Christmas travel: Yangshuo, and Chinglish

Over the course of this blog, I’ve often written of my travels. Yet I never got around to having a particular category for travel. Y’know, like with those tabs above such as ‘Art,’ ‘Reviews’, ‘Comics,’ and of course ‘Chinglish.’ Travelling was but miscellaneous.

That ends now. I made a Travel category, and retroactively organized my old travel stories as such. Feel free to browse.

 

Now, I shall speak of my recent trip to beautiful Yangshuo (阳朔), which is technically a county as part of the greater city of Guilin (桂林). I’ve wanted to go for a long time to see what everyone likes so much about those limestone karst hills on the 20 RMB notes.

With several days off for the Christmas holiday, and the new express bullet train taking only three hours from Shenzhen, there was no reason not to go. Super convenient for those who hate flying but like traveling.

Off we went. After arriving in Guilin on the first day, which is more of a hub than a destination, we immediately continued our travels to the small village of Laozhai (老寨). Deep in the misty mountains, populated by the Yao minority group, it was very nice and all in all the essence of that feeling of getting out of the city. There were many chickens, some pigs, relaxed nice old locals, and under their guidance we made some tofu. Smallest village I’ve ever been to.

 

Pressed for time, the very next day we were bused to scenic Yangshuo where we would be staying for the bulk of our trip. The guesthouse was excellent and our host immensely helpful, can’t be recommended enough. On the first evening we went to bustling West street for dinner, and over the course of the trip much pancakes and pizza would be eaten indeed.

Bicycling in #Yangshou, #Guilin

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Everyday we rented bikes and cycled down the country roads to explore. Outside of West street, it becomes very towny fast. Little villages, epic views of karsts. There was bamboo rafting along the Lijiang river. I went horse-riding!

I am man. I have conquered #horse.

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One particularly nice view was along the grande Moon Hill rock formation, next to some life-size Transformers which I assume are not really allowed under copyright law but hey it’s rural China.

Somehow I think #Transformers are not legally approved. Look at that view of beautiful #MoonHill!

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Even met some friends. A couple known from their days in Shenzhen had moved to Yangshuo and we had a nice dinner to catch up, and by coincidence another friend happened to be traveling at the same time to join us.

 

Good times. The last day was bittersweet as it is when traveling ends.

Short blog, but you get the gist of it. The new year is approaching, and I said it would be a travel posting but I didn’t say it would be that detailed. Well I do hope to return to lovely Yangshuo one day…

 

 

Oh, and there was some Chinglish to be found if not that much and here you are:

I didn't find much #Chinglish in Yangshuo, but though spelled correctly aww this is cute

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Last of the #Yangshuo posts, a bit of harmonious #Chinglish #Engrish…

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Reflections on the year 2016

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2016 was, to say the least, a tumultuous year.

It’s already something of a meme to say that 2016 sucks so much. And yeah, that’s largely true specifically in the political sense anyway.

However, in my personal life I can definitely declare that though it’s been hard I can claim lot of positive growth over the past year. I traveled the world, I promoted some writing, I published here and there, wrote another book, and I even moved in with my girlfriend!

There has been a lot on this very blog worth share. I reviewed, I interviewed. And although at this stage it’s hard to say if it will lead anywhere, one of my personal productive favorites of the year was starting anew on my hobby of drawing silly little comics.

In thinking over this arbitrary marking of the Earth going around the sun that we all mark on our calendars, I have thought about it most nostalgically and created a list of links below. Here, a few posts that stand out to me to sum up the crazy intensities of this most epically year:

 

In February, right after Chinese New Year, I was lucky enough to be detained by the Chinese police after attending an unlicensed rave party. I tested negative for drugs and was soon released, while sadly others I knew tested positive, leaving me with the opportunity to write what proved to be my most popular piece of writing ever. The guys over at Reddit China were somewhat opinionated. But I had my say.

Hey it even led to a piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

 

With my novel South China Morning Blues published — from Blacksmith Books, Hong Kong — in late 2015, I was very focused on promoting the book all over Shenzhen (and Guangzhou, and Hong Kong) over the beginning of the following year and on. It was a big part of my job for months on end. The highlight was definitely in March when I went to both Beijing and Chengdu for a little get-together known as the Bookworm Literary Festival.

 

The travel it did continue. I visited the great country/not country of Taiwan as part of my girlfriend Bronwen’s art residency in May. Absolutely wonderful place. There will be more on Taiwan come the next new year.

And in June it was time to go to Israel for the bi-annual visiting of the family. What a trip I met some little nieces and nephews, saw my parents, had emotions, all the while some legal complications came up and had to be dealt with.

 

One event that really stood out in the summer was the art exhibition by Bronwen and some other locally sourced artists over at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong. Great work. I happened to write an article about it.

 

At last, the dreaded subject of American politics. Over the second half of 2016, I carried on with my life and moved and wrote and promoted, meanwhile in America (totally affecting the rest of the world) it all went well and truly insane. I became rather consumed in following the politics of the horrible election cycle. Finally, of all things, I was forced to start writing political columns. The anxieties of the day before, then November’s horrific results, and a touch of conspiracy theory commentary.

Sadly, at this rate I will probably have yet more to say in 2017. A lot more. Despite the apocalyptic scenarios at hand, I’ll try to be optimistic about the new year. What’s certainly true is that nobody knows what will happen next.

 

Thus was the year. I and you survived. Thanks for paying attention to me and my humble perspective. On a concluding note, let us mourn the actual concept of truth and facts with this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow… RIP truth~

Good luck to 2017, we’ll need it!

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Politics and conspiracy theories, a personal note

The world keeps getting crazier, and I keep having to blog about it.

I give in. I am now officially a political blogger. Sorry about that.

While I am not qualified to be a proper journalist or columnist, I hope I do have something of an interesting point of view. As an American abroad who just likes to read and has a bit of an international background, I’ll share. It’s my perspective, after all, and while I’m hardly the most knowledgeable person in the world I still may have something interesting to say on occasion.

For this week’s post I’d like to talk about the current prevalence of conspiracy theories—or as some would prefer the term conspiracy fables—in the current national dialogue. This issue is in fact near and dear to me, as I have been a fan of such mythology for many years. Honestly, I am shocked that the fringe stuff me and my friends researched back in the early 2000s, which I always thought should be taken with a grain of salt, is now taken very seriously by the mainstream. Yes, the mainstream; if you won the election then you are officially the mainstream.

I feel like my favorite underground band sold out, and sold out bad.

So here’s my story. I happen have the privilege of being able to claim conspiracy theory subculture even before 9/11. I have been fascinated by all kinds of things since I was young, and perhaps it was even a bit gothy to have an interest in the occult. Certainly nerdy. Oft times I lurked the metaphysical section of my local bookstores, and absorbed much.

Honestly, look up my old conspiracy bookshelf on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636-ray?shelf=conspiracy

One crucial book that comes to mind is The Biggest Secret by noted crackpot David Icke. Yes his whole reptilian thing is a joke and the British in particular like to mock him. But his books are interesting as a sort of thought experiment in combining every New World Order/Illuminati theory into one arch crazed mindset. All those UFO ancient astronaut theories, mixed with the extreme far right and “law of attraction”-eque New Age. It’s certainly… something.

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It was in those books that I first heard of the child abuse allegations that are now so big on reddit. Basically, I thought the idea that world leaders where all pedophile Satanists to be a highly improbable worst-case scenario and not worth taking too seriously.

What I still really appreciate about my reading at the time was discovering Robert Anton Wilson, who co-wrote the epic conspiracy satire novel(s) The Illuminatus! Trilogy. RAW, in a valid mix of philosophy and psychology and science, taught that everything is subjective on some level. That there are many optional reality tunnels, and the only rational way to make it through the paranoia of conspiracy theory subculture is by way of the radical agonistic.

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And then in the autumn of 2001 it happened. 9/11 changed America and changed the world, as we all know. At the time it seemed to actually confirm some suspicions that global government and authoritarian martial law really was just around the corner. I don’t know, perhaps the weirdness bubbling under the surface in the late 90s wasn’t so much predicting the future but rather Jungian collective unconscious. Who knows.

The Bush years gave a lot to be paranoid about. First there was the stolen election, then the mandatory patriotism right after the attack, and eventually an anti-war movement which never gained enough steam as the neocons invaded Iraq. There was much to protest, even if the protesters stayed in the fringes. Eventually history proved that the WMDs were a lie and it was a tremendous mistake to nation build in the Middle East. You’d think the main antiwar movement from the time would now get more credit since then instead of the new far right.

As a thoroughly self-righteous collegiate, I ranted on Myspace about the evil government. And, while hopefully maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism, I posted links Infowars articles and watched Alex Jones documentaries about how 9/11 was an inside job…

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During the Bush years, any alternate media source was appreciated. The thing about conspiracy theories though, is that we’ll never know for sure. If something is truly covered up, one can speculate but claiming to know for sure is dangerous. Still, I was a media junkie and wanted to consider as many sides as possible. I also listened to talk radio and watched Fox News and read heavily-cited books by liberal journalists. In trying to be an independent, I was no democrat and often took up the libertarian viewpoint.

There was a lot of overlap between libertarians and conspiracy theorists in those days. The Ron Paul candidacy in 2008 even seemed hopeful. Alex Jones, while obviously nuts for the most part, did seem to be one of many sources worth at least slightly considering. He was supposed to be against all government, smashing the false left-right paradigm, an interesting character if nothing else. Now it’s all gone to hell and it turns out the worst elements of the so-called movement, like complaining about feminists, was the only side that stuck. Infowars is currently a partisan hack website that only cares about one side of the aisle, becoming even less of a viable alternative media source.

I guess it was because I moved to China during the Obama years that I didn’t realize how extreme America was getting. Although I tried not to be partisan, I certainly had to eventually conclude that the democrats are the lesser evil (if one must get into lesser and worser evils). Criticizing Obama was fine by me, on for example issues of Wall Street. But being a racist asshole saying he’s secretly an illegal immigrant was not fine by me.

I grew out of the need for fringe conspiracy theory information, choosing to instead indulge in more evidence-based reading material. I have gleamed some valuable information about the Bilderberg Group of Bohemian Grove or the Federal Reserve or what have you, but it was time for me to take that and move on. I had gotten enough out of it, I questioned the system and all that, and then I was to learn about the world in a more realistic light. Little did I know how bad it was getting in the meantime.

An article about how many of the online libertarian scene completely sold out (or lied all along) to become the alt-right: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/09/how-the-alt-right-became-racist-part-2-long-before-trump-white-nationalists-flocked-to-ron-paul/

Well, here we are in the horrifying political year of 2016, and I may have been premature in considering conspiracy theory websites to be irrelevant.

It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around it. Fine, they always leaned right, but this has gotten ridiculously hypocritical. Logically, if someone believes that 9/11 was perpetrated by the government then isn’t that a bigger deal than where Obama was secretly born or Hillary’s emails? I do not understand the priorities of conspiracy theorists anymore. I suppose most of them were bigots the entire time, easily switching from the old Birch Society days with the ‘Jews run the world’ narrative to contemporary fears of Muslim infiltration; the fact that they were anti-Bush for a while was the aberration.

 

Here we are now in the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, and I have found myself arguing with grown adults about Pizzagate. Here in Shenzhen. Can you believe it?

I’m called a sheeple, and weird counterculture types support the tyrant monster that is Trump, because of Pizzagate.

That’s how bad it has gotten.

I’m loathe to even get into it, but here’s the Snopes if you don’t know already: http://www.snopes.com/pizzagate-conspiracy

Mostly I find it unbelievable that artist Marina Abramovic is a cannibal member of the Illuminati. Seriously, it is a dark theory and must be a red herring even if one does believe that the government is filled with pedophiles. A deep-level misinformation campaign perhaps. All in all come on, that’s just not a rational reason to support fucking Trump.

But the Internet has spoken and reddit can’t stop it and humanity is officially doomed.

 

Continue reading

Reading at the Shenzhen Writers Afternoon

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Last week on a Sunday afternoon I participated in an event in which writers based in Shenzhen can read their works aloud. It was part of the Shenzhen Book Exchange, which is an interesting sort of amateur library that English-language readers put together to promote reading and finding books while abroad. I’ve borrowed a lot of books from there, and donated a few myself.

 

Reading in #Shenzhen

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While at it, I decided to print some of my one-page comics and share them as little books. That went over pretty well. (They don’t work very read aloud but great to give away.) Now six pages long. The working title of this slowly-growing anthology is “A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales.”

I can #comics .

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I am somewhat afraid that I’m not very good at reading. The audience seemed attentive, but maybe I read too fast. Ah well, I’m not quite an actor but I hope the words are interesting.

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Reading from my new story THIS MODERN LOVE:

 

As much as the point was to share my works, it was also much fun to organize the event in that I found new writers in Shenzhen to work with as well as help to edit for translations. While I’ve read at the book exchange before, and I had a ‘Shenzhen Writers Night’ earlier in the year, this was the first time putting those two in particular together and I think it was a good forum for the city’s literary scene. I’m lucky to have come across these great authors, both established Chinese and (such as me) aspiring American. Here they are with links to their works below:

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Xie Hong
 is the Chinese author of 14 books, and he also writes in English. He studied in New Zealand in the English department of the Waikato Institute of Technology. Xie has won the Shenzhen Youth Literature Award as well as the Guangdong New Writer Award and New York Award. He will share some of his experiences in writing, and read poems or excerpts of short stories. He read from his poem collection The Story of Time, and the short story Casino.

http://lithub.com/on-xie-hong-master-of-chinese-unreality/

http://blog.sina.cn/dpool/blog/xiehong

 

Greta Bilek is a self-published travel writer and author of the book China Tea Leaves. Writing about travel in China, she finds inspiration in ancient poems, historic travelogues, stories told by Chinese friends and more. This is her second time presenting at the Book Exchange, sharing reflection from the road and experiences of taking on layers of cultural traditions as an expat.

http://www.chinatealeaves.com/

 

Tiga Tan is the scriptwriter and novelist. She has written more than 300 episodes of TV series for Shenzhen’s children’s channel and the animated series Fuwa for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is author of “G.O.D.I.S.E.T” a science fiction novel. She read from her short fairy tale “So Long, Aga.”

 

Nicole A. Schmidt is a published author, poet, educator and editor. She shared poetry, creative non-fiction and art she has created while in China. She is the author of Inside a Young Soul, and runs NAS Writes as an editing platform.

https://about.me/nicoleaschmidt

https://www.amazon.com/Inside-Young-Soul-Nicole-Schmidt/dp/1507800452

 

 

I hope you will take the time to look up these writers and learn more about their brilliant works! I’m honored to have had the chance to share the creative side of Shenzhen.

I’m looking forward to the next event already…

 

This Modern Love: A Novel by Ray Hecht (Book Review #34) — Review Tales

This review was kindly requested by the Author, Ray Hecht. A brutally honest portrayal of what seems to be the common mannerism of our youth and our society. Here you have four young adults living in four different ways, and each chapter discusses their addiction to technology, their odd ways of connecting to people through…

via This Modern Love: A Novel by Ray Hecht (Book Review #34) — Review Tales – A Personal & Sincere Review On Books Read