or more before the director was satisfied.”

    She turned the page, “Oh, this shot almost didn’t make it. At that time, Jay was so sick that he was hospitalized with an IV drip. Aunt May visited him in the hospital and gave him the rundown, either: he would act despite his fever of 104 degrees (F), or, she would right there and then delete that scene. Jay opted to act, and I’m glad he did because that scene turned out to be one of my favorites.”

    Linsey was glad to see her friend perking up, her face animated with joy, like a young girl in a candy store. Suddenly, something about her posture and silence caught Linsey’s attention.

    “What is it, Dactress?” asked Linsey.

    Dactress slammed the book shut. Her bright face dimmed. “Oh, just remember it wasn’t all good even back then.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Linsey. She got up and walked towards the sofa. She took the scrapbook from Dactress’ lap and looked through it. She closed the book and said, “Ok, I give up. Tell me what’s in here that upsets you so.”

    “Rumors! Rumors, rumors, rumors. And those imbecile reporters. That’s what. Look at page twenty,” retorted Dactess.

    Linsey obediently turned to page twenty. She was all too familiar with that news report. She flashed back to when Dactress flew off the handle when the report first hit the stands.
    Last edited by grace; 01-22-06 at 02:57 PM. Reason: typos

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    “Just so you know, it’s a landmine in there, so watch your steps,” said Desiree, as flirtatiously as she knew how.

    Jake was used to women reacting coquettishly to him, and took that all in strides. At different times, he found his looks to be either a boon or a nuisance. But today, his charm, switched to the max, had the desired effect of getting him an immediate audience, hitherto unprecedented, with Mike Wong, the senior editor of Lane Publishing Inc. This was no small feat considering the obstacle he faced in the form of a brisk, no-nonsense secretary placed strategically outside the esteemed editor’s sanctuary. Of her duties, the most important was to screen the unsolicited and the unscheduled from getting to her boss. But such was Jake’s charm that even an obdurate secretary with the ironic name of Desiree had willingly broke her own cardinal rule of no appointment, no meeting the boss. To be fair, Desiree’s succumb was due more to her appreciation of aesthetic art than to her womanly heart, being that she was a self-declared connoisseur of art in any form. And in her eye, Jake was certainly a piece of specimen worth breaching her own code of conduct for.

    Desiree watched as Jake casually strode towards Mike’s door, and knocked politely. A pause, then a disembodied voice barked, “Come in.” Jake duly opened the door and stepped into a brightly lit office. An imposing executive desk, placed in front of the picture window, took up much of the room. Two chairs were parked before it. Framed photos and certificates decorated the wall besides the window. Jake counted three phones lining the front of the desk, one of which was being used. On one corner of the desk sat a computer monitor with its printer; on the other end, a set of in/out trays, while the rest, big as the desk was, was completely covered by papers; piles and folders of them. Floor to ceiling shelves jammed with books and such, fought with filing cabinets over the coveted wall space. A sofa set cramped on one end of the room. Two pots of plants bravely stood sentinel at the corners by the window, themselves a thing of beauty in the cluttered room. Mike Wong was seated behind the desk, a receiver held at his ear. He acknowledged Jake’s entrance with a smile, and waved him to the sofa.

    “Bottom line is, your translation stink, big time. If I’d wanted a half-baked translation, I would have had Mr. Babelfish himself or a “gister ” do it, and save me some money and time, too. You’d better shaped soon, else you’ll be out of a job, get that?” Mike said threateningly, paused, and then sighed, “Yes, you’d better do that, like right now.”

    With much disdain, he hung up the phone. He then turned his gaze at Jake, who seemed immersed in a magazine. At the sight of his good friend, Mike’s bad mood instantly lifted. He pushed back his chair, and walked quickly towards Jake, who immediately stood up, awaiting. Grabbing Jake’s hand in a warm handshake, Mike beamed and said, “Well, well, if it’s not the great journalist himself. May I be so bold as to ask what wind blows you into my humble abode?”

    Grinning widely himself, Jake quipped, “What else but my missing your gracious self?”

    “Missed you, too. It’s nice to see you again. It’s been how long now, two years since we last met? said Mike.

    “At least. It’s nice to see you, too. How are Elena and Jaime? asked Jake.

    “They’re both fine. Jaime’s twelve now. He’s really into the Chinese wuxia stories. Claimed when he grows up he wants to be a famous fantasy writer. Hmm, wonder where he gets that from? mused Mike.

    Jake’s lips lifted in a faint smile. His mind flashed back to a time when both he and Mike themselves were totally obsessed with wuxia, to the point where they would converse totally in the wuxia language. How they had argued and discussed, with such passions too, the various forces that could be expelled from a human body as a deadly weapon to either harm or kill a foe. Their eyes held, both started to speak: ‘Remember that time when...” Leaving their unfinished sentences hanging, they broke into hearty laughter. Finally, their mirth spent, the men looked at each other with much affection.

    “Oh, there’s nothing like sharing a good laugh with a good friend,” said Mike.

    “Right, those were the good old days indeed,” agreed Jake.

    Mike, ever the gracious host, said amiably, “Here, please sit. We have time yet before going home for dinner. Meanwhile, would you like something to drink?”

    “No, thank you,” said Jake.

    “By the way, did you have any problems getting in here?” queried Mike.

    Well, I went through security fine, no problem there. No problems neither with that cute receptionist in the lobby. But, I almost failed in my ‘quest’ to get to you. That dragon lady guarding your domain almost had me booted out; because, strangely, my name wasn’t in her book,” said Jake, fixing his eyes quizzically at his friend.

    Mike slapped his forehead, and exclaimed, “Oh, shoot, I forgot to inform Desiree of your appointment. I’m sorry.” However, his suppressed hilarity belied his effusive apology.

    “You didn’t forget. You purposely didn’t inform her of my appointment. Why?” accused Jake.

    Unable to restrain his suppressed glee much longer, Mike erupted into guffaws. Jake watched him with pursed lips, narrowed eyes and crossed arms. Seeing his friend’s stern visage, Mike reined in his laughter, and explained, “It was a bet. A test on your manly charms, and by george, you passed with flying colors, with distinction. Desiree is known as Sphinx around here. First, because she has been here forever. Second, because she is deemed devoid of any emotions.” He paused, and then gloated, “And I won the wager, a dinner it was. Somebody’s going to eat crow tonight.”

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    “Well, ever the prankster. Glad somebody’s happy at least, at my expense, no less,” said Jake, dryly. “Thought it was just plain bad luck when I couldn’t get you on your cell to come rescue me out there.”

    “Well, lately, married life has been so boring that Elena and I, most ashamedly, had taken to gossiping about other people, namely, one Desiree. And guess what, on that very day when we were in this deep and most profound discussion about Sphinx’s love life, who would call but you. I made a note to myself to inform the concerned parties of your appointment. But Elena, enamored as she is with you,” here Mike chuckled at hearing Jake’s snort, then continued, “anyway, she bet that not even you could melt Sphinx’s heart. “Shuai-er” guys than you had tried, mainly in hopes of getting close to me; not a smile cracked her face. Those poor buggers failed so utterly that they are forever blacklisted in her book.

    “But I’ve the utmost confidence in your charms over the fairer sex. Although I’ve to admit, my confidence did dip ever so slightly when I came in this morning, and saw Sphinx outside my office. Thought to myself, tough, very tough, but not impossible.

    “I’ll have to get it to you. How did you break her?” asked Mike, all agog as he leaned forward.

    Despite himself, Jake laughed. Of them two, Mike had always been the melodramatic, and the romantic, and the prankster.

    Well.........,” drawled Jake, maddeningly.

    “Come on, spill. How did you get Sphinx to let you see me without an appointment,” quizzed Mike.

    Jake cocked his head and stared at Mike, an amused smile playing his lips. “Well, truth is, my so-called charms has had nothing to do with it,” said Jake. “I just played to her weak point.”

    “She has none, absolutely none,” scoffed Mike.

    “Oh yeah, she does,” smirked Jake. “And it’s you.” Leaning forward, Jake lowered his voice dramatically, and slowing enunciated his bombshell assertion, “I think Sphinx is in love with you.” His eyes gleamed with a smug satisfaction at seeing Mike stupefied with chagrin. Leaning back against the sofa, Jake’s face wore a “gotcha” look, his grin now at its widest.

    “Funny, very funny, haha, ” snorted Mike, slumping back on the sofa.

    “Actually, all I did was show her some pictures of us and your family taken at our last gathering in your house as proof that I am your long-time-no-see best friend. Since you were most conveniently on the phone at that time, she couldn’t confirm with you. But I guess a picture is worth a thousand words, especially happy pictures,” said Jake, fishing a package from his pants right pocket and dropping it on the table.

    “I had meant to send them to you but never got around to doing it. I thought today’s a good time to rectify that. So technically, you didn’t win your bet. When Sphinx saw the photos, she kept muttering how happy and relaxed you looked. I swear I saw tears brimming in her eyes,” said Jake, now thoroughly enjoying Mike’s discomfiture.

    “Oh, shut up! I still think your charms did it. But these are very nice pictures indeed, thanks. Sorry for the prank pulled on you,” said Mike.

    “Nah, you’re not. But apologies accepted,” said Jake, quite magnanimously.

    As Mike went through the photos, Jake got up and browsed the books on the bookshelves. Running his fingers along the spines of the shelved books, he said, “Are all these books published by your company?”

    “Books, nah, they are just merchandise,” said Mike, putting down the photos on the coffee table. He got up and walked over to Jake’s side.

    “I can’t look upon them as books. If I see them as books, my very liking or disliking of them could affect my publishing decisions. My job is to pick books that appeal or would appeal to the general pubic, which ta-da translate into dollars and cents. If I were to pick the books I personally like, I would be out of a job by now.”

    He picked up a hardback book. “This book here is a bestseller by this extra hot author. But to me, this hot author is nothing but a commercial writer recycling the same trash every year, but for some reason beyond my comprehension, the public just seems to lap them all up. Go figure,” said Mike, as he slammed the offensive book onto Jake’s hand.

    Jake glanced at the author’s name, John Patterson; Mike was right. Jake returned the book to its original spot. Mike picked another book off the shelf. Another hardback. Another bestseller.

    “And this, a blatant rip-off from Tolkien’s classics if ever there was one, now a bestseller too; and soon to be a movie” said Mike, shoving that book onto Jake. Jake looked at the book: a red, ferocious looking dragon glared ominously on the book cover. Jake was unfamiliar with this author, but then, that wasn’t saying much, given his sparse knowledge on the latest bestsellers.

    Indulgent, Jake let his friend’s tirade washed over him. He smiled inwardly and thought: Mike’s appearance might have changed, but his strong views on literary works apparently had not. Jake looked over his friend with a critical eye; time had wrought some unflattering changes on him. His once crown glory was now reduced to a receding M-shaped mop of hair, his once trim figure now slightly portly. He had also acquired an air of the quintessential harried, overworked and overwrought editor. And Jake, in his line of work, had seen many of those.

    Seeing his friend thus, Jake felt a sadness welling up within him. He recalled that day when Mike had called him up, bubbling with anticipation about his new editor job. How he went on much like now, about discovering new talents and new books, and bringing them forth to the public. Reality was indeed harsh. Now books had become mere merchandise to be moved off the shelves. Jake hoped that away from his work, his friend would revert back to that cultured, intelligent and well-read scholar that he was. Maybe some of his thoughts were shown on his face for Mike abruptly halted his speech.

    “I’m sorry, how I do go on,” siad Mike, smiling wryly.

    “Now it’s unlike you to sink a boatload of authors indiscriminately with a pole, uh?” said Jake teasingly, smiling inquiringly at his friend.

    Mike sighed, and said, “Yeah, I’ve been in this business far too long. But truly it bugs the hell out of me to see many of today’s so-called acclaimed authors are nothing but glorified scriptwriters. They don’t write for themselves anymore; they write to pander to the general readers. They don’t write novels for savoring; they write plot-driven scripts for the bored, short attention span public; for mere diversion of a few hours. But then in this day and age, who has time to read literature. "

    He reached up on a shelf for a book. “Now this is an excellent book by an unpublished author. It’s original and creative. It would probably carve its own niche if promoted right, but here it languishes because our higher ups didn’t want to take a chance on it. They’d rather go with the known, and sales generating but mediocre authors,” he paused, then said grimly, “but it’s not my problem any more; I’m moving on to better things.”

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2004


    “Oh, congratulations, when’s the move? asked Jake.

    “Thanks! Three more months, then, I’ll be out of here, definitely time for me to move on. VP of Asian Literatures Division. Mm…does have a good ring to it, don’t you think?”

    “Definitely. Is Sphinx going with you?” asked Jake.

    “No, she stays here. I want someone who knows both Chinese and English,” said Mike. He paused; eyeing Jake askance and affecting a casual stance, he asked, “Mm, did Sphinx let you waltz into my office just because of those pictures?”

    A smile twitched at Jake’s lips. Pretending to ponder Mike’s question, Jake took his time answering his friend. “Actually, she called up both security and the receptionist to confirm that you did indeed authorize my appointment. Seems like you’ve been quite forgetfully lately, or so she said,” said Jake.

    “Good, good. Oh yeah, and don’t you go mentioning to Elena about showing those pictures to Sphinx, hear? warned Mike.

    “My lips are zipped,” said Jake, miming zipping his upturned lips.

    “Ok, lets go, Elena’s waiting. You may leave your car here. We’ll pick it tomorrow on your way to the airport,” said Mike, as he picked up the photos and put them into his briefcase.

    As Mike joined the long line of slow moving traffic, he griped, “Even after two years of living in New Jersey, I still can’t get use to its stupid u-turn rule, ‘You gotta turn right in order to turn left.’ How very mind-boggling absurd is that? And if you missed that right turn, down you drive, desperately seeking the next elusive right turn, just to turn left. And if you got the right u-turn to turn left, you joined a long line of u-turners at a stoplight waiting to turn left. Oh, so stupid! And supposedly intelligent people came up with this idea, and had it implemented, for heavens sake. Stupid!”

    “I’ve had a taste of that u-turns on my way to your office,” said Jake, laughingly. “Sometimes, different is not good.”

    “Yeah, tell me about,” said Mike.

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