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?

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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

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

So cute.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

BONUS REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Well, game on then!

Reflections on the year 2016

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Good luck to 2017, we’ll need it!

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Politics and conspiracy theories, a personal note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

That’s how bad it has gotten.

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

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

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

 

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And I said I wasn’t going to be a political blogger…

Maybe a small stupid thing and I hope to do more but here's me with a #safetypin

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And I said wasn’t going to be a political blogger…

Been a devastating week since I posted about what I really think of American politics.

I’m not taking the election results well. I, like most people in my world, did not see that coming. Does this mean we should’ve trusted Michael Moore and Ann Coulter?

Seriously, I don’t mean expats who are far from America didn’t see this coming, I mean everyone I know back in America as well as Americans I know in Shenzhen and all over the world. I had no idea I was so out of touch. That’s what really hurts.

I feel betrayed by the news media. Those liberal websites I followed with their pundits and polls — which I guess is no longer a thing in this brave new world– they had no idea what was going on. Huffington Post was worst of all, but all the sites suck. I’m over it. Since then, no more talk shows for me either, no topical comedy, no SNL skits. I want none of it. I deeply regret all that time I spent trying to keep in touch with America and it turned out to be a complete waste.

(No, I won’t getting into right-wing propaganda :post-facts” websites either. I am thinking of only following British news sources from now on. At least international news has a good excuse for being out of touch with middle Americans.)

 

I didn’t sleep the first day. I talked to my best friend back home for hours, analyzing and analyzing and trying to make sense. He didn’t take it well either. I ranted to my poor girlfriend nonstop about the American system and how everything is so much worse than I realized.

I want to be an optimistic person, believe it or not, I really do. But now that I realize the entire global system is so fragile it’s very difficult to anticipate anything good can come of this. Sure it was flawed. But now this? All the gains of the past have been thrown out the window. Nobody knows for sure what will happen next. Most likely, if you believe that the shit-spouting candidate will do what he said he was going to do, real fascism is coming.

 

Why did this happen? Because of the FBI? Because Hillary Clinton truly is that bad a candidate? Because of apathetic voters who stayed home, or the nationwide gerry-mandering that is the electoral college?

I mean, how can this be the same country that elected Obama? It’s so hard to make sense of it.

In terms of numbers, what apparently occurred is that the same amount of Republicans voted in 2008 and 2012, but Democrats voted in smaller numbers and hence lost all the swing states. So it’s not a popular vote country. Perhaps Obama is the aberration, an incredible individual who turned the tide on America on his own yet now the pendulum swung way back into the gutter more Americans are used to.

God, why couldn’t it at least have been a normal Republican who won…

There are new rules for politics. I suppose it might be interesting to see what may come next. I realize that Obama even beat Clinton in 2008 because he had such little experience, not despite it even that that was what the right criticized him for. Turns out experience is a liability. Americans like “outsiders” now or something.

And while third parties never did gain any traction, just about anybody can take over the major parties. What a damn tragedy that the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders out of winning the candidacy, how amazing it would have been to see how that would turn out.

 

I still replay this all in my mind and it’s so hard to find a narrative that makes sense. Just what is the lesson?

He didn’t even really try. He lost all the debates, his campaign staff was a mess, and his rhetoric was all over the place. Only the fascistic elements were consistent. It seemed obvious to me that he just wanted to launch a TV network.

I mean, it was the most negative campaign in modern history. Is it going to be this way now, everyone has to be as ruthless as possible to win?

And he lied so much. Pathologically. Anyone can look it up on Politico, or debunk myths on Snopes, but for some reason most don’t care about the lies. His base doesn’t care about his lies whatsoever.

Apparently, the biggest problem today is that so many people live in different bubbles due to their own Internet medias of choice. The right likes to whine about the “mainstream media” but there’s no such thing. Reality TV had a hell of a lot more influence than the news media. The new culture of anti-intellectualism rejects fact-checking and chooses their own facts. Thanks, Facebook.

And fool that I am I always though digital technology was going to save humanity… Shows what the hell I know.

 

So currently the narrative is forming that we are supposed to respect the supporters, because they’ve had it bad and it was liberal arrogance that pushed them away. We shouldn’t have called them racists or whatever.

Sure, snobby liberals can have their faults but I find this election a serious overreaction! I mean, seriously?! Boo hoo, people got mad because of political correctness and so you nominate a disgusting vulgar fascist.

Don’t even get me started on how I don’t understand women voters.

The truth is that humans are fundamentally stupid. We are instinctual animals that can sometimes be rational, not rational beings who sometimes give in to emotions. People do not want to learn. People want “strong leaders”, that is they want dictators.

I will certainly concede that the supporters are not all necessarily hardcore white supremacists (though many many indeed are). But the majority did turn a blind eye to some very dark forces indeed. They chose being willfully ignorant and made excuses for bigotry — be it against Muslims or Hispanics or women — and instead of thinking deeply about personal bias they had a temper tantrum  because they don’t like being labeled as what they are. Well at best, they are suckers.

I don’t think this new era is going to go well for the white working class. Let’s bet on it.

I guess it will be “different,” whatever that means, whatever it is people want so bad.

 

Seriously, this is different than George W. Bush’s presidency, which was very bad, or McCain or Romney or even what Ted Cruz could have been. This is ushering in a new paradigm of embracing the worst of humanity.

So here we are with a documented explosion of hate crimes and an unprecedentedly corrupt — from not releasing tax records to refusing a blind trust and giving his kids positions like a third-world tyrant — executive branch with no idea what it’s doing. It begins.

 

I’m lucky to be in China, now that China is pretty much certain to take over the world.

I may never go back to America. To be fair, I wasn’t planning on going back any time soon.

I do admire the new protest movement. I wish I was there to express my horror at what is happening and fight the good fight, I wish I could.

But what to do? Efficient governance has failed, due to a completely broken democratic system. I can only conclude that anarcho-libertarianism is the appropriate ideology in this age, everyone has got to take care of themselves. Let’s just hope that the environmental damage to the planet Earth doesn’t ruin it forever for every selfish individual out there.

 

Funny thing about being a hopeless white guy right now, my black friend really did see this coming. Damn I was naive. I assured him the monster candidate couldn’t win, yeah he wasn’t supposed to get this far but his base was fringe, that this was a story of Republicans imploding, and history would progress. He really knew better. He’s planning on leaving the country and I support that decision; it’s not hyperbole, he has the means to do it.

 

There will probably be a hero of the new left in four years time, that ol’ pendulum will swing back, but by then things will have changed so drastically it may be impossible to repair. I do hold out hope that something can happen in the next two months, like he’ll quit to work on Drumpf TV and we’ll be left with Mike Pence as a weak status quo Republican. It’s not ideal but the world would make a bit more sense.

 

I wonder if this is one of those “great men” theories of history or if this was inevitable because of historical forces. Is he such an enormous personality that he gets to change history, or would that have happened to someone else regardless at the rate America is going?

It seems around the world authoritarianism is gaining ground. Xi, Putin, Brexit, Neo-Nazi parties in Europe, Duterte, the recent coup in Brazil, Thailand crackdowns, the Likud Party in my homeland (I’m just going to go ahead and introduce myself as Israeli nowadays, not American. Never thought I’d see the day), and so much more everywhere. I wish people were educated enough to know how to properly blame corporatist elites for the ruined economy around the world, I wish they had better ideas about alleviating poverty and violence, but maybe it’s because of Internet bubbles or maybe it’s because of the human tribal instincts but in any case this is happening.

 

 

It really feels like we’re in an alternate reality. I for one fully believe in the many worlds multiverse more than ever.

 

That’s about all I can say. No endless links, no articles to quote with the hopes of changing minds. That never worked. That did no good.

It’s over, and this is the world we live in.

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What I really think… American politics

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So hard to choose just one Tom Tomorrow cartoon to encapsulate all Source: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/10/17/1582847/-Cartoon-Word-salad

 

 

So, I am admittedly writing this at the last possible moment. Not trying to change minds here, I guess, I’m just trying to figure things out for myself and express it as rationally and sincerely as possible. These issues are important and should be thought about deeply. That’s all I’m generally attempting to do.

I follow politics as much as I can, and as an American abroad I think it’s even more important to be aware of what is happening in the world. It matters. The times, they are serious. If you happen to be friends with me on Facebook, you may have noticed the articles I choose to share. While I try not to be too annoying or angry when it comes to political rants, there are things worth being aware of and I say what I can.

However, I’m not truly qualified to be a columnist and a pundit and I don’t usually take up this sort of writing. My journalism tends to be light, and my fiction tends to be about human experiences in small scales. I am not the kind of blogger to try to save the world or anything.

Yet now I am writing this post in a rush in an attempt to organize all that is going on in my mind. History is unfolding right before the world’s eyes, and I must attempt to comment upon it before the results of the polls come in and it’s too late.  Here I go.

*             *             *

First of all, as someone who generally tries to be a moral person I am going to start this out by talking about Nazis. Yeah, went there, let’s get it out of the way already. There is indeed a valid reason every argument seems to get into Nazis eventually, and that’s because it really is a point in world history worth making comparisons. And is it just me, or is it more poignant that ever?

I do have a point I’m getting to. The main question remains: Was the average German citizen in the 1930s particularly evil, or were they merely caught up in historical forces beyond their understanding? And moreover, where they victims of propaganda or do they deserve to be held responsible for supporting the worst dictatorship in history?

I used to lean towards the side that it wasn’t quite the average person’s fault. Both cynically and sympathetically, I used to conclude that the average folk of most societies would probably support a Nazi party if historical forces added up, and that it wasn’t really their fault. We must be ever more wary and question ourselves for that reason, so that we can have the perspective to not get caught up in evil ideologies. I mean, we should hope that future historians don’t look back and ask the question of why we of today are so evil. Shouldn’t that be a good benchmark for inner contemplation on human morality?

That’s what I used to think. I don’t think that way that any longer. Today, I can no longer help but think that the average German citizenry who supported Nazism – or at least was too apathetic to care so long as they’re Aryan – were terrible people and should be judged accordingly for it. I think this because contemporary Trump supporters are the modern equivalent.

That’s what I’m saying. As a (hopefully) thoughtful American, I believe that Trump supporters are terrible human beings and they should know better and don’t deserve sympathy and history will judge them as monsters.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a greater perspective. Like, pretty much everywhere is evil when you break it down. I live in the People’s Republic of China, which one used to at least be able to say was going in a positive direction until Xi Jinging took power. I have connections to Israel, which certainly does have its human-rights abusing issues and currently the Likud party in particular. I went to South Africa last year, full of upper-class whites who got where they are by way of apartheid. Even the United States has a complicated history of aboriginal genocide and slavery and oppression throughout the 20th century, and hell the Bush years of illegal war-mongering wasn’t that long ago and the Obama administration wasn’t as different as it was supposed to be! And that just goes for the countries with the most power, plenty of less developed nations have terrible challenges. It’s a complex web of historical privilege, apathy, and some brainwashing that usually makes it not totally the fault of citizens that their governments can be forces of evil.

Yet something else is going on right now. Something ugly. There is a powerful new movement within my country and it can’t be excused as them just getting caught up in a manipulated framework they don’t understand. No, they are willfully-ignorant people who support authoritarian policies. There is no other way to put it.

The Trump legions are not supporters of conservative economic policy which we can debate. They do not have some rational thoughts about being hawkish on defense policy. They don’t want to fix immigration. They don’t really care about how an outsider of politics can save the country.

No, what they have are racial resentments, serious problems with hypocrisy, and for some reason support a strongman dictatorship which is against everything good that America is supposed to stand for.

They are supporters of bigotry. They are supporters of hate. That is what’s going on.

I probably won’t change any minds by being all arrogant and mad. I do wish I had some brilliant arguments that would cause Trump supporters to soul search and question themselves. It doesn’t work that way though. Hey, it’s a post-fact political world.

Still, I have a lot to say and I must say it.

Something dark is happening in my country. There’s always been partisanship, and there have been ugly times in history worse than we remember regardless of the mythical “Great Again” that they’re supposed to make America. But specifically it appears that Internet culture is the difference these days, and it disturbs me.

Dammit, society was supposed to be evolving. When Obama was elected in ’08 – who clearly did sell out on many issues but didn’t deserve the vitriol of the opposition party the past eight years – it was heralded as a new era in terms of online participation. Internet-savvy young people, we were told, turned the tide.

Nowadays, with you-know-who on Twitter, the fury of ignorance has become the loudest voice in the digital sphere. As experts smarter than me have explained, the danger of online media is that people become lost in their own echo chamber and ignore news that disagrees with their preconceived notion, and they believe things that aren’t true. Facts don’t matter. It’s confirmation bias on steroids. Furthermore, the anonymity of the medium has let loose millions of fully racist commentors. The trolls are attempting to take over the most powerful government on earth.

Here is an intelligent article about the white supremacist alt-right movement which forms the backbone of Trump supporters, and everyone needs to read this:

http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/alt-right

To summarize, the young generation of white supremacists (or white separatists, or racial realists, or whatever shit these people call themselves lately) are very savvy when it comes to memes and propaganda etc. and have started taking their own trolling seriously. The worst of YouTube comments basically have a political movement now, and it is organized.

It really is that bad.

*             *             *

What happened? Is it the fault of new media technologies? I am scared it’s deeper than the usual pattern of how when the economy gets bad far isolationist right-wing parties take power – as happened in many places in Europe. I get that it happens. What I am afraid of is that although they will lose they are still going to be a permanent part of the modern American landscape from now on.

How the hell has this happened?! I mean, I used to follow conservative media. I did. I used to watch Fox News and listen to talk radio. I used to be… I shudder to say it… a libertarian. Of course, I do feel it’s important to be an independent and get all sides of the various issues that affect our world.

The conservative ideology used to be quite clear. The mainstream was liberal biased, and the best way to grow an economy was through free market principals. Oh, and welfare is bad. Then some optional religious stuff. That was the gist as I understood it.

I have since come to recognize that it was all a lie. For years conservatives told a certain story, and their audience ate it up, and it was a lie. Sure we know that the Tea Party was kind of a monster the Republican Party propped up and then couldn’t control any more. But it’s an even worse mess than that. Because Donald Trump does not even pretend to be a conservative on any issue. He is an extremist nationalist, and that is the main issue that his people believe in. That’s all it ever was.

Like really, Sean Hannity turned around on the Iraq War? Really, Hannity?!?! They believe in nothing. Except for bigotry.

Say, for example, with welfare. Turns out those masses of people were lying when they said they were against the dole due to economic and moral grounds. No, they don’t care about taxes or incentives to work. They just care that certain ethnic groups don’t deserve the welfare that they deserve.

It has turned out that it was always more about white identity politics more than anything else.

Take the fact that Trump’s base are evangelicals, and the fact that Catholics and especially Mormons have largely rejected him (good on them). This truly pisses me off. It shows that evangelicals are ignorant about even the very basics of the Christian religion, and that they always have been, and what they care about in fact is being part of an ethnic community and rejecting other communities. Seriously, does anyone with a brain believe that Trump is a real Christian? What else can it be with those people? At least Catholics and Mormons have the ability to be consistent in their values.

It is not a left-right thing anymore. Not even close. The right has abandoned everything they ever said they believe in just to prop up a nationalist monster.

Hell, even the conspiracy theory land people like with Infowars have abandoned everything they used to stand for. (I know it was a crazy site, but during the Bush years it was something of a source for the anti-war movement. Even in the early Obama years there were valid points about the banking corruption in the ol’ Alex Jones documentaries. Now he gave it all up for nothing more than the bigotry of being anti-feminist or something, along with the whole uber-nationalism shitck.)

*             *             *

There is a certain narrative going around that intelligent people are supposed to feel sorry for Trump supporters because they are blue-collar working class who have sadly lost their jobs due to globalist free trade policies.

There is this Cracked article about how to empathize with Trump supporters because it’s a city versus country thing: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/

Usually I like Cracked. Good with myth-busting. But this one wasn’t good.

Obviously Republicans do tend to be more rural and Democrats tend to be more urban. And one could argue that it’s lack of education which causes people to inadvertently have such awful politics.

But that isn’t the case. Here’s what’s really going on to a much larger degree:

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/15/13286498/donald-trump-voters-race-economic-anxiety

Got it? To sum it up, evidence shows that Trump’s base isn’t necessarily that poor. Polling shows that racial anxiety is the real issue that worries the majority. This is what is happening, this is what kind of people they are.

Again, the fact that Trump’s other main issue besides kicking out Mexicans and Muslims is protectionist trade policies – long thought the purview of the radical left – shows how out of whack the usual liberal vs conservative definitions are.

And yet I still contend that the factories going to China issue isn’t even what they’re serious about in the first place. Deep down, only the bigotry matters.

 

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Not bungee-jumping in Guangzhou

Here in China, we recently celebrated the National Day holiday which remembers the founding of the modern People’s Republic of China’s founding in 1949. Whether you are a communist or not, everybody gets the day off and it’s time to go on a trip…

Having recently moved, me and my girlfriend wanted to check out the train station in nearby walking distance from our new home. Shenzhen and Guangzhou are very close, by the way, and so it was decided we’d take a trip for a couple of days to the big(ger) city!

It does tend to get very crowded on Chinese holidays. The train didn’t even have seats, although we did sit in the dining car most of the way. Luckily, Guangzhou wasn’t that bad. I suppose most people go to the more popular tourist spots and the first-tier cities get emptied out.

Nice time. I like going to the provincial capital on occasion. Although I prefer living Shenzhen–where it seems slightly less depressing to me somehow.

 

Is it bad to celebrate #RoshHashana by going to a delicious #Muslim restaurant? 😀

A post shared by Ray (@raelianautopsy) on

 

We went to eat delicious Turkish food in Taojin, and African food in Sanyuanli. The Muslim and African neighborhoods of GZ are excellent places to walk around and explore the scene. Then we made a day of going to Baiyun Mountain, as tourist as it gets there. The cable car made for an amazing view.

What I really wanted to do was go bungee jumping! Lately I’ve been feeling like a need to do something drastic to fight off the haunting ennui of life, and jumping off a cliff might just do the trick. However, after psyching myself and mustering up all the willpower I could muster, when I got there they said it was sold out for the day and I had to reserve 24-hours early 😦

Turns out the crowds were a factor after all. Very frustrating. Well at least I saved money. Maybe next time I’m in town, and it’s not a holiday and I can just show up and spontaneously do it.

 

Made the most of the trip anyhow. A small carnival, some archery. Finally, dim sum the next morning and we went back to good ol’ Shenzhen.

The lesson is: don’t have a normal job and make your own schedule for vacations. (I don’t, but my girlfriend does)

Lastly here’s my Facebook album if you’d like to see more~

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10154194430368411.1073741898.507883410&type=1&l=8289d48e12

End of the month…

… and I don’t have any big blog planned. Whatever to write about~

I try to post something at least once a week. I’m afraid I don’t have enough to say this time.

It’s been a hell of a month. I secured a very busy and slightly lucrative freelance editing job. When it’s all out there perhaps I’ll share. Suffice to say, rewriting an entire book over the course of September wasn’t easy. But very good work to do.

In keeping busy, I’ve been very antisocial lately. Which works for me. Most of the time I’d rather stay in and read and watch movies and occasionally play video games, to be honest. Could it be I’m getting boring?!

I have plans to release some of my own writing. In due time. And some book reviews coming up, perhaps interviews. There’s always Chinglish. What else should I share? I have an idea for a short blog series about literature under a medium I haven’t explored as yet.

So stay tuned…

Annie Talk Show

 

I recently appeared on the “Annie Talk Show” in Shenzhen, an English-language talk show webseries in Shenzhen that focuses on expat issues and stars local girl about town Annie. Something I’d heard about for a while and was happy to be a part of.

It’s not the big -time or anything, but I always appreciate an opportunity to talk about my writing and my novel. The talk was fast-paced, and I’m not sure if I did well (or looked well) but it was good to express my literary themes to a new audience.

Now some of the interview has been posted on QQ, a Chinese platform. I tried really hard to figure out how to embed the file to play directly on this blog, but I couldn’t do it. Seems WordPress isn’t compatible with QQ! Couldn’t get the file to post on my own YouTube page either. Anyway you can just click on the link below if interested, although the audio isn’t great either, yet I’m happy to share:

 

http://v.qq.com/x/page/w0324k19o1u.html