I had a very interesting evening.

Took a moment away from organizing this British trip (my Mom’s decided to come along as well as my sister!) and watched Oprah’s show on visionaries.

Here it’s on every Sunday night at 8 pm on OWN.

Tonight was James Cameron, the guy who did Terminator, Titanic and Avatar.

In the promos for the show they quoted him as saying every once in a while a door will open a crack, and you have to push it open, that’s your opportunity!

Something about the way he said that really resonated within me, and I’ve been waiting for this show for a long time!

It did not disappoint.

I wanted to know how a kid from a small town in Canada (he never did say which town!) got to be one of the biggest directors in the biz!

Apparently he’s done all kinds of jobs, including truck driving and being a school janitor, scraping gum off the bottoms of school desks. He made an observation that had already struck me. He said that every job he’d ever held, even the menial ones, had been necessary!

They had built him up to who he is today.

Boy can I relate!

I’ve been a dishwasher, a salad preparer, a cleaning lady, a biological-chemical technician doing quality control in a pharmaceutical lab and I’ve been a daycare provider.

All of those jobs have been absolutely necessary to building me into who I am today.

He believes in cultivating curiosity!

He talked about those astronauts who’d landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong never said a thing about it for years afterwards. The other guy even wrote books about it!

He said that there’s something in people that they want to go and be in that special place they’ve dreamed or heard about. And boy can I relate to that too!

When I was in Singapore, seeing the Raffles hotel, thinking that Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maughm had actually stayed there… And just walking around Singapore, I kept thinking that I’m actually in Singapore!


Same when I was in Rome!


And everywhere else I’ve been, to me is amazing!

James Cameron said that people who’ve experienced that have a duty to those left behind to share what it felt like!

Cameron’s first break came when he was a set painter for some b-list director. He had created these elaborate sci-fi sets and noticed the cameramen weren’t exploiting them as well as they could be, so he went to the director suggested a different angle, the director liked it and put him in charge of some sub set camera crew or something like that.

Gradually he worked his way up from there, but that was the door opening just a crack.

I think my door opening a crack was that acceptance speech at the Golden Kite award. I do believe that I arched a few eyebrows. But we’ll see.

All in all, it was well worth seeing that James Cameron interview. He’s a real artist who works on his craft, in ever sense of the word.

Later in the evening I watched District 9 that movie by Peter Jackson. Wow! What a contrast!

I asked my son how the movie had done on Rotten Tomatoes and he said it had received mixed reviews.

It’s clear that Jackson’s intention is to parallel the treatment of these aliens with the treatment of illegal aliens and the discrimination they face, but the problem was it was very hard to follow the first bit.

It felt *too documentary-ish*.

Lots of faux interviews and such, loved when the guy defended calling the aliens the ‘racist term’ ‘prawns’. He just sounded so reasonable.

I think it was a mistake for Jackson to make his aliens so ‘prawnlike’.

You need to know fairly quickly in any story, who you’re supposed to be rooting for.

The problem I think with District 9 is that the beginning was so disorienting, you really had no idea who the good guys were.

And for the first time I actually understood why my American publishers have asked me at times to just set my immigrant stories in America.

They said basically that it’s already a culture once-removed from American sensibilities, setting it in familiar American suburbia just makes sense.

And as a result, I do think that Jackson setting the District 9 in South Africa was a bit too removed from familiarity.

One thing I realized quite early in my career is not to get too experimental in terms of format with my writing.

The thing is the cultural context in my work is already alien and unfamiliar. Playing with form would be way over the top!

Having a basic story structure basically gives the reader something to hold on to so they don’t feel too disoriented.

I know Jackson must have been drawing parallels with apartheid, they come through loud and clear! But still, the unfamiliarity of the South African setting and the South African accents was very disorienting, even to me, who’s been to South Africa!

In fact that’s one thing I did kind of enjoy about the movie, thinking, “Hey I was there!”

Once the story got to a certain point, it really picked up! Then I thought it was quite compelling and really enjoyed the whole thing.

But that said I wondered if most people wouldn’t have given up on it by then.

All in all, I highly recommend it!