Causal Gamer 3: Wii U

As I’ve sporadically shared from time to time, I am something of a casual gamer (rather, a retro gamer), and I am mainly a Nintendo man.

This is partly due to it being a nostalgic holdover from childhood, partly because I don’t have enough free time to further embrace the wider gaming world, and also possibly a  genuine love of the innocent fun of hopping and bopping about with Mario and friends.

Yeah, maybe it’s mostly the nostalgia as much as anything but nothing wrong with that.

Since my last post, I got not only the mini NES classic but also the mini Super NES classic which has been that much exponentially better. I immediately played Super Mario World for the nth time all the way to the Special Zone, plus Yoshi’s Island and Mario Kart and so many others.

Actual serious gaming consisted of the classic RPG Secret of Mana which I have now officially beat (again).

Goodbye, #SecretofMana… #Nintendo #SNES #90s

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

Next on the list is finishing up Mario RPG, almost done, and then I may put this away for a little while.

Not to mention on my 3DS I’ve been enjoying Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which happens to be a spiritual sequel to the original Mario RPG. Those games are always very very fun.

 

But in fact this post is not about that, this post is about my new Wii U!

 

See, it was recently my birthday and I received the greatest gift a boy could ask for… And yes I know, I am still behind the times. I’ll get a Switch next year or so. Mario Odyssey is supposed to be a masterpiece and everything, but I’ll be patient and wait. Generally, I seem to be one generation behind and I am okay with that.

I had a Wii for a while in a previous era and it was great fun, but I sold it last time I moved. I’ve been waiting patiently to upgrade and catch up. Nothing like playing Mario Party with friends.

The Wii U came with Nintendo Land which is cool, but I have much more to do. It’s a particularly good system in that I can also purchase older games to download from the Nintendo archives, and those classic ones aren’t expensive at all.

Mario Party 2 from the Nintendo 64 for example is high on the list:

 

However, am I too focused on Nintendo? One game I absolutely must geek out on is Lego Marvel. To be honest, Lego Marvel 2 is the top game I want to play when I do eventually get a Switch. I adore those Lego games, and I played lot of the 3DS. All the Batman DC Super Heroes, Lego Avengers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sadly, Lego Marvel for the 3DS was the weakest transition to a handheld console, and so I must redeem it by finally playing the real one.

 

Ah, who am I kidding? Legos and super-heroes are great, but I’m mostly in it for the Mario.

The totally absolute number one game I have been extremely waiting to play is Super Mario 3D World. The first smaller Mario 3D Land for was one of the funnest experiences I have ever had. The perfect blend of old school aesthetic and multi-dimensionally jumping around. There’s a lot on my growing list, but this is the very next one I intend to get. And once I do, I may not go outdoors for a little while…

 

This is my plan.

What do you think? Any other recommended games I should get soon? There’s the side-scrolling New Mario Bros U, there’s Mario Kart 2 and/or Mario Kart 8. Sadly, please note that I am not very good at Zelda games.

So, tell me what should be next!

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Current Flow Language Learning: The Evolution of Language

A fascinating guest post from Current Flow Language Learning, a language learning platform which I’m happy to promote. Links below: 

“Survival of the fittest” is a term that refers to the survival of organisms best adapted to an environment. Languages follow a similar pattern, changing over time and adjusting to new circumstances. Just as many organisms have had to make necessary adaptations to survive, people make adjustments to languages in order to make them more efficient.

As an English language teacher, one of the challenges I face when teaching is explaining the difference between the way English works in theory and the way English works in practice. We always must differentiate formal English from informal English. For example, you probably won’t find the word “gonna” in a textbook (in fact my spell check just marked the word red). ‘Gonna’ is a contracted, informal way of saying “going to.” ‘Gonna’ is also a commonly spoken word in American English, despite the fact that it is not proper English. If you were to read an article in the New York Times or listen to a lecturer at Harvard, you might not see or hear this form of my native language. However, in a regular conversation with the average English speaker, it is likely that you will hear words such as ‘woulda’ ‘go head’ and ‘y’all.’ None of these commonly used words are new, in fact, they have been parts of the English lexicon for decades now, yet these words remain improper and informal English. Why is that despite what people are taught, words and phrases go through various evolutions?

According to the Linguistic Society of America, every language is “always changing, adapting, and adapting to the needs of its users.” The problem with these constant evolutions and adaptations is that English language textbooks, dictionaries, classes, and curriculums do not keep pace.  It is not realistic for English language resources to keep up with every minor adjustment to the English language but in my opinion, the average English language resource is well behind the current state if the English language. For example, despite its common usage, ‘kinda’ is not even listed in the Merriam Webster dictionary. ‘Gonna’ however was able to gain admission into this prestigious institution. The criterion for induction into “official” English resources is a topic I’ll go more into detail in another post. The question I want to focus on now is whether or not it’s ‘wrong’ to use improper or informal English?

To answer this question, context plays an important part. It is definitely wrong to use words like ‘y’all’ and ‘woulda’ when writing a paper for an English composition class. The truth is that two people having a casual conversation will not speak perfect ‘textbook’ English. The average person most likely won’t nitpick over grammar errors as long as they can understand what is being said. Despite what some people may think, informal English has its own set of unspoken rules. For example, ‘ain’t’ is a contraction that means am not, are not, or is not. “I ain’t goin to school.” (I am not going to school). The improper word can also mean have not or has not. “I ain’t been to school all week” (I haven’t been to school all week.) What’s important to notice here is that whether you consider the word to be ‘real’ English or not, it’s usage is generally used within a specific set of parameters. People who regularly use the word ‘ain’t’ know when and how to use it, but they also know when it is being misused. ‘Ain’t’ would never be used as a noun or an adjective. This disputed word can best be described as a contraction of various auxiliary verbs and the word not. Likewise, in the unwritten rules of informal English, ‘kinda’ is an adverb that shares the same meaning as its counterpart ‘kind of.’ To be clear, ‘kind of’ itself may be considered informal by some English speakers. Standard English can be understood as one of the many dialects of the English language. Every dialect has a set of rules that are followed whether proper or improper.

The most important factor in determining whether an alternate English dialect is wrong or not is whether or not the speaker or writer can be understood. At the end of the day, languages are primarily used for communication. The standard I use for casual conversations, text messages and non-commercial social media posts, is, “Does what you just said make sense?” I know that my friends and family understand English well, so if wife sends me a text message that says, “I forgot the diapers, can you bring em to the daycare?”, I would not admonish her for improper grammar. “Em” is a shortened version of the word “them” and is commonly used by American English speakers. Most English resources will tell you it’s not a word despite the fact that it’s a word people use. When my wife sends me that text, I know exactly what she means, the communication is clear, and she used the word in the correct context. My wife’s English is not wrong in that scenario. However, if one of my students used a word like this, I would just check to make sure they were aware the word is not standardized English. Otherwise, I have no problems with people using a word that may or may not be considered ‘proper’ English.

Words don’t just get contracted and shortened, in some cases of language evolution, the meaning of a word changes slightly or entirely. The etymological fallacy means that a word “need not mean exactly what its Greek and Latin roots once literally meant.” For example, the word persona used to mean a literal mask rather than a figurative one. Another example is the word “decimate” which originally meant to “destroy every tenth of.” The etymological fallacy doesn’t only apply to the Latin roots of the English language. Over time, due to various factors and experiences, the meanings of words may change. Technological advances have been major factors in the evolution of words. The phrasal verb, ‘hang up,’ used to literally mean hanging up the telephone handset on the part of the telephone mounted to the wall. Today ‘hang up’ means pushing a button on a cellular phone to end a phone call.

Nikhil Swaminathan, a former reporter for Scientific American, wrote that the most commonly used words are the least likely to evolve. There is more the evolution of language than that. The experiences of collective groups of people sculpt and molds a language over time. The English of a person born in raised in South Africa will sound a bit different from the English of a man born and raised in Wales. Likewise, The French in France is noticeably different to a francophone from the French in Quebec. The way we perceive, understand, interpret, and use our tongues is heavily influenced by our experiences, friends, family, perceptions, technological advances and geography. Because of this, the way we communicate will constantly change and in some cases, improve.

 

For more, please like the Facebook page here– https://www.facebook.com/currentflow22, and also follow on Instagram for daily content! https://www.instagram.com/currentflowlanguage

 

 

Taipei International Book Exhibition

Soon begins the Taipei International Book Exhibition! TWG Press will have a booth at A711 and I will be there, selling the new Taiwan Tales Volume Two book as well as some of my other works from February 6th to 11th…

There will even be a free event on Friday, February 9th @ 8:30 p.m. in which the authors of the anthology will read excerpts and interact with the audience (at the Yellow Salon in the World Trade Convention Center Hall 1).

I am honored to be a part of it and it’s my first book expo in Taiwan. Can’t wait to meet more readers and authors and embrace the 台灣 literati! 😀

 

See more information here: http://www.tibe.org.tw/en/

Taiwan Tales Volume Two Released!

Presenting my latest short story

Taipei Writers Group

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2017 was, in some ways, a transitional year for the Taipei Writers’ Group.

We had a great time at the 2017 Taipei International Book Expo (TIBE), sold plenty of books, made contacts and plenty of new friends, and did well enough so we’ll be back again in 2018 (February 6-11, more details to follow).

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Movember!

Well, actually, November — and hence Movember — isn’t really over yet so I shouldn’t have shaved! But I just couldn’t make it…

 

Yet here is the before-and-after pic late into the month. Something to consider.

I lasted about three weeks. I tried out the month thing, and was genuinely curious to see how I would look by letting a beard grow. But it was getting too uncomfortable and scratchy so I took razor to face and there it is.

And yes I see the massive age discrepancy in looks–somehow I am both prematurely grey and young-faced.

Full disclosure: I can get be a bit of hairy dude. It’s not really my preference, but that is simply how my genetics goes. I do appreciate that facial hair is more in fashion these days, makes it a lot easier on me. A close shave every damn day is far too much work. Luckily no pressure of such in the current era.

In fact, a cleanly trimmed short beard is a common look that I think works and society/work seems to approve or at least tolerate.

Why I have a whole weekly system that works for me: How many days it takes to let it fester and how to trim well around that etc. before wiping the slate clean and starting all over.

Thus is my burden of facial hair. Anyway, from the unfinished Movember experiment above you can see what might have been…..

 

 

And that is all I can muster up to say on the subject.

Inktober

So for the month of October I had been haphazardly trying out the Inktober thing, at least for about the first week plus yesterday…

I tried out some ink sketches utilizing the themes of the day, and occasionally some fun drawings turned out. Always good practice, maybe not totally worth sharing but here you are:

My aesthetic is definitely more cartoony than fine art, but that can be okay right 🙂

 

October 4: Underwater

 

October 6: Sword

 

October 7: Shy

 

October 8: Crooked

 

October 9: Screech

 

October 31: Mask

Audiobooks – Part 2: Many favorites

As promised in my last installment in which I introduced my hobby of Audiobooks, I shall now go through a long list of my favorites recommendations. This post may be a bit all over the place but I perhaps you’ll find something you may like and it was worth it~

(Here is my full Goodreads list for those interested, and links to specific bookshelves shall be shared intermittently below)

 

First off, this doesn’t even technically count as audiobook but sometimes there’s nothing like a BBC radio drama–well, not always BBC but usually the BBC. Instead of one actor reading an entire book, the lost art of the radio drama employs multiple actors and gets rid of those pesky “he said” and “she said”s to efficiently tell the tale in a manner best suited to this particular medium. They are often much quicker listens than the unabridged texts and more entertaining.

Several classics come to mind, but above all The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stands out as the greatest. Trippy sci-fi and trippy comedy, nobody does it better than Douglas Adams! Interestingly, before any other iteration it was meant to be a radio show originally and that was always Adams’ preference. The saga started way back in 1978, and do check out the 2004 and 2005 series too.

Other noteworthy radio dramas include The Hobbit by Tolkien, Neverwhere and Good Omens by Gaiman, Foundation by Asimov, and Neuromancer by Gibson.

If you ask very nicely I may even send you the files but you didn’t hear that from me; support your local BBC and buy legit whenever possible 😉

 

Next I feel I must continue on the subject of Neal StephensonSnow Crash as said is my the best ever, but pretty much any Stephenson tome will give hours upon hours of thought-provoking big ideas and exciting writing.

The pseudo-sequel postcyberpunk The Diamond Age is quite well done, but my second favorites are tied with the epic hacker thriller Cryptonomicon and philosophical extreme geek discourse that is Anathem. I am due to even listen to those a third or fourth time eventually. Reamde is another fun tech thriller, and by the way next on my list whenever I find the time is Seveneves.

 

On the subject of quality science fiction, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the late great Philip K. Dick. A powerful and timeless author who prediction the confusion of reality-questing modernity more than anyone else, P.K. Dick’s novels are not too long and pack quite a punch hence well suited to the audio format.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an obvious recommendation (and Blade Runner is indeed currently back in the public consciousness!), but my ultimate top pick is the theological tale of madness VALIS. That one needs to be reabsorbed every few years for maximum pondering. Other listens include the also-currently-back-in-the-public-consciousness tragic nazism of The Man in the High Castle, and the random enjoyable mindfuckness of Counter-Clock World.

What should I listen to next? I was thinking either Ubik or A Scanner Darkly. 

 

If I may feel more literary, there’s always acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. The dreamy magical realism style makes for gooood listening on those long melancholic nights of travel and introspection…

So far I have only listened to a few favorites The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood, with the former being a slightly superior book in my opinion but the latter’s more grounded nom de plum stylings a better fit in the audio format. Kafka on the Shore made for an interesting production employing multiple actors but it just doesn’t seem to work as well. Honestly, as my reading tastes evolve, I find Murakami becoming more hit or miss. But the hits when hitting are still amazing.

 

Next up is my ‘not even reread’ section. What I mean is, because of my low-attention span I am a quirky yet stubborn reader so I have figured out my best method for audiobooks is to listen to one of my favorite novels that I have already read. It’s a great way to reread and absorb the content more deeply.

However, some audiobooks are so engaging even I can listen to an entire book for the first time and actually pay attention to most of it. These are the not-even rereads.

Often, that especially goes for books written by performers in which the performers say aloud their own works. Especially with comedy books. Yes Please by Amy Poehler was a great surprise in one of the best memoirs I had come across. A lot of charm and heart, with guest speakers. So far it’s the only audiobook I’ve gotten others to listen to! Bossypants by Tina Fey was also wonderful in a similar vein, and The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer didn’t quite work as well but did showcase a perspective worth listening to. And now I have just noticed that pattern has emerged with regards to comedian demographics. I should mix it up. So how about next on my list is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

 

Just a few more of my very favorite favorites to round it out:

There are the nonfiction social justice books, such as Life Inc. and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus by Douglas Rushkoff. I learned a hell of a lot about the system, man. The controversial Going Clear by Lawrence Wright displays a fascinating study of the Scientology Cult, an unbelievable true story of American insanity that left me on the edge of my toes.

Some newer science fiction such as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which may not always be as smart as it strives but is eminently entertaining. Gun Machine by graphic novelist Warren Ellis was a wild ride told in the grittiest of grit.

Lastly, the absolute most interesting book of them all is certainly Sapiens by Professor Yuval Noah Hareri. A sprawling history of the human race that gives a new light to all that makes us human, expressed in myth-busting factoid after myth-busting factoid. The entire anthropological record always in readable prose. It has since impacted me more than any other book I’ve read in years, giving me so much to think about with where humanity has gone and where to go next. I recommend this book to everyone, from cynics who need to get the proper big picture to naive optimists who don’t truly understand the past. An incredible book, and I just hope I learned as much as I can from initially listening instead of reading. (I did purchase the paperback of Hareri’s followup, Home Deus, so I should be all around good.)

 

That’ll have to be about it. So many memories of walking around the neighborhood and experiencing other worlds, sights and sounds and smells reminding me of the voices who told me stories…

What have I left out? So much! Classics like Orwell, or of the beat era like Burroughs, and important contemporary American authors Bret Easton Ellis and Janet Fitch. I can only fit so much in one organized blog posting, but in any case I hope you will consider some of these brief introductions and enjoy the possibilities of literature in whole new ways.

What are you going to read/listen to next?

Audiobooks: Part 1 – How it all started…

As everyone should know by now, I am something of a reader. At least I try to be. It’s not always easy to find the time, and I am admittedly a slow reader, but the important thing is to somehow schedule enough freedom to carry on the exploration of enough of the world’s fascinating books… and thus certain strategies have evolved with which I can make the most of my limited lifespan and still absorb as much as possible…

Well, on this blog I have thoroughly gone over my love of comics, and occasionally I like to share various reviews. Now the time has come to express my love of yet another literary medium: Audiobooks!

I currently have a special love for the audio format of storytelling, and it’s only been a few years since I have gotten into it. The brilliant thing about it is that you can listen while waiting in line at customs, or squished on a subway car, or jogging, or any number of transit platforms for a life ever on the go.

Personally, I have a rather low attention span and it is still something of a surprise that I have become so into audiobooks. I don’t recommend it for everyone. But if you do grow out of listening to the same songs on your shuffle endlessly, it’s a good method to mix it up and keep the mind active on boring commutes.

My best advice is to simply download a favorite book that you’ve already read–and only the best books are worth rereading–and experience it anew via a talented actor reading you a story.

Besides, isn’t that the purest form of storytelling? Oral traditions are how it all started for humanity, long before the invention of writing. Right?

 

Anyway, a cursory glance at my Goodreads audio shelf shows that I have apparently listened to about 80 separate works. Some shortened, some lengthy—

https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/765636?shelf=audio

 

Not bad, or so I should hope. But, you may ask, how did I start upon this path?

I believe it was in that 2012/2013 era, when I thought I had grown up and established all the hobbies I would have in my adult life. Fortunately there was still more to learn, new habits still yet unfounded.

Now, before I even got into the more book-length audio format (after a brief interest in talk radio) I used to listen to a variety of fascinating psychedelic lectures. This was during my mid-to-late twenties, back in California. I was especially interested in Terence McKenna and his take on psilocybin mushrooms as per extraterrestrial intelligence and the like. That sort of thing.

(Somehow I did miss the boat on podcasts. From time to time some good ones are recommended and I listen, such as Hardcore History or a good NPR story, but for the most part I am an audiobooks boy)

So there I was, and I had in my possession a digital library of the complete series by noted author Robert Anton Wilson. I enjoyed listening to his “maybe logic” philosophy, his take on reality tunnels and the mystical secrets of the mind, but eventually I had run out. However, there on the entirety of the set, I noticed that the great Illuminatus! Trilogy was included. Unabridged.

Hmmmm.

Back then, the only audiobook I had ever finished to was a CD of Neil Gaiman’s youthful tale Coraline, which I listened to on a cross-country train trip in my youth. It didn’t work at all; I was constantly distracted and had to rewind. Didn’t seem to be for me.

But surely the legendary epic that is the Illuminatus! Trilogy would be different? The classic conspiratorial farce is a series that I revisit from time to time in my life, gaining new wisdom, and I was about ready for another reread.

And reread, or rather first-listen, I did. The whole thing. And it was awesome. The first installment of the trilogy was best, even after they changed narrators for the final two thirds. The grand appendix was just like a psychedelic lecture anyhow, and from that day on to today I carry with me the memories of productively learning much secret knowledge of the universe while walking around the neighborhood.

 

 

It gave me such an interesting perspective to hear fresh voices which had previously existed only been in my head . The timing, the intonation, such a different interpretation compared to what had come before. I really loved it. My mind was sharp on many a long otherwise boring bicycle ride back in those months. I retained the whole info-space in a new way, and I dare say–at least temporarily–I was as much an expert on RAW as anyone.

Here, you don’t have to listen to the entire piece but a random skim may give an idea here:

 

 

I had discovered a whole new time-consuming hobby. The next step was to I had to figure out what to listen to next. There were a few options. Abridged books or short novels, poetry or radio dramas, so much to choose from.

I decided to go big, and the next major listen was the crucial postcyberpunk novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. At 17 hours I still contend that this is the greatest audiobook of all time, as read by actor Jonathan Davis. Hilarious, entertaining, exciting, and simulteneously shockingly intelligent.

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Disgusted. Horrified. Enraged. I don’t really have the words…

I don’t know what else I can say about the current events. No doubt you all know what is bothering me. That time I concluded America is irreconcilable seems to apply. I don’t even want to get into the details now, it’s too damn much.

I simply do not feel like summing up the events of the last few days in you-know-where and the comments by you-know-who. All I can say is just when it seems it can’t get any more disgraceful and internationally embarrassing, new depths are uncovered. Surely we cannot get used to this?

I especially don’t feel like calmly debating the merits of opposing racism and why Nazism is a uniquely negative thing compared to other forms of protest. The very normalization and mainstreaming of white supremacy is of itself outrageous.

Well, thanks for ruining everything Internet!

But really, I mean, there are so many other things politically that the United States and the world should be focusing on. Shouldn’t unequivocally denouncing Nazism be the lowest possible bloody standard?! Sadly, there’s a lot of backtracking and soul-searching to be done before anything else can progress. It is overwhelming to think about how much education is needed.

I also must say that I feel rather guilty for not being in the United States at this time. I wish I could do more. Here I am, comfortably typing from thousands of miles away. I should be there and I should be doing more. Another sadder part of me however is glad that I am thousands of miles away and not in that weird country. If there was ever a time to be a citizen of the world, or what.

And now here we are. A fringe group known as the alt right, the worst possible people in the heart of my homeland, the very worst of America, and they are actually being encouraged by the highest levels of government. I will never understand how we got here. Turns out I was rather naive wasn’t I.

It will be interesting to see what will be in the next three years. Impeachment cannot come soon enough. The tweeting and the impromptu press conferences and petty party (and tribal) politics, all of that needs to be over. We cannot take any more of this.

In the meantime, it won’t be easy to keep sane. I wish the good guys luck.

 

Anyway, the very least I can do is share this extremely important and extremely distrurbing Vice report which absolutely everyone must see:

 

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Cyberwarfare: Finally, welcome to the new normal of 21st Century poltics

 

In my series of political blogs of which I am in now way qualified to write (the last one’s concluding America is irreconcilable), I would like to explore the topic of cyberwarfare. Note that I am just one American citizen who tries to be thoughtful and learn what I can. Maybe I am slightly more worldly than average. Mainly, I simply like to think about these things and I occasionally share. If my perspective matters, here you are.

Let us think about the big picture a bit. Looking back on this time in the future, how will future generations remember the ever-evolving landscape of the 21st Century?

So, I recently made a Facebook post in an attempt to sum up my current thoughts as pithily as possible:

 

Been thinking about the real narrative that will define the 21st century: Cyberwarfare

Russia now attacking the United Kingdom, completely devastating the Ukraine, failing in France, and of course there is the fall of the former United States of the America. DNC hack a premonition of much more to come? The previous American administration revealed to have completely blown it, and the current administration along with their cult-like followers refusing to acknowledge this is happening (either for reasons of politically not being able to admit it, or more disturbingly because of collusion).

This is the future that cyberpunk science fiction promised us all these years. It’s finally here. Except it turns out not to be terrorist hacker kids to worry about, but entire nation-states—incidentally, the threat of Islamic terrorism may turn out to be a minor footnote in the grand scheme of all this.

2016 was only the beginning. We are in the middle of it right now, but we are too close to realize how big a deal this is. China’s PLA seems to know what they are doing, especially relative to the western powers. Israel seems very compromised by that American administration. So many players, from the ransomware attempts to IS and the entire European Union, who knows what is to come next and who is going to survive the century. Misinformation and illegitimate democracy, oh my.

Comey tried to warn us, “They are coming after America. They will be back.” He may have understated it.

The FBI and CIA better lax their standards, and hire potheads already.

It looks like the next world war is going to be a cyberwar…

The 21st century is going to be quite a ride

 

And that is about it. I contend that we are in even more extraordinary times than we even know, and we already know crazy shit is going down.

I refer you to this important article from Wired: How an Entire Nation Became Russia’s Test Lab For Cyberwar. This is very likely a blueprint for what is to come indeed. Unfortunate for the Ukraine, and the west can’t even seem to this warning seriously…

I’ve given this a lot of thought. The talking point defense of that certain executive branch it is that we should be skeptical of Russia-bashing. And also be against the deep state, or something. Right?

I just can’t buy it. To suggest that the intelligence agencies are unanimously in on a conspiracy to discredit the 2016 election is outrageous. It is on par with 9/11 conspiracies, in which hundreds of people would be in on it. Sorry but I can no longer live in conspiracy lala land, and we must deal with verifiable reality. There is definitely fire where there is smoke this time. Something is happening.

The DNC hack was *not* a false flag framing Russia. This developing investigation is *not* just an excuse to explain why the democrats lost. Outright cyberwarfare *is* happening in the Ukraine. And Putin is certainly no good guy fighting against some evil globalist status quo.

(Incidentally, it would be nice if republicans were so skeptical back in the days when the American gov was pushing the invasion of Iraq based off false WMD intelligence. Then again the mistakes of that era were pushed by the executive branch, so perhaps the lesson is that we should trust the independent agencies and distrust the politicians with corrupt agendas…?)

I have to admit I wasn’t sure about this at first. There was enough reason to oppose the monster in the office of president without getting into hacking and traitors and such. But concerned humans can no longer ignore the new reality. And waiting for 2020, or even horrifyingly 2024, to go back to “normal” is not enough. We now need to prepare for a century of cyberwarfare if we know what’s good for us.

Keep following the Washington Post for updates. Don’t follow you-know-who’s Twitter account. Obama failed us in preventing the fall of legitimate democracy in the United States if not the western world. Now the world must deal with an executive branch either guilty of collusion or in the best-case scenario they are merely incredibly incompetent. Russia is ahead of the game. China seems to know what they are doing, as America and their ally Israel are falling way behind. At least Europeans voters are getting savvy.

For fuck’s sake, American intelligence agencies just need to hire stoner hackers to keep up. Get it together already.

In a way, these are exciting times. Hey in the past week there’s even been a new international ransomware attack. It’s like Mr. Robot, except the stakes are even worse because these are entire nation-states fighting against each other.

Meanwhile the masses are easily distracted and the middle-America set would rather ban Mexicans and Iranians — but never the Saudis — than deal with the actual major threat. Misinformation is at an all-time high. Thanks, Internet!

 

Well, that’s that. And all the while I just wish I was raised to be better at computers. Why oh why didn’t I learn code??

 

Stay secure and vigilant, citizens of the world~

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

 

 

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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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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~

 

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!

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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