Can I stop blogging about politics now?

What a month it’s been. What a four years it’s been.

At the time, I felt I didn’t have much to add to the January 6 conversation. The new year was fresh, and I felt optimistic. The Senate election in Georgia gave me hope for my country, and also hope for my personal issues in feeling so much anxiety every damn time there was an election.

While the lawsuits trying to overthrow the presidential results were disconcerting at first, they were of course absolutely pathetic and nothing to worry about. If anything, it just energized the opposition more and more seeing that wannabe dictator lose dozens upon dozens of times all over again.

That said, America is kind of broken when the leaders don’t concede in lost elections anymore. If we’re not all playing by the same rules, the social contract doesn’t work.

It makes for some very dangerous shit.

Then, on the 6th, all those horrifying images. What can I say about the stupid bullshit insurrection that hasn’t been said already?

I’m just sick of the excuses these past four years, with various apologists saying that “the resistance” has been overreacting and he’s not really that bad. Fuck that perspective.

This was an evil unique to American history. And yeah, a lot of evils that happened before were also bad. Many things have been bad. It would be nice though to get to have some progress in the 21st century, to get better as a society, instead of having this terrible form of bigotry and authoritarianism backsliding so horrifyingly.

It’s damn irritating.

Well, guess we made it to the other side. Inauguration has come and gone and all that.

Peaceful transfers of power aren’t a thing in America from now on, which we’ll have to get used to forever. Doesn’t really feel like mine is a normal country anymore. It was quite a record, all those centuries.

I didn’t appreciate how important that was before. Took it for granted, didn’t we?

So. That said. Of course America is not suddenly a utopia just because one terrible menace is out. It’s important to hold the new president accountable, and corporatism and all the other -isms affect both parties. Still, I believe that this administration will be held more accountable due to the new generation that has awakened politically. It’s not going to go back to the complacent status quo. A whole hell of a lot of people will demand better from now on, and that is something to be optimistic about indeed.

Healthcare, police brutality, universal basic income, economics, climate change, discrimination, sexual harassment, war, diplomacy, foreign policy, the courts, technology, automation, misinformation, education, and of course the dreaded pandemic. At least there’s a good chance now that it’s all going to get better!

But I don’t feel like I’m qualified to be a political commentator any longer. I’ve shared how I felt from time to time in these writings, and I certainly have a lot of opinions. I may even review a book on current events from time to time.

Yet, when the boring and flawed party is back in charge, then I get to take it a little easier. I deserve it.

Let’s enjoy the promises of this better future, and not worry so much. At the same time, let’s still stay active and demand a more equitable system from our lawmakers.

Vote. Learn about the issues. Educate yourself for God’s sake. Also, at some point, do take a break and relax when possible…

 

2021

Well, looks like we made it. A whole new year.

What an accomplishment!

Feels like the time for one of those particularly reflective end-of-the-year retrospectives, doesn’t it?

Much has already been said about how unique a time it has been, without getting into the morbidity of the topic. Perhaps I cannot add so much. Suffice to say it’s been hard times for a hell of a lot of people. No doubt about that.

Just hope it’s not terribly naïve to be cautiously optimistic now that we will soon enter a new era…

Life is never easy, and there will be a lot of challenges ahead. That said, it simply has to get better.

Right?

Things seemed to have truly turned around, or at least started to turn around, just at the very end. Politically speaking, that is. Yes, things are by no means all better just yet. That will take a lot of work, but the worst is seriously over with back in the home country and that makes for some real reason to feel hope.

Anyways, personally life is good here in Taiwan and I am grateful to be here. I get to be part of a positive community, I get to work for a living (though I don’t love that part), and I even get to be creative and then share my creativity from time to time. This current year started out with a cancellation of a book fair, and then we all had to wear masks. Blech. I would have liked to promote my own books a bit more, make some progress in that field instead of hit pause. Yet I did get to do a book fair last month so that was cool.

I changed jobs this year, I participated in an unlicensed regional Burn event, and I only traveled in-island. I even voted.

I survived the holidays, and now there’s only one more all-night party to go to with which to ring in the new year and that’s gonna be a lot of fun 😄

Like everybody else out there, I have many goals for 2021. I need to catch up on my own prose writing and share a new novel when the time comes. Exercise, studying, I generally need to get it together personal growth-wise on so many fronts.

I also look forward to watching many movies after we’re all vaccinated and pop cultural life goes back to normal. I have much to read and series to binge.

So much to do indeed….

At least we have a chance.

Here’s to the rest of the world, maybe just maybe we’ll make it ~

2020

I don’t know how to feel about the rush of current events.

There is obviously some very good news. It was long dragged out, but seems to be coming to a close, and celebrations are indeed in order. That feeling of relief as a dead weight is assuredly going to go, sooner or later. Incredible times, especially after so much uncertainty.

But it’s still a lot to process. I’ll spare any readers from all my obnoxious political opinions, well-thought as I’d like to think them to be, and just express how this state of affairs still leaves me anxious.

I’m no pundit. I have my perspective, and I like to read and review and share my thoughts, but there’s not really any reason people should listen to me.

That said, I simply cannot escape this terrible sense that tens of millions of my fellow countrymen are undeniably bad people. I had no idea it could get this bad. It’s not worth it anymore debating and talking about fake news and racial bias and social hierarchies and brainwashing etc. It’s a fact and here we are. They are bad people and there so many of them.

What is my country and the world going to do?

Well, turns out in the end, the good guys (or at least the moderate-not-that-evil guys) have won/will win. The fight for so many issues goes on, for healthcare and peace and freedom, no doubt about it, and at the very least there’s still a chance now… perhaps state of the world can actually survive at this rate and progress…

I voted from afar. Funny thing, as a matter of fact, it’s the first time I have voted for the winning team. It seemed an emergency so I had to. But I remain an American abroad, a privileged expat, incredibly lucky to live in the only country on earth to have defeated the pandemic. I do have to wear a mask everywhere, slightly annoying, and there’s danger from the mainland, but above all I am in the greatest social democracy in Asia and I am grateful to be here.

Been weird staying on the island for an entire year. No travel, no airplanes. No visiting relatives, no exploring new cultures. And yet right now I am far luckier than the vast majority of the planet.

To feel hope for the environment of this world, for the climate, for the very air, and to have so much reason to worry at the same time. It’s all come to ahead, and 2020 isn’t even over. It looks like the danger to democracy isn’t going anywhere in the next couple of months, plenty of anxiety is going to continue. At the same time, hope exists. Humans may, believe it or not, make it through this.

Going back to ‘normal’ or not, there is a future. If we can survive the grueling present.

This damn year. Let’s try to make it through this, everyone.

Fracture: short story by Xie Hong

Fracture is a short work of Chinese fiction written by Shenzhen-based author Xie Hong, translated by Ding Yan and edited by yours truly. Below is the link as recently published by the Los Angeles Review of Books’ China Channel, please enjoy reading:

https://chinachannel.org/2019/04/11/fracture

 

Fracture

Wishing a Happy 2019! And may this all be over with soon…

Happy New Year!

So at this time of reflection, I think back on 2018 and all that’s happened. It was yet another great personal year, while the world around seemed to fall apart…

Obviously, if you’ve been paying attention, my own big news is that I’ve been working on my autobiographical comic Always Goodbye. Stay tuned for more. Eventually, a completed book. (Guess this is replacing my ‘career’ as a prose author, huh)

This past year I moved to the more central part of Taipei, and I’m continuing to enjoy living in Taiwan. As more and more news develops from the bamboo curtain–like that social credit score everyone is talking about but I’m not even going to get into–I’m quite glad to have escaped the People’s Republic.

I kind of did a ridiculous amount of travel in ’18. I started out last New Year’s in Japan,  then went to Africa,  and in the summer I returned to America to sadly sell my entire comics collection. For 2019, I plan to not get into an airplane even once.

And there were a whole lot of superhero movies.

As for the rest of the world. Well, politics. It was an exhausting year in which most things seem to have gotten worse, but there was also a bit of hope. Personally, I’m so very over it. Perhaps it’s all finally coming to a head. This chapter of history needs to close already, doesn’t it?

It’s been a while since I felt like writing an entire overt political post, and I’m sure you all know by now how I truly feel. American has learned some dark things about itself, and the time has come to get better. Consequences may be in the coming. And once it’s over with, I hope to never ever say the T-word for the rest of my life because that guy has gotten enough of my bloody attention and I’d just rather focus on other things.

Well, here’s hoping!

Please have yourselves a great 2019, everyone 😀

 

Ray

 

Death Notice: A Novel

There’s a new Chinese novel, now translated to English, that has been getting a lot of buzz from Western media lately. I am proud to say that I was a part of the English-language editing process and helped bring this story into fruition:

 

Death Notice is by bestselling author Zhou Haohui–translated by Zac Haluza and published by Doubleday. It’s a thrilling mystery story about a vigilante-killer terrorizing the police in the city Chengdu. The twists and turns make for a great ride, and is an excellent read for any fans of Hong Kong police dramas (which is appropriate, as the upcoming film adaptation will actually take place in Hong Kong). Check it out via Amazon or your local bookstore.

I’m very honored that the translation company China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation/CEPIEC, the same who brought famed science fiction trilogy The Three-Body Problem to the world, approached me so that I could add my take to the drafting process. Recently published by Doubleday, I hope that a new round of readers will experience what I did when I delved into the journey of Eumenides and his foes…

And, wait until you see what happens when the sequel is published next year!

Below are some links of articles about the series and the author. The New York Times being particularly impressive, also note NPR and China Daily for further perspectives.

 

Good readings to all–

 

 

 

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/09/613466287/in-death-notice-the-thrills-dont-quite-translate

 

 

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201806/10/WS5b1c87bfa31001b82571f209.html

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).

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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!

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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