Adrian Cone has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Soon after I moved to Cincinnati, we met at Princeton Junior High and became best friends immediately. Childhood can be a rough time, especially at middle school, and the joy that came with hanging out at his house playing video games and watching cartoons are among the best memories of my youth.
These memories will exist for as long as long as I still do, and a piece of Adrian’s spirit will live in this way. I will never forget the ups and downs we had, all over the world. It was the friendship of a lifetime. We were teenagers together dodging responsibility and testing the limits of what we could get away with, then we were twenty-somethings trying to figure out who we were. In our thirties, we were finally men.
He spent much of his life in military, in large part I believe because he wanted to see the world. It worked. He was well-traveled, racking up experiences all over this planet.
Adrian lived all over the United States, from coast to coast. I have the fondest memories of when he visited me in California and of when I visited him in Seattle. He also worked in Bahrain, learning about and appreciating Middle Eastern culture. He traveled to Australia, and visited me in China. I can still recall the joy of discovering the Hong Kong skyline together after we found each other at the airport. The years passed but we easily just picked up where we left off.
He was a passionate man. Whatever he did, he did it with 100% of his spirit. He may have changed his focus from time to time, going from one thing to the next, but what an honor it was while it lasted to be obsessed over by Adrian Cone.
If he got a job, he worked at that job as hard as he could. If he had a cause, he believed in that cause with all his heart. If he loved, he loved with every fiber of his being.
To be honest, I’ve always been envious of this ability. I have never met anyone like Adrian, and I never will again.
Over this past month, so many people have come together to remember our dear friend and family member. He will absolutely live on in all our memories.
He was so many things to so many people. He was a father. He was an artist. He was a brother.
I know he was in a lot of pain recently. But that wasn’t all he was. I hope he is at peace now.
I truly believe his spirit lives on, through the love of his children and through the love of all of us still here.
Let us never ever forget.
What a month it’s been. What a four years it’s been.
At the time, I felt I didn’t have much to add to the January 6 conversation. The new year was fresh, and I felt optimistic. The Senate election in Georgia gave me hope for my country, and also hope for my personal issues in feeling so much anxiety every damn time there was an election.
While the lawsuits trying to overthrow the presidential results were disconcerting at first, they were of course absolutely pathetic and nothing to worry about. If anything, it just energized the opposition more and more seeing that wannabe dictator lose dozens upon dozens of times all over again.
That said, America is kind of broken when the leaders don’t concede in lost elections anymore. If we’re not all playing by the same rules, the social contract doesn’t work.
It makes for some very dangerous shit.
Then, on the 6th, all those horrifying images. What can I say about the stupid bullshit insurrection that hasn’t been said already?
I’m just sick of the excuses these past four years, with various apologists saying that “the resistance” has been overreacting and he’s not really that bad. Fuck that perspective.
This was an evil unique to American history. And yeah, a lot of evils that happened before were also bad. Many things have been bad. It would be nice though to get to have some progress in the 21st century, to get better as a society, instead of having this terrible form of bigotry and authoritarianism backsliding so horrifyingly.
It’s damn irritating.
Well, guess we made it to the other side. Inauguration has come and gone and all that.
Peaceful transfers of power aren’t a thing in America from now on, which we’ll have to get used to forever. Doesn’t really feel like mine is a normal country anymore. It was quite a record, all those centuries.
I didn’t appreciate how important that was before. Took it for granted, didn’t we?
So. That said. Of course America is not suddenly a utopia just because one terrible menace is out. It’s important to hold the new president accountable, and corporatism and all the other -isms affect both parties. Still, I believe that this administration will be held more accountable due to the new generation that has awakened politically. It’s not going to go back to the complacent status quo. A whole hell of a lot of people will demand better from now on, and that is something to be optimistic about indeed.
Healthcare, police brutality, universal basic income, economics, climate change, discrimination, sexual harassment, war, diplomacy, foreign policy, the courts, technology, automation, misinformation, education, and of course the dreaded pandemic. At least there’s a good chance now that it’s all going to get better!
But I don’t feel like I’m qualified to be a political commentator any longer. I’ve shared how I felt from time to time in these writings, and I certainly have a lot of opinions. I may even review a book on current events from time to time.
Yet, when the boring and flawed party is back in charge, then I get to take it a little easier. I deserve it.
Let’s enjoy the promises of this better future, and not worry so much. At the same time, let’s still stay active and demand a more equitable system from our lawmakers.
Vote. Learn about the issues. Educate yourself for God’s sake. Also, at some point, do take a break and relax when possible…
I don’t know how to feel about the rush of current events.
There is obviously some very good news. It was long dragged out, but seems to be coming to a close, and celebrations are indeed in order. That feeling of relief as a dead weight is assuredly going to go, sooner or later. Incredible times, especially after so much uncertainty.
But it’s still a lot to process. I’ll spare any readers from all my obnoxious political opinions, well-thought as I’d like to think them to be, and just express how this state of affairs still leaves me anxious.
I’m no pundit. I have my perspective, and I like to read and review and share my thoughts, but there’s not really any reason people should listen to me.
That said, I simply cannot escape this terrible sense that tens of millions of my fellow countrymen are undeniably bad people. I had no idea it could get this bad. It’s not worth it anymore debating and talking about fake news and racial bias and social hierarchies and brainwashing etc. It’s a fact and here we are. They are bad people and there so many of them.
What is my country and the world going to do?
Well, turns out in the end, the good guys (or at least the moderate-not-that-evil guys) have won/will win. The fight for so many issues goes on, for healthcare and peace and freedom, no doubt about it, and at the very least there’s still a chance now… perhaps state of the world can actually survive at this rate and progress…
I voted from afar. Funny thing, as a matter of fact, it’s the first time I have voted for the winning team. It seemed an emergency so I had to. But I remain an American abroad, a privileged expat, incredibly lucky to live in the only country on earth to have defeated the pandemic. I do have to wear a mask everywhere, slightly annoying, and there’s danger from the mainland, but above all I am in the greatest social democracy in Asia and I am grateful to be here.
Been weird staying on the island for an entire year. No travel, no airplanes. No visiting relatives, no exploring new cultures. And yet right now I am far luckier than the vast majority of the planet.
To feel hope for the environment of this world, for the climate, for the very air, and to have so much reason to worry at the same time. It’s all come to ahead, and 2020 isn’t even over. It looks like the danger to democracy isn’t going anywhere in the next couple of months, plenty of anxiety is going to continue. At the same time, hope exists. Humans may, believe it or not, make it through this.
Going back to ‘normal’ or not, there is a future. If we can survive the grueling present.
This damn year. Let’s try to make it through this, everyone.
A review of the graphic novel
Ray Hecht’s autobiographical graphic novel starts with his birth in Israel, where his parents were immigrants, and ends up with him working in Asia. Moving to America as a small child he has an unstable upbringing, thanks to his Ukrainian mother and American father divorcing. The drawings and the layout here obviously took a lot of work and I dare say it may have been easier just to write the narrative, however, this was a more interesting way to tell his story. Each year is introduced with a picture of a key event and I laughed when I saw OJ’s Bronco being chased by police down the highway for 1994.
Things start out well for the family in America, but after a few years the cracks begin to show and his parents get divorced in the early nineties. His mother remarries a none-too trustworthy Israeli man and Ray stays with his Dad, who trains to be a nurse. Ray does recognise his father’s efforts to better himself. His sister is academic and as she grows up gets sucked into a conservative Israeli world that Hecht wants no part of. She learns Russian and presumably Hebrew too — as she moves to Israel and gets married there. Ray’s trips to Israel don’t work out well, it’s not a place he connects with. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that he prefers to study Japanese and later Chinese.
A self-confessed nerdy child, Hecht struggles socially and finds solace in comic books. (I was waiting for his reading to break out from the pure escapism of comics and this does eventually happen.) A convincing portrayal of how America can be a lonely place for a teenager, a lot of this must have been hard to bring to the surface again. One major problem for him is always moving from school to school, as the title indicates it is “Always Goodbye”. Probably the most painful incident is when he gets kicked out of school for something he says about a mass shooting. Despite being an introvert, he makes various efforts to improve his social life, investigating subcultures — punk, Goth, arty-type, straight edge, hippie — looking for something to hold onto. His friends do the same thing and he falls in and out with them depending on what phase they are in — a problem of a fractured society: you can join many different tribes but a sense of belonging is not guaranteed. He does some hallucinogenic drugs, but the answer doesn’t lie there.
In his early twenties Ray moves out of his Dad’s place and back again several times, in a non-linear surge towards independence common in his generation. He has a string of dead-end jobs in various States and then vaguely commits to life in California. Salvation comes in the form of China, recommended to him by a random character at the Burning Man Festival 2008. Like many young Westerners who go to work in Asia (me included), it’s the first time he has the luxury of living alone in a decent apartment. He begins teaching at a kindergarten in Shenzhen, the huge city over the border from Hong Kong where everything is new and exciting. He mentions the bootleg markets and this reminded me that one of the pleasures (and even social activities) of living in China back then was shopping for pirated DVDs; now of course we just download movies without leaving the house. He survives the kindergarten, moves onto a Korean owned school in Guangzhou, and escapes the English teaching world to become a copy editor.
Ray realises that a lot of the expat life is about drinking and tries to find meaning through writing and dating. The dating doesn’t go so well, but gives him material to write about. While many say it’s easy to get an Asian girlfriend, it doesn’t work out most of the time because of different expectations and, sure enough, Hecht takes us through a few awkward flings. The world of online dating also turns out to be a wash-out. Despite these romantic failures, he publishes a novel and eventually gets involved in a serious relationship with a creative South African woman— i.e. finally he has some good luck. I was interested to read that he initially went down to Hong Kong every six months to get visas, but later got a ten year China visa. Surely long term visas like this are not on the table anymore?
The text isn’t that polished and there are still a few mistakes to be ironed out, or perhaps they were left in the on purpose to emphasize the DIY nature of this work? His analysis of society is usually spot on and you can see a narrow view of the world broadening as he travels more — this gives the story a nice arc. As a thirty-something he ends up in Taiwan, looking at current events it was probably a wise decision to leave China and move there.
As a longtime author and editor, I’d like to offer my services in the fields editing, copyediting, and proofreading. A detailed summary of my experience and rates are below. Feel free to click on the links for further information.
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I have since worked with a number of high-profile clients on a regular basis, including China-based translation companies CEPIEC (China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation Ltd.) as well as Grouphorse. I have also contributed education material for Taiwan’s AMC.
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Previous: 2014 – 2015: Love and Publishing
2016 – 2019: Terrible politics, book tour, leaving China and coming to Taiwan! Various family trips from Israel to South Africa and California. Art and comics and Burning herein. At last, we catch up to now (so meta) and I reflect… Thus, an ending.
Thanks so much to you all for reading this, my humble life story!
Previous: 2013: My epic clusterfuck drama year
2014 – 2015: After recovering from some heartache, I reinvent myself yet again (tattoos, grey hair). Then family, family, and more family; meeting the next generation.
And at long last the love of my life, and we meet each others’ parents *shudder* … Africa!
Lastly, novel published.
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.
2011 and 2012, beginning with my Guangzhou year. Didn’t work out well, so I returned to Shenzhen. Meanwhile so much travel, all over Southeast Asia and returns to Israel and Japan. Plus foreshadowing in Taiwan, and Hipster Pacific Northwest too. And I go to both my sister’s wedding and my best friend’s wedding. Growing up!
2009 and 2010, the beginnings of a new decade, as I become acclimated to life in Shenzhen/Hong Kong and have fun traveling in Southeast Asia (and America), and family stuff… plus I start dating somewhat regularly. Crazy, right?
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.
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 😀
It’s been a long while.
Once upon a time, as I’ve written about before, I liked to collect comic books. It’s pretty much my favorite storytelling medium, that mix of visual and verbal with so much dynamic imagination, it’s my first love and as much as I enjoy prose and film nothing will ever compare to flipping through a picture book…
Back in 2005, so long ago, I moved to California and left my collection in my dad’s closet. Guess that was growing up.
After years of subscribing and going to the comics shop every Wednesday, and a lot of digging around at comic conventions and used bookstores, my collection was about 5,000 issues strong. It took up a lot of space.
Flash-forward to early 2008. Even before I moved abroad that year, I knew I had to get it together. I decided to take a month off my west coast life to stay in Cincinnati and sort out about half of my collection. Ebay became my full-time job. I was constantly working on the computer and going back and forth from the post office. I sold all my Marvel, manga, independents, and even more than a few toys. That amounted to half of my stuff. If I remember correctly, I made about a thousand US dollars.
And that was the compromise. I was a big DC fan at the time, and hoped my knowledge of continuity might actually help me as an author one day, so I kept all of those. Then, as we all know, I moved all the way to China. It was a heck of a year.
I admit I didn’t have a good long-term plan. Some two dozen boxes stayed in my dad’s closet, until he eventually retired and moved and issued an ultimatum that I needed to find another storage solution. Luckily, I have friends. One was kind enough to curate them for a year, but then he went through some drama and had to move. Another good friend took them up and they remained in his grandma’s basement for another year or two. All while I lived thousands of miles away. I felt bad that these people went through so much trouble on my account, but what could I do other than say thanks and wire some gifts…
It has now been a full decade since I’ve left America, and it’s time to get it together. Let’s face facts and admit I’m not coming back any time soon. Owning two dozen heavy boxes of books simply isn’t so compatible with the expat lifestyle.
Last month, I went on my big trip to the United States. For almost the entirety of July, Bronwen and I traveled throughout my troubled country. For the first half we mostly stayed in Southern California, exploring Los Angeles and Orange County by way of Long Beach as homebase. It was a rather good trip.
For the second half of the journey, we stayed in my adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Not quite as much tourist action, but she seemed to enjoy it. A good introduction to middle America, right?
It was where I grew up, where I could drive around the various neighborhoods and indulge in nostalgia, and a good middle ground where my relatives from Indiana and Florida and old friends from east coast could all come together to meet me once again… And, of course, where my comics were.
The family and friends and sight-seeing where all important parts of the trip. But this post is about the comics.
Suffice to say, it was not easy juggling so much in such a short time. Not to mention the workout of dragging all those boxes from house to house. My apologies to anyone who felt left out as I sorted out all that stuff.
Anyway, my little sister had agreed to help me sell some on Ebay (my own Ebay account had long since deactivated in the ensuing decade). I didn’t have time to organize the entire collection, but I did post a select few which I thought could get a good price.
There was the New Teen Titans, from the 1980s and up:
The complete 2000s JSA/Justice Society by Geoff Johns, including his first work Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. and Hawkman and more:
Sadly, the entire 1980s-1990s Justice League International by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis wasn’t more popular for some reason, though that fun-loving run is among the best to me:
One thing I did discover about Ebay is that it’s much easier to post graphic novels as books rather than organize hundreds of magazine issues. If you type in the ISBN, it not only gives you the stock photo but even suggests a price. Fine by me! I decided to sell the remaining dozen or so graphic novels that way, sold about half of them for five to ten dollars each, and it only took two trips to the post office.
Leaving a substantial percentage for my little sister’s PayPal as a gift, because I try to be a decent brother.
Meanwhile, mailing out full runs box-by-box just wasn’t feasible. So I decided to post a summary on both Craigslist, and that new Facebook Marketplace, pitching anyone to come by to my hotel and look through the entire lot and negotiate a price.
That wasn’t not weird, is it?
DC COMICS MEGA-COLLECTION FOR SALE, from the 80s and 90s and 2000s! Massive sets of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League International, Teen Titans, Legion – thousands of comics by such creators as Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, and much more!
I am selling my entire comic collection consisting of several thousand which I have built up over many years. This is a great deal because I am moving and simply trying to pass them on quickly to a fan.
Please come by personally to check them out in Blue Ash, Cincinnati and then we can agree on an exact price. For example, if you want the entire set for a bulk purchase in the four-figures, that’s possible. Or, more specifically, I can sell some of these various bundles of hundreds per set for a two- to three-figure sum each:
All comics are in very fine to near mint condition unless otherwise stated. Please message me for more details and the whole inventory…
-Superman 90s and 90s: reboot by John Byrne starting from issue #1, Death and Rebirth of Superman era by Dan Jurgens, featuring many extra Supergirl and Superboy issues and even some Shazam!
-Superman 2000s: featuring the Y2K and Our Worlds at War/Imperiex War crossover, many issues by Geoff Johns and also Birthright by Waid
-Batman: bundle particularly with lots of spinoff issues of Robin, Nightwing, Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon; plus even old Outsiders
-Wonder Woman: massive bundle starting from issue #1 with the George Perez post-Crisis reboot, as well as John Byrne’s 90s run and Phil Jimenz in the 2000s and many more
-Complete 80s Justice League! This huge bundle features the entire run of the classic 80s Justice League International era by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMattis “Bawahaha” comedy era #1-60, plus many more with some Firestorm thrown in
-The New Teen Titans: huge bundle of the 80s Marv Wolfman and George Perez era of the Titans starting from #1 on to the Judas Contract with Slade/Deathstroke the Terminator, and lots of extras from latter decades…
-Geoff Johns MEGA bundle with complete Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E. that started it all plus Teen Titans, and Flash Rebirth!
-Infinite Crisis 2005 crossover by Geoff Johns including Villains United and the Secret Six series by Gail Simone, Villains United
-Justice Society by Geoff Johns: The complete JSA by Geoff Johns, plus various Starman issues by James Robinson as well as Spectre and old 80s All-Star Squadron and Johns’ Hawkman plus more
-90s Young Justice by Peter David, and others by the acclaimed writer
-52 by Geoff Johns, Mark Waid, Grant Morrison: complete set plus spinoffs from of the epic ‘real-time’ comic from the 2000s of the year skip
-Grant Morrison bundle featuring the complete Seven Soldiers of Victory, All-Star Superman, Final Crisis, Batman and more from the mad genius DC writer
-Grant Morrison Vertigo bundle! Featuring complete runs of his hard-to-find brilliant miniseries such as the complete Flex Mentallo, We3, Sea Guy, Vimanarama, Joe the Barbarian, plus some Doom Patrol
-DC crossovers! Zero Hour, Invasion!, Millenium, Joker’s Last Laugh, Identity Crisis, and Tons of DC crossovers from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s featuring all the iconic superheroes saving the universe
-Legion of Superheroes from the 80s – and even some 70s and 60s – and 2000s: massive bundle of Legion issues by with a couple of valuable Silver Age ones, many Paul Levitz classics both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis, and also the first issues of the Mark Waid ‘threeboot’ in the 2000s
-Complete Legion of Superheroes 90s reboot: every single one of the post-Zero Hour reboot by Mark Waid & more. Giant set of Legion and Legionnaires and Legion Lost and more spinoffs!
Although it’s not my primary focus, I do write about politics on occasion (it has been a while). I try to stay informed, and as an American I hope I have well-thought out opinions worth sharing. And, of course, these days how can one not pay attention!
Coupling that with my propensity to write book reviews, I would like to go outside of my lane a bit and do an extensive review of the explosive new book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.
No doubt you’ve heard of it, as well as all the fallout. This is my take.
Overall I think the book is excellent and damn what a fascinating read, but there is a certain challenge in it. Not that I think criticisms of the accuracy are what’s wrong—I will defend them below. But the problem is that that living in this age and rehashing the past year has been very mentally stressful. And at the same time to read, there’s keeping up with the endless barrage of new scandals which threatens to overwhelm my feeble mind.
Simply put, too much fucking Tr*mp. I get conflicted because this is important and worth paying attention to. Yet the sad fact of it is that he is the history’s all-time greatest attention whore and good or bad press he no doubt relishes in all the constant fretting. Note that in my small way I try to rebel against this by hereafter only referring to Prez you-know-who as 45.
As to the merits of the book, here I go: I genuinely think it is excellent and everyone should read it. It came at the right time, just when one may worry that we are getting used to it and normalization has set in, this amazing story was suddenly published to usher in more fresh outrages. And fatigue or not, outrages is the sensible reaction. Michael Wolff has done a great service.
Starting from the scene of election night at the campaign when they shockingly won, the premise from the get-go that no one expected him to win. The campaign was a terrible mess, as was reported on at the time, thought the one guy who believed he could make it happen was Bannon. From beginning to end, Bannon is certainly the protagonist of the book.
Wolff lays out the insanity of recent history in a readable and dare I say entertaining manner. It’s not only the dry facts, but a narrative arc that somehow all makes sense. Some may criticize that but I think it is a perfectly fair way engage the reader. There is even commentary on the reality show nature of the current presidency to create this sort of drama, which we’ve all been witnessing. Usually history is made sense of and turned into story long after the fact, but this is the new postmodern age isn’t it? Wolff is simply transcribing in the most appropriate way possible.
Some may think it grossly irresponsible for Wolff to relay rumors, but so far there isn’t anything specific which has turned out not to be true. No one has denied any quotes. Wolff is upfront in the book when the same events often have competing interpretations from different camps. I find the author’s judgment to always be fair. If there are later corrections made then so be it.
If one can just call a spade a spade, we know it’s all basically true. Like, the way the book states that 45 hated his own inauguration and was visibly fighting with Melania. Anyone can watch the videos to know this is truth. Another example that comes to mind is when Bannon gave the speech at CPAC which was a dig at Jared, it’s obvious! All the behind the scenes footage is valid and America knows it. Above all, the glaringly open secret that 45 is an idiot and everyone who works for him constantly talks about it.
Moreover, the rumory nature of the book is what has gotten headlines but for the most part it’s about Michael Wolff’s analysis of public happenings than just the gossip. Wolff, in omniscient narrator fashion, gives thorough critical examination to the firings and the scandals and panic, and without the lame partisanship in so much punditry. Although the central theme that 45 is shallow and empty and doesn’t read and constantly watches TV (an interesting term, he’s “post-literate”) and he can’t control his worst impulses and who refuses to even know that he doesn’t know, barring that overall important point the other characters are indeed analyzed with respect. There’s still more to learn about 45 beyond his mere stupidity, like the way he prefers loyalty of women. There are the the occasional pop psychological riffs on his motivations to just be liked, paternal-related and otherwise.
In any case, 45 and his defenders have rather had an enormous problem with the concept of objective truth… So why listen to their attacks on Wolff? I for one trust the leaks.
Michael Wolff is clearly talented at writing about politics in surprising ways. For example, he does repeatedly criticize the so-called liberal media. Makes it all the more poignant when he explains the world of right-wing media with its far lower standards of entry. And after all the due respect given to the original core members of the cabinet, it can’t be denied that the unqualified Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller’s promotions towards the end show an absolute problem with finding professional staff. Wolff simply, as they say, tells it like it is.
One of the most haunting analyses that come to mind is when white supremacist Richard Spencer is declared to be the intellectual base of “Trumpism”, which is all the more a horrifying concept because the more one thinks about it the more it can’t be denied to be true.
Overall, the book is about the disastrous and chaotic infighting which took place in the White House. From chiefs of staff Preibus to Kelly, when it all settles we find ourselves nearly caught up in the low morale present. There’s the Scaramucci affair, which turns out to be yet worse knowing the backstory. Often it’s 45’s own family, Jared and Ivanka, who are the worst of the worst.
If Bannon is the main character, then the utterly incompetent “Jarvanka” family faction proves to be the antagonist. Spoiler: They win in the end. It’s hard to say if that’s a happy or sad ending.
In satisfying faction, by the time of the infamous Charlottesville “many sides” comment, absolutely everybody knows that 45 is a lost cause who cannot do this job. Not to mention the tweets. Then there’s the growing Russian scandal, which initially is given a lot of skepticism but grows worse and worse veering into that incredibly inept Comey firing and then revelations of inexplicable meetings and subsequent coverups and obstruction of justice allegations and Rosenstein’s revenge in the form of the Mueller Special Counsel. By the conclusion no less an authority than Bannon himself has to admit that eventually this will bring the administration down.
Because we are living this, the story goes on.
The odds indeed are very high that scandal is going to take this administration down, perhaps even soon, but for a reader who has learned so much I am left wondering why the hell it is taking so long.
At last, Bannon loses his job but remains hopeful for the future of his outsider revolution, and the book ends with as much feeling of closure that can be expected. Yet, now we know that due to the fallout of the book Bannon has even been let go from his Breitbart, which does seem just. I just hope to read in the paperback updated edition of Michael Wolff’s take on the latest.
A recurring motif is that 45 as such an anomaly to everyone in Washington, with everyone who doubted the loud-mouthed reality show host having to reluctantly work with what they have. Sadly, as true as the strangeness of this strange chapter of American history is, Wolff does leave something out after all that focus on 45 and his ilk. The question still remains on how America—even if not due to the majority of voters—could let this happen. How can this train wreck of a government have happened and so many citizens supporting such chaos and bigotry and corruption? Those questions may have to be answered by future historians after far more time passes.
Meanwhile, Wolff did his best to explain the inner workings withing Fire and Fury and America must wait and see to further understand and reflect.