Short Story review – Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of Time

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About a year ago, I reviewed Ray Hecht’s debut novel, South China Morning Blues. He’s written other stuff too, like a couple of short stories here and there, and his personal blog where he talks about life in China. Full disclosure, he sent me this story for free when I offered to read it and talk about it. Normally I don’t talk about short stories on this blog, but I’m making an exception here. Because this was written by a fellow blogger and I’m not used to talking about short stories, I won’t be giving a review score.

Saturnine, In Her Head, Out Of Time is a dramatic short story with a touch of science fiction. Saturnine is a recent graduate from University who’s suffering from an event she found traumatic. I won’t say anything too specifically, but it’s about a former boyfriend who seemed to just disappear. She…

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Overdue Chinglish

Long overdue.

It’s been about three months since my last Chinglish post. That’s not like, what’s going on? Not for lack of photos. Guess I’ve just been busy…

Below are many funny pictures from my Instagram, in case you missed:

(Note the hats, car sticker, and various foodstuffs)

 

This is a salmon restaurant. #Chinglish?

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Empowering hats for sale… #Chinglish?

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This car is my fucking hero #Chinglish #ThatsPRD

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Now that's some poetic #Chinglish #ThatsPRD

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I like this toy because it says Ray #Chinglish #Engrish #Ray

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Something seems off, #Chinglish?

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Free eBook short story: Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of Time

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071P94QQ5

 

For this week only, my short story Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of Time is free for the your Kindle or smartphone Kindle app! 

A tragic love story about time travel and how weird we feel when relationships end, the story is sure to fascinate the brain and ache the heart…

At 7,000 words, what do you have to lose for a quick read?

 

 

Synopsis:

Saturnine has regrets.

Sometimes, she wishes she could go back and do things differently. Don’t we all?

She just found out that she can.

Thanks to the good people at Kronostastic Inner Journeys, Saturnine is about to “rexperience” the unresolved circumstances of her last relationship. Hopefully, as she regresses into the past within her own chronological perception, she’ll be able to figure out what went wrong and finally get over it.

However, time paradoxes and probability theory can really get in the way of closure.

Whether in the past, present, or future, life never does turn out as planned…

Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of Time: a science fiction tragic love story

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071P94QQ5

 

Readers,

I am pleased to announced the publication of a new short story entitled Saturnine, In Her Head, Out of TimeIt is a science fiction tragic love story, about the power and futility of memories. Also, I am just fascinated by the concept of the brain’s perception of time and so I decided to explore some concepts.

Read for the Kindle, only .99 USD (and the smartphone app is free if you don’t already have it). And if anyone would like to review, please email me at rayhecht@gmail.com and I’d be happy to share.

Please let me know what you think!

 

 

Synopsis:

Saturnine has regrets.

Sometimes, she wishes she could go back and do things differently. Don’t we all?

She just found out that she can.

Thanks to the good people at Kronostastic Inner Journeys, Saturnine is about to “rexperience” the unresolved circumstances of her last relationship. Hopefully, as she regresses into the past within her own chronological perception, she’ll be able to figure out what went wrong and finally get over it.

However, time paradoxes and probability theory can really get in the way of closure.

Whether in the past, present, or future, life never does turn out as planned…

Expat Jimmy

Expat Jimmy is the latest by noted China-expat author Travis Lee. This quick read of an eBook is more of an eNovella, or even eNovellete, and the brevity of the piece is in fact one of its greatest strengths.

Expat Jimmy takes place over the course of one day in Wuhan in the summer of 2008. Basically, it’s about the impressions of a young graduate named James as he is introduced to second-tier China. In some ways the narrative is not particularly original—many expat authors (yours truly included) have covered the angle of an ESL westerner intrigued and shocked by the modern East. However, in condensing this rather archetypal story into one day, Lee succeeds at capturing the essence of this sort of story. Wasting no time, his tour of Wuhan in the mid-aughts covers everything a reader could want: all full of wonder, disgust, fear, and hope.

The main character can be passive, as he is led around town by Adam who is certainly a stereotypical ESL teacher with issues. Yet neither James nor Adam are the true stars of the show. It’s the city of Wuhan that steals the limelight, and that is the point.

Then there is the one-page epilogue which maps out Jimmy’s character arc in more long-term fashion for a good sense of closure and leaving the reader wanting more, but overall it’s just about that one normal day…

It does strain credulity a bit that so much fills up one jet-lagged day. But it works, and I wouldn’t want to read it any other way. Even as the day progresses into bouts of drinking (yes, there is Baijiu), with all the harshness of sex and drugs and cynical interpretations of Chinese family dynamics, climaxing even to near-death experiences as Jimmy witnesses one progressively seedier scene after another; even including all this, the overall feeling of the story is enthusiasm. The initial enthusiasm still outweighs all else.

This quote says it best:  “I want you to take it all in. Every sight, every smell, everything. Because this is a once in a lifetime event. You will never again feel t his optimistic, the sense of wonder you’re going to feel at being in China the first time. Nothing compares to it and nothing ever will.”

There is just nothing like the first time moving to a new country.

So read Expat Jimmy, and learn much about Wuhan and explore that elusive concept of the so-called “real China.” Being such a pithy read, there’s no reason not to.

 

Expat Jimmy is available at Amazon.

Author Travis Lee blogs at www.travis-lee.org

America is irreconcilable

There has been so much in the news lately to fret over, hasn’t there~

With the 100 days marker having come and gone, there’s been plenty of review over how horrible this current administration is.

Luckily, if you call that luck, it seems that the problem hasn’t turned out so much to be ruthless fascism but instead it’s simply that the president is a total idiot and his people are completely incompetent. What else to expect from such a lying con artist? So not much at all has been accomplished, other than the very low bar of not a government shutdown and that they narrowly approved a supreme court justice which should have been a sure thing anyway.

Overall, the main takeaway is that the whole world is in an anxious mess worrying about what madness is to come next. The point is, constant worrying is apparently the new normal. Try rejecting that normalization.

Hell, perhaps my analysis last month that America is without a President is correct and we can hold out for hope if we only wait patiently. There’s even the interpretation that this mess is in a partisan political sense, because the party with record-low approval ratings may have technically won but in the long term the other party is going to make gains next.

But you know what? Fuck that interpretation. Too much damage has already been done to the American character. It’s not worth it.

I for one am sick of the double-standard in which America’s default is to have idiotic leadership, and the rational leadership has to try that much harder. Just why is it that everything is Clinton’s fault (which she herself has to acknowledge) but the right can get away with anything? Is this truly how the system works, that the left has to be perfectly flawless and excite voter turnout and have a charismatic leader at all times, and anything less that that must result in America being like this? Seriously, it’s not enough to win by 3 million votes!

What a ridiculously broken system.

In fact, I am currently debating with myself whether my moral next step is is to figure out how give up American citizenship altogether or to register to vote in my home swing state of Ohio. That’s a lot of inner conflict.

 

Anyway, I do have a point to get at. I think that America is irreconcilable. The nation-state as a thing is probably over. The nationalist surges around the world are the death throws of a failed system, and whatever corporate dystopia that is to come may or may not be that bad but in any case don’t depend on the government to take care of the people. Whether one wants healthcare or bringing back factory jobs, it’s not going to work. And it raises the question if there is much reason to have such things as nation-states anymore.

The reason that the situation is irreconcilable, in America specifically, is mostly because of the stupidity and bigotry of the people. Yeah, that makes me an arrogant liberal or something to say that out loud. Now it’s bad political strategy to admit it, or whatever.

But come on. The latest extreme confirmation of this is the recent poll that shows 98% of those voters do not regret their vote. Doesn’t get much more dire for faith in humanity than that.

I can only conclude that it is useless to debate with these people. No matter what happens, no matter what executive orders fail or what petty tweets praise dictators, a major segment of the American population is literally in a cult of personality. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. These people will declare any information they don’t like as fake news. They may not be the majority, but the pendulum swinging back and forth no longer matters. The whole system is a lost cause.

It’s interesting to note that the the latest bizarre statement controversy is about the Civil War, y’know those shockingly ignorant comments about Andrew Jackson. It makes one one wonder if it was a mistake to preserve the Union, and if the South should have been left alone to become a failed state without the support of the North. But then, that wouldn’t have been very good for the slaves, and slavery is the obvious historical reason for the Civil war no matter what neo-confederate racists think.

I just can’t even try to empathize with these people anymore. They are not my people. We have nothing in common. Maybe they should just have their own country and leave the rest of the world alone. Fine, try out your traditional values/theocratic form of government. While I do feel bad for the minorities who suffer under this, perhaps the best-case scenario is that they move somewhere better. Nowhere’s perfect, but truly some places are a lot worse.

And I honestly hope that the California secessionist movement takes off and the state becomes it’s own country. In that case, I would be proud to be a California citizen. Would definitely solve my personal quandary.

 

Anyway, this is old news from 2013 but I find it more pertinent that ever. Check out this theory from Colin Woodard about how the country should more accurately be referred to as 11 nations — including Canada and Mexico by the way. More a cultural North American thing, than that that outdated nation-state with borders thing.

This truly explains it so well. I may be a Midlander myself, but Yankees and Left Coasters for all their flaws are alright and can at least run a decent country and economy with a minimal decency of human rights. I blame those voters in the Far West and Deep South who have irrevocably ruined it all for western civilization.

And that there is all the sense I can make of it:

 

NPR – Forget the 50 States: The U.S. Is Really 11 Nations, Author Says

Washington Post – Which of the 11 American Nations Do You Live In

 

 

Continue reading

Beta read, anyone?

Hello friends,

Would you like a preview of my latest short story? It’s a science fiction tragedy, a love story, with time travel, about how we are all helpless to the unfair whims of destiny… and also includes some of my theories on how the human brain might be able to one day perceive time.

Intrigued?

Please email me at rayhecht@gmail.com for a complimentary Word file. In return, I only ask for a fresh set of eyes to catch typos, suggest rewrites, and perhaps let me know what should be expanded and/or cut. Or, just tell me what you generally think of the story and that would be most appreciated!

In return, I’d be happy to help edit anything you may in turn be working on.

Keep on writing and reading~

 

Cheers,

Ray

 

 

 

Watching Ghost in the Shell, in Asia

 

While I do like to write reviews on occasion, I usually go for lesser-known books and movies particularly if there is a focus on China or Asia. Generally speaking, while I do have my fanboy side, I think enough has already been written about big Hollywood blockbusters and my point of view won’t add much.

However, with all the recent controversy surrounding the now-bombing remake of Ghost in the Shell, I feel it may be worth sharing my perspective as an American abroad in Asia. Hope I’m not too late to the game.

First of all, I am a longtime fan of the original manga and anime. I wrote about my manga habit here, about the brilliant mangaka Masamune Shirow creator of Ghost in the Shell. I find the source material even better than the acclaimed 1995 anime film directed by the great Mamoru Oshii, but suffice to say that is one perfect film. The explorations into the nature of sentience, cyberpunk critiques of tech in society, and the philosophical themes about identity are all amazingly ahead of their time. (Actually,  just rewatched the original film for old time’s sake… And that only makes me loathe the remake more.)

Directed by Rupert Sanders, the new film is certainly interesting in the visual sense but so extremely dumbed down that it there is just no reason for the movie to exist. There’s already an excellent adaptation of the manga, not to mention plenty of episodes of the spinoff series and concurrent animations. Why do we need this live-action film?

I suppose that could start a discussion about the nature of any adaptations. Even if we were to go down that road and I’d grant that it’s worth rebooting these things for the sake of finding a new audience, I still feel the one currently out in theaters fails on its own merits.

The film doesn’t work. The streets of Hong Kong–or some ambiguous setting–full of holographic advertisement bombardment seems to be the only thing Sanders cares to add with any interest. There’s not even any nudity. The acting is stiff, pretentious, and not believable. Scarlett Johansson does not come across as well a reserved cyborg warrior with deeper notions of trying to understand herself. Batou, played by Pilou Asbæk, is inconsistent with his accent and not in the same league as the anime character whatsoever. Overall, it’s just like that other recent remake that was such a big deal, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Because ultimately the only thing these nostalgic movies succeed at is that they make you want to go watch the original classic animated versions.

But just being another lame Hollywood scifi action blockbuster isn’t the real reason why this film has been so controversial, and is failing so badly. Let us address the elephant. The whitewashing.

First of all, I was quite willing to give this universe’s version of the Major a chance. Fine, Scarlett Johansson is playing a character inspired by a Japanese character but named Mira Killian. She wouldn’t literally playing a person of another race in this version’s world, right? She even said so in interviews. I mean, after all the awareness of whitewashing the producers couldn’t be stupid enough to actually have her play an Asian?

I’d announce a spoiler alert, but in fact the trailer gave it away a long time ago. In more of the film’s stupid choices for originality, instead of the fascinating cybernetic lifeform Puppet Master as villain it turns out that the Hollywood plot is of course a complete Robocop ripoff. The evil corporation experimented on her and she has to try to get back her memories. The Section 9 team doesn’t do anything but get manipulated, and bring nothing constructive to the world of the film. So why root for them?

In any case, the trailer gave that away and it wasn’t a good storyline. But what’s worse, if you finally watch the movie the only surprise left s that the Major’s true self turns out to be.. wait for it… a Japanese girl named Motoko Kusanagi.

Oh, come on. Who on earth thought that would be a good idea? So there you have it, in your face whitewashing. Scarlett in yellowface. White privilege casting through and through, full of supremacist implications considering that cybernetic engineers “perfect” their experiments by turning them white, and with assumptions of whiteness as default thrown in.

That was just so much worse than it needed to be. Why Hollywood, why?

 

As a disclaimer I should probably say that I am a white person myself. Yet I do recognize the fact Hollywood clearly marginalizes minorities and that the idea of ‘white’ as the default is a supremacist trope which must be challenged. The media has a responsibility to be fair, and empathetic humans should care about these issues no matter what we look like or where we come from.

Continue reading

Review: The 100-Pound Gangster – a crime story memoir

Well, I have mixed feelings on this.

Published by Signal 8 Press, The 100-Pound Gangster is a remarkable memoir by former gangbanger Henry Lin. Throughout this quick read, the author details his unique Chinese-American experiences growing up in the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco, which were surprisingly rough.

Most are familiar with Chinatown as a touristy place, but specifically back in the 1990s there was serious criminal activity going on at night after all the tourists left.

This book is not your typical Chinese memoir.

The tale is very personal, written informally, and starts out with Lin’s bitter memories about his home family life aside his unstable mother and hateful older brother. Meanwhile, he had to fight against Asian stereotypes and learned right from the start to be tough as the way to survive.

The best parts of the book tell the lesser-know stories and histories of Chinese organized crime, the Triads. From the Jackson Boys to Wo Hop To, it is certainly fascinating. However, even if one starts out emphasizing with the plights of the author the book later suffers due to his increasingly unlikeable nature. True, the narrator grew up around fighting and can’t entire help that violence is always around. It starts with selling fireworks as a child, and then gets far worse… But the way Lin embraces violence—particularly against women—makes it difficult to care for him even when he apparently repents by the end. There is the disturbing focus on guns, for example, and his proximity to murder. Overall, it’s still very much worth the read to learn about this underworld.

Lin’s story gets more interesting as he rises higher and discovers family connections. There always seems to be an Uncle around to give him the leg up, and he eventually ends up in Hong Kong where he meets a Grandfather who is both high-level Triad and possibly a spy.

The story jumps around in time, then going backwards to describe his time locked up in juvie, a place with more violence where he befriends convicted killers. At sixteen, he is locked up for a stint that lasts years. During his longest time behind bars, the young Lin finally starts to reform as he finds hope by writing for prison magazine, and later he’s lucky enough to be selected for a troubled youth school. When he is let out, older and wiser but still quite young, he gets a new start and there are lessons learned which does improve his character.

Yet there is always hustling, or a “one last big heist” crazy story–it seems he can’t get away from money-making schemes. The marijuana game at least is relatively tame compared to the more hardcore gang activities of his peers, and Lin knows this. A large portion of his writing is devoted to how he feels for his former comrades-in-arms caught up in bigger messes, but that may not be something most readers will get. Even if considering The 100-Pound Gangster to be a true crime nonfiction book, it lacks the objectivity for that genre. And so the reader is left conflicted about the quality of the book.

Another issue is that there is a brief mention of romantic elements but only barely glossed over. I would have liked to read more about Lin’s private life which would make him more well-rounded, since this is supposed to be a memoir. But Lin priorities in his writing are clear.

In the final chapter, there is much moralizing as he reflects and wraps it all up. To be honest, the moralizing doesn’t ring true after all reading all that he previously went through. One never gets the sense, despite his intelligence and potential for good, that he truly is that much of a decent person.

That said, Henry Lin is certainly has an incredible story to tell and he does so with brutal honesty. It wouldn’t be an interesting crime tell-all if he wasn’t who he was.

In any case, this is some memoir.

 

The 100-Pound Gangster is available on Amazon

Shanghai 上海

Last weekend I went to Shanghai, for a reading. It was my second trip to China’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city, and though I only had a three-day weekend holiday I made the most of it and saw many sights.

We stayed in the French Concession area, near Garden Books, and on Saturday we went up and down the old colonial area the Bund along the Huangpu River . Where we ate much delicious food, and even rode around on Mobikes!

Here are many old buildings::

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Then, it was recommended to take a ferry to the skyscraper-heavy Pudong side. I liked the bottle opener building. And of course the iconic Pearl Tower. It looks particularly beautiful at night, an image everyone has to check out.

The shopping road Nanjing road as well herein, and that covers all the good spots:

(Plus, the next day went to the charming alleyways of Tianzifang!)

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And at last, we were lucky enough to discover this excellent glass art exhibition near Tianzifang. Curated by Chang Yi with extensive work by Loretta H. Wang, the Why Glass? show utilized traditional Chinese styles to showcase brilliant glass sculptures often with Buddhist themes:

See more at the Liuli China Museum website

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It was an excellent trip. I also got to meet Marta of MartaLivesinChina.com and I thank everyone who came to the reading. It’s an honor to share my work with Shanghai, and if you’re ever in the area you can buy my book now fully stocked there (as well as other great books)…

 

Until next time, Shanghai~

 

Missed Connections – a review of This Modern Love

 

http://www.travis-lee.org/2017/03/20/missed-connections-a-review-of-this-modern-love-by-ray-hecht

 

It’s like real life, but better – Tinder slogan.

Apps like Tinder are a natural consequence of a world of pickup artists and pseudo-harems, where 10% of the men fuck 90% of the women and everyone else is left paying hucksters thousands of dollars to learn how to play a game they were never fit to play in the first place.

Datings apps play a big role in Ray Hecht’s new book This Modern Love. Everyone is connected but everyone is lonely and we follow four of these lonely lives in Los Angeles as they seek attachment.

Ben Weiss stands at the crux of this book. Ben is an introverted coder whose relationship coldly ends because his girlfriend discovered his profile on dating websites while maintaining such profiles herself. Ben comes off as particularly emasculated, lost in a world of text seduction. “Cuck” might be the going term, though I’d never advise you to use it.

The others fare no better, even Jack who understands how the game is played. As they seek meaning, Ben pays for a sensual massage, Jack goes through women, Andrea sleeps with a middle-aged man and Carla writes fanfiction and does drugs, and no one comes away satisfied. There is no app or social media website that fills the void in their lives and love, if it exists in this world, cannot be distilled into a few kb of data and remains elusive to these people.

Although I initially thought I couldn’t relate to the people in This Modern Love, I think I understand them. In college I tried my hand at dating, with terrible results, and while I can’t empathize with Jack, I do pity Ben. Like many young men, lost in an increasingly disconnected world and a contest of counterintuitive rules which no one ever wins.

This Modern Love is available at Amazon.

 

by Travis Lee

That time, weekend Chinglish update!

It’s that time again, when I’m short on content and it’s fun to just share pictures of bad English translations.

From reptile food to special toilets…

Enjoy, and do feel free to add me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/raelianautopsy

 

#Chinglish / #Engrish update 1: Feptile food. Foor a #turtle. 🐢

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#Chinglish / #Engrish update 2: somehow I find this deep, right? Incredibility

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#Chinglish / #Engrish update 3: Of course, the special #toilet

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Here's a cute #Chinglish #Engrish tissue dispenser, because why not

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"Rod-like ham," that's an interesting translation for hot dogs. Also meat is murder 🙂 #Chinglish

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