Book Review: The Mueller Report

The Mueller Report by Robert S. Mueller makes for a somewhat different kind of book review.

Well, I did it. I slugged through the entire report. It’s all free online, don’t even have to steal it.

As eBooks go, this is not the most entertaining page-turner. There are a lot of footnotes, for example, which tend to interrupt the flow.

Moreover, as a narrative this is one of the all-time most anticlimactic stories ever told.

Rather than a book to be judged on its own merits, it’s really more about the news cycle context than anything else.

All this makes it rather difficult to review.

But let us try. Firstly, the context of Volume I: This section heavily details Russian interference in that infamous 2016 election via social media spamming as well the DNC hack. Is this still a controversial fact in some circles? If you are interested in learning about the IRA—the Internet Research Agency—this report is as good a source as any. If you dismiss it as a left-wing conspiracy theory fake news or something, then apparently nothing will truly convince especially some legalistic government report.

The schizophrenia of the U.S. government at this time is quite fascinating, how the highest level of the executive branch can have such a different spin than the entire intelligence apparatus (although recent tweets may have finally admitted that he had help, if tweets are something we are going to get into then).

Which perhaps is the whole point. In these post-truth times, can anyone be convinced of anything anymore?

Then we have endless detail on collusion. Yes, outright collusion. There’s a colorful cast of characters, such as foreign policy “expert” George Papadopoulos and the ever-present diplomat Sergey Kislyak. There’s Richard Gates, Roger Stone, and of course Don Jr. and the big tower meeting. What a stream of reports and reports and reports about how much they welcomed Russian help and even tried and failed to further collude but couldn’t get as far as they’d have liked due to incompetence.

It does not make for a very satisfying read. To learn all this, and then find out that the legal definition for conspiracy is so narrow that they ultimately find it inconclusive and ultimately don’t charge the big guy. Cue the insipid right-wing exoneration talking points.

One particularly close example of what may be illegal, as far as specifically trading campaign work for favors, is the question of the Republican party changing their stance on the Russian invasion of the Ukraine at the RNC convention. This highlights the entire problem with the report right there–we have a question that is unanswered. Did or didn’t officials in the campaign trade influence? This subject even part of the written answers with the president, which were dismissed and sadly not followed up on. More on that failure of a Q & A below.

These near-misses continue; again and again it’s a running theme. Was it illegal for Don Jr. to have a meeting with Russians, whether or not it was really about adoptions? The answer is yes, due to campaign finance law, that’s clearly against the law. But then… they say let’s go ahead and not charge him because he probably didn’t know it was illegal and it would be hard to prove intent in court and whatever in this case ignorance of the law is apparently a valid excuse.

So much painstaking research, and so much giving up. These impossible standards keep making it frustrating for the reader.

Not that there aren’t plenty of convictions and crimes uncovered. Paul Manafort was a pretty large get, let’s acknowledge that. But when it comes to the most powerful of the powerful, there is a sense of exasperation. That in the end, America is about protecting those who are too big to lose and the system will always find a way to make sure those on top will never face the consequences they deserve.

And at least we reach Volume II: Obstruction. Here is where it may or may not get good. There are the ten examples of the president unambiguously obstructing justice to the best of his ability. Public witness-tampering, changing the story on firing Comey, live on TV no less, demands of loyalty, et al. There’s quite a lot of that whole thing.

[And please don’t give me that line about how there can’t be obstruction if there’s no underlying crime. 1: That’s not true, period. If it was true, wouldn’t it be an incentive to obstruct because if it works criminals would get away with the crime? 2: More importantly, there were so many crimes! The president’s own personal lawyer Cohen lied about the Moscow tower, is in jail now, and let’s not even get into the campaign finance violation with the porn star affair hush money. If nothing else simply firing Comey in order to protect his friend Michael Flynn, a convicted criminal, then that is clearly obstructing justice. It’s not only about evidence of collusion/conspiracy at the top. There’s still plenty of obstructing investigations if only to protect his dirty circle. If that’s not corrupt, what is?]

So, then it all ends in a pathetically lame copout in which DOJ guidelines say they can’t indict so they don’t bother indicting. Yes, Mueller went on television trying to explain his logic puzzle of how you can’t charge a crime against someone who can’t go to trial, even though at the same time it’s not an exoneration, punting to Congress as he hints that only they can hold the office to account. Yeah, like oversight is going to go well.

This is the core frustration of this document, and of this entire era we live in. It is postmodern enough that everybody gets their own talking point. You get to interpret the entire investigation however you want. Witch hunt or a valid call for impeachment, pick and chose your own interpretation. Attorney General Barr certainly wants you to interpret it in a political way that benefits his side, based on his initial coverup-y behavior. Mueller simply wants you to be smart enough to read 400 pages and decide for yourself (one of the most naïve positions possible in this age).

In the end, everyone is unsatisfied and the waters couldn’t be muddier. So if you want a sense of closure after reading this, you will still have a long while to wait as we see how history unfolds. So far, to put it lightly, I’m not sensing anything close to a national consensus in the near future.

Isn’t it amazing? This was supposed to be it, and the polls show that right-wingers still believe what they believe, they even have a few quotes to highlight to defend their extreme rationalizations. While the rest of the country vaguely listen to mainstream news summations and have ever so slightly leaned towards kinda’ maybe let’s-investigate-more-and-maybe-impeach-even-though-it’s-for-naught-cause-of-the-Senate.

Sadly, it seems that perhaps obstruction totally works and the people will never know. The appendix in which the president submits his written answers are certainly more of the same. Mueller even says more or less outright that the questionnaire isn’t enough, but he must give up because a subpoena would take too long and he wants to get this damn thing over with. Over thirty answers of “I don’t remember” with no chance to follow up. Once again, the system let’s the powerful get away with anything.

Hell, perhaps all the good stuff is redacted. There are a lot of redactions. So if this is a coverup, then one can only conclude that coverups work.

The story is still continuing. The television drama won’t be over any time soon. In the meantime, the vast majority of Americans will not read this free report. They won’t even read the summaries.

I suppose all that’s left is to depend on the Democrats, and that is a sad notion indeed.

The country is in trouble.

For these reasons above, for this humble reader at this particular time in history, one can only judge this book however full of facts to be a terrible disappointment.

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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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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~