About Ray

Long story short, raised in America from the Midwest to the West Coast on a starchy diet of movies and comics and science fiction paperbacks. There's a Mid-East connection in there too. I like to write about such states as California and Ohio, and such provinces as Guangdong. Japan being an interesting topic as well. Lived in Shenzhen, China since 2008 (has it really been that long?), a lovely Special Economic Zone Hong Kong-bordering chaotic city that has given me so much. I occasionally do some freelance journalism for various local publications.

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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America without a president

Once again, I feel that I should share my personal musings on the American political situation. We are now in the, what, middle of the month 2? It both seems that the times have gone by so fast, and after all the crap overload it also felt likes it’s been forever. Anyway this is my general update.

Near as I can tell, the most I can come up with for an optimistic interpretation of current events is that basically America does not have a president at all.

Think about it. No one is in charge.

Even if you live in bigoted right-wing bubble-land, in which it’s been “carnage” and the country needs fascism or whatever to fight the evils of centrist democrats, what exactly has been accomplished so far? The only real action was the oppressive travel ban, a disaster by any measure, and now there’s a new lighter version (which still makes no sense, they can’t even cite any terrorist threat from those six countries since Iraq was taken off the list. There’s no cited threat from refugees of any of those countries!) which my very well may be also overturned by a court .

Apparently, with all the nonstop Russian revelation scandals, the new narrative is it’s all because of… Obama! That boogeyman role just won’t go away. Funny how if you believe in that then you get to blame your own failings on the opposition forever. More on being divorced from reality below.

Even with the GOP controlling both houses, the repealing and replacing of Obamacare is a train wreck of nothing getting done. Why is it so hard after years of criticizing the healthcare plan? The president is supposed to get his way with his party in charge of the legislative, and yet still there is nothing. Hell, the only thing both sides of the aisle seem to agree on is that the new healthcare plan sucks.

And there is the fact that hundreds of administrative positions are still yet to be filled, because there are “too many government jobs.” Apparently this is due to real-president Bannon, who has said he wants to dismantle the permanent administrative state.

So in conclusion, this is not a real government. This is a shell of a government, with a TV president. Anything at all worth supporting exists only in the minds of the cult of the right-wing media bubble, and the entire world outside that audience demographic is looking on in horror as America just phones it in. All for show, and a shit show at that.

This is bad. Very bad. But perhaps, in a way, it’s not that bad. At the very least, we can know that these people are to incompetent to even run their fantasy tyrannical dictatorship.

 

So, of course I have to mention the latest tweets. What can I say? This is undeniable proof that the guy supposedly in charge doesn’t understand how his job works. He doesn’t understand anything about government, he doesn’t understand the separation of powers, which is kind of a big deal. Most bizarrely of all, he doesn’t even think to simply ask his employees if his predecessor illegally wiretapped him. His whole role of commander is to generate controversy on the internet and that’s about it.

Rather than ask his damn employees, this guy–who we know literally spends more time on Twitter than national security meetings–reads something unsubstantiated from the right-wing bubblesphere and proceeds to go on an embarrassing tweet rant. Why would he do that? What is the point of disrespecting the office of president so very deeply?  Is it really that worth it to rally his ever-shrinking base by whining about Obama, if that’s what it is, and therefore accomplish absolutely nothing other than making him impossible to work with?

No doubt law enforcement is not into this. This can’t be good for the FBI, CIA, NSA, and every other organization who reportedly no longer give classified information to their boss because of the valid fear of Russian leaks.

Maybe the true mark of this new era is that it doesn’t really matter anymore who is president. From here on, it’s just going to be idiot celebrities.

Ha, and can you believe that everyone was so impressed with the whole “the time for trivial fights is over” speech?? What a joke that pivot was! I repeat: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

 

It’s like, I used to believe that when someone becomes president the secret masters of the universe would take him to a back room and explain how the system really works. I assumed that happened to Obama, because honestly he did sell out on many issues. But with this guy, I don’t think those who really run things took him to the back room. I think they ignored him

Therefore, basically I don’t believe he’s a real president.

Sadly, in this new era of wannabe celebrity kings, many ordinary people will fall through the cracks. It’s going to be a difficult transition, and people will have to do a better job of taking care of each other as the welfare state and infrastructure slowly collapses. The environmental damage will possibly be the worst. In those few roles with which the executive branch is still doing anything, there is still tremendous damage to be done. It’s not fun for the immigrants arrested in raids, for example.

But overall, now we’ll get to see how the far society can go on when no one is in charge

And maybe just maybe it will somehow work out, and that’s the only thing there is to be mildly optimistic about.

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Announcement: Reading March, 24 @ Shanghai

 

I’ll be in Shanghai on March 24th, at Garden Books, for a public reading from my novel South China Morning Blues. I’m very excited to be able to do this in Shanghai, the most epic city in China. Last year on my book tour I was able to travel to Beijing, among other cities, and of course all over the Pearl River Delta megalopolis, but couldn’t fit Shanghai. Well, better late than never!

I don’t have a lot of contacts in Shanghai, so if any readers out there are in the area or know others who might be interested, please forward this to any appropriate parties. I hope for a good turnout of literary-minded people. Can’t wait…

 

And for more information on the venue, please check this link:

http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/node/272995

Casual Gamer Update: Retro Gamer

A while back, I wrote a post about being a Casual Gamer. At the time I was opening up on the subject of different aspects of my personality, my various private hobbies and geeky obsessions, and this one was about how I do like video games but I mainly just play my 3DS because my gaming growth was stunted at the time of the Super Nintendo. Although there are some exceptions, I mainly prefer a certain childish era of games.

What can I say? Mario, and licensed Lego tie-ins as well, somehow suit me.

 

I’ve been meaning to update for a while. Much has been played and won in the intervening years. There was the impressively grand scope of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then the most recent RPG epic Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. I got a new New 3DS, which can legitimate download not only NES but also Super Nintendo games! (I immediately played the hell out of Super Mario World, of course, and am currently stuck on Zelda: A Link to the Past.)

Big-time console -wise, I even beat New Super Mario Bros on my outdated Wii. Yes I know I should update. I like to be one generation behind on the main consoles — I’ll get a Wii U when the Switch comes out and not a day before.

But the main thing is I’d like to review is my freshly purchased NES Classic Edition, also known as the Mini NES:

 

This is the pretty much the most perfect thing ever made just for me. I was very excited when the trailers came around in mid-2016, along with everyone else in the world, and counted down the days until the release in the late months of that year. Then, when the date came, it was completely sold out everywhere. Frustrating. Unless I wanted to pay three times the price, I had to wait. Eventually, after repeatedly and annoyingly calling up the electronics shops in the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong, I confirmed it was really available and I finally got my affordable official emulator just before Christmas. Chutzpah pays.

I love my mini #NES classic ❤ Also I got a #haircut

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So cute.

As you should all know, the system contains a total 30 games from the 1980s. Totally retro, very ‘member berries. The setup is excellent, with the original controller and beautiful HD visuals. You can even save any game at any time, makes for an easier skill level considering these old games are often insanely hard.

I have since enjoyed playing my required Super Mario Bros 1, 2, and 3–can never play those too many times–and I’m about halfway through playing Kirby’s Adventure until the win. Together as a couple, we’ve played a lot of Dr. Mario and Ice Climber with a second knockoff Chinese controller I later procured. (It is kinda a ripoff that it doesn’t initially come with two controllers)

And yet I wish I had more time. I’m particularly intimidated by Final Fantasy, and Zelda. I can’t even touch Metroid. SO MUCH TO PLAY!!! AND SO LITTLE TIME COMPARED TO HOW I REMEMBERED CHILDHOOD!

 

Infinitely perfect as it is, one can always find a few things to complain about. There are a few notable absences, because I assume Nintendo doesn’t have the rights to certain cartoons. I would have very much enjoyed Duck Tales and Ninja Turtles II. No matter, many other games will do~

For the last time, many #Nintendo games! #Mario #Zelda #Kirby #Metroid #IceClimbers #DonkeyKong et. al~

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Well, guess I should master all I can as I patiently wait a decade or two for the Mini SNES…

 

 

BONUS REVIEW:

Meanwhile, as I was buying games anyhow I decided to pick up the new 3DS edition of Super Mario Maker.

And why stop there, got #SuperMario Maker for #3DS as well~~

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This is also a most perfect game for me. To be sucked deeper into the world of the Mushroom Kingdom, as Mario hops and bops along an endless array of familial challenges that will haunt your collective childhood subconscious. Seriously, I dream of those Koopas and Piranha Plants. I may have a problem.

I know some have criticized the 3DS version of Mario Maker in that you can’t share the custom-made levels with friends via Wi-Fi, but to be honest I’ve barely used the making aspect. I will get around to it, I just need more casual-retro gamer friends who live in proximity to me. While it is fun to make your own levels, and I am nothing if not a true and sincere Mario fan, what has really stood out to me is the ‘course challenge’ aspect in which you can play a variety of pre-made levels. Dozens of new levels, and each one could be one of four formats.

There’s the original Mario version, and the all-time greatest Mario 3, the more ‘super’ Super Mario World, and the current New Super Mario Bros. All the crucial incarnations. How amazing is that? The levels each have their own unique gameplay and secret challenges. From water levels to flying around. And the theme music! Some of the juxtapositions are great, for example, seeing dry bones and giants and doors in the depicted original Mario. And the ‘Weird Mario’ mushroom. I shall say no more.

And even for when I will one day run out, I can download more random levels online. This is truly the gift that will forever keep on giving.

Plus the handheld aspect. Basically, when I’m on the train and need the time to pass there is nothing better than playing a level or two from the Super Mario Maker course challenge. Even just as a mostly 8-bit/16-bit retro game that I paid the full current game price, it’s very much worth it. Oh and it’s all 2D but who cares

That reminds me, maybe I should get that ol’ Ultimate NES Remix while at it.

I seem to have found my own gaming niche, ay?

 

Well, game on then!

A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales

cover

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/701251

 

Dear readers,

Just for fun, I recently put together some of my recent comics as an “ebook” on my old Smashwords account. I don’t often use that website, but if nothing else it is a useful vehicle for sharing free PDFs.

Feel free to read and download. This complication of one-page stories is hereby titled A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales.

I also have hard copies in Shenzhen to happily share if you bump into me in person 😀

Tell your friends!

 

Moreover, if you happen to be a friend of mine on Goodreads.com and you want to be very very kind… Well, the funny thing about Smashwords is that even such a small ebook gets a listing on Goodreads. And I can always use reviews. So, wanna read and then quickly rate a few stars with your honest opinion…?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34213809-a-random-assortment-of-cautionary-tales

 

 

Synopsis

A Random Assortment of Cautionary Tales is just that — a random collection of one-page comic stories by Ray Hecht about the little things in life that haunt us so. No lessons to be learned really, just cautionary in the sense of the warning that everyday can bring new adventure in frustration, ennui, and meh.

Featuring: Umbrella Thief, Why Does This Always Happen to Me?, The Train, Sketch, a Run, Yet Another Semi-True Story, and the 4-part series Unnecessary Cries For Help

 

 

 

Guest blogger and author Ray Hecht on what it means to ‘connect’ in the 21st century

Classic Jenisms

ray-hecht-headshotIn this post, I feature my first ever guest blogger, Ray Hecht, an American writer who has published books about Ohio, California, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he has been living since 2008.

You can find out more about him through his blog: https://rayhecht.com/

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”

The quotation above is taken from the end of a novel titled Howards End, written in the 1920s by the British novelist and critic E. M. Forster.

It is also exactly the kind of quotation that gives literature a bad name.

Unlike Dickens, it is sentimental eloquence without human agency; unlike…

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Chinglish 2017

The first month of 2017 is up, and over in America at least it does not look good.

So let us distract ourselves with hilarious Chinglish pictures I have procured for your entertainment:

 

Your friendly neighborhood Smallpox shop #Chinglish #Engrish

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Don't look, that's Classified! #Chinglish #Engrish

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Stay classy, world!

Shenzhen Storytelling video – a talk on unlucky comics

Here’s a video of me participating in the Shenzhen Stories event, in which local storytellers tell touching stories of personal experiences. I was invited, and yes I was a bit nervous. The theme was unluckiness (being Friday the 13th and all), and my only idea was to talk about the everyday minor frustrations of my silly little indie comics instead of the usual trauma.

The event was excellent, with heartfelt performers expressing their personal stories. It wasn’t easy for me to keep up with that. Also, now that there’s a video I am again reminded of my annoying voice.

To my surprise, the projector didn’t work and yet it went over well! They seemed to like my comics stylings. Please listen in on the talk and the laughs, and judge for yourself:

Fun times~