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Showing posts from August, 2018

Some alternative history perspectives.

- I wrote this as a response to my Latin American Studies coursemates. I am reading many comments that look the same here, those evoking surprise, and I am genuinely curious why there isn’t more skepticism to spoon-feed facts. There is a famous line by Winston Churchill (the eugenist who bumbled WW1 and then was called out of the shadows to be the British face opposed to Hitler): “History is written by the victors.” Only if you read a few books though! The voices of the oppressed, whether Anne Frank or Slave Narratives, roar louder than the pruned and manicured version societies choose to inflict upon their youth, because they are genuine (propaganda almost always sounds like fairy tales.) And that might be the real surprise, that the story sounds like it may have happened. Poke around and you’ll find a lot more, but own your skepticism, because every historian has a political message too—if you care about an issue like racism or feminism you can’t help but to let your enthusi
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan My rating: 3 of 5 stars I enjoyed this romp through Asia, an eye opening experience to be sure. Kevin Kwan creates a nightmare paradise of extravagant materialism and rigid tradition, where life's entire purpose has become accumulating enough status points to enter into a great Singapore family. Rachel Chu is inserted by her boyfriend into this milieu and the knives appear. The characters are strong. The world building is good. One annoyance I had as a reader was the head hopping, especially at parties, where we seem to be passed around the room like a drink tray. It is a quick read and both lighthearted and informative. It draws attention to Asia, especially China's expat population, which to a large degree, are the dynamos of the economy. 60% of Earth's population live in Asia, and little Singapore, the 18th largest economy in Asia, ranks 5th in the world in GDP per capita. Kwan's portrayal of the families and their aloof disdain for

Eugenics, Scientific Reaction, and My Comments (Latin American Studies)

No matter how many times I see the history of eugenics and its blood-soaked impact upon civilization, there is no diminishing that feeling of utter helplessness in the face of the disturbing conclusion that no matter whether humanity pursues religion or science, it will ultimately lead to the same outcome. Nevertheless, I will try to argue there is a grain of hope, but first, I will fulfill the terms of the assignment. What three things did I learn? First, though I had heard of the extermination of the indigenous Tasman population, the chain of cause and effect was well done. One salient point, however, should have been emphasized, that the “settlers” of Tasmania were violent criminals and, therefore, their violence against the Aborigines should have come to no surprise to George Arthur. Simply put, that is an example of willful ignorance on the part of the governor and his attempts to curtail the slaughter later, culminating in George Augustus Robinson’s “missionary” work, are f

Dawn by Octavia Butler

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler My rating: 4 of 5 stars What a great story! Terrifying and seductive and such awesome world building. These may be my favorite aliens ever. Humans are predictably uncivilized showing all our worse traits, but Octavia Butler is a realist and holds nothing back. Our antipathy to aliens lies deep within our core and we must consciously work against this characteristic. I loved Lilith, even with all her baggage, but in the end, when she makes the critical choice that reveals the potential of our good, I know she is both doomed and proud of her. My only issue is it felt predictable, and I was not surprised with the twist because she laid the groundwork so well, it was inevitable. Still, I am excited about the rest of the series. Lilith is a powerful, realistic, feminine character, one all humans should be proud to call our own. View all my reviews

Tarn - First Post Tarn Created by tarnhead Tarn is a fantasy world whose various indigenous people are being observed and eventually colonized by "extratarnials" (ETs). For now, the ETs are content with small interventions, almost never appearing in physical form, so these instances are woven into the fabric of the mythology of the Tarnials. Several times in the past, however, they were less judicious in their actions, and memories of these cataclysms are pervasive in Tarnial cultures.   The ETs themselves shape reality through a weighted democratic form of coherence theory. When Tarnials pray to their dead spirits, demigods, or gods, the ETs harvest their energy and, if they can convince the others, together they adjust the parameters of Tarn and its Tarnials. Smaller wishes work best, because they demand less ET effort.   The planet is in its young middle-age, seismically active, yet stable enough so civilizations can develop. It i

Finding Out About Fester

Cherry knew Fester was having an affair. All the signs were there: late nights at the warehouse, his secretive phone calls at odd hours of the night, and—worst of all—how his feelings towards her had blackened. For days she had denied all the evidence, but today she discovered a new wrinkle, one that defied rationalization: it turns out that Fester had quit his job two weeks ago. Where was he going at nights then? She needed to know, so at dusk she followed him, found his hideout, a warehouse in the river district where he used to work, and crept up beneath a window that radiated the telltale glow of his television. “ 3 rd and 11 for the Browns, Manziel from the slot… He drops back…” Cherry tuned out the rest, as she always did. There was no doubt Fester was inside. No one else watches old Browns games. At home, Fester would view the same one multiple times while pounding back Pabsts, one after another. Unlike Papa, though, Fester never got stupid drunk. Also, he had never physi

Dispelling the Magic

After last night’s rains, the morning sunshine and blue skies are a pleasant surprise. The air is clean and bursts with life’s electricity, as Jazz, my 4-year-old son, and I arrive early in Washington Square Park with my guitar and harmonica, setting up between the fountain and the arch. On days like these, I can rely on a steady stream of tourists for my songs and stories. Sometimes I photograph them too, posing them within the renovated arch, so, from the south, the Empire State Building glistens behind them. Life as a street performance artist has its advantages. It is like playing in life’s theater as it plays for you. You learn to guess the roles of the other actors by their shoes. They are a dead giveaway. The woman sorting office mail doesn’t wear Louis Vuitton high heels or boots as she passes through the arch or races up the narrow subway steps. The park’s Greenpeace canvassers use this shortcut when they choose their “stops.” “ Hey, thanks for stopping,” says one. “I’m

My Review of Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik My rating: 5 of 5 stars Note: mild spoilers (just a little more than a dust jacket summary and list of characters) Naomi Novik’s modern fairy tale, Spinning Silver , draws from Indo-European folklore, especially the story of Rumpelstiltskin. Novik is both upfront and subversive about the story’s roots, starting the novel by retelling the story of the miller’s daughter from the perspective of her tragically-worldly young protagonist, Miryem, who facing starvation and her mother’s illness becomes the debt collector for her inept money-lending father, Panov Mendelstam. Miryem’s great ability to collect debts hardens her, while also garnering a reputation that she has an uncanny talent of creating gold, “spinning the silver” kopeks owed to her family and her opportunistic profits in the marketplace into gold zloteks. Both of these aspects of her development have consequences throughout the story. I’m going to keep the spoilers to the bare minimum to discus

Nothing for the Follicles

Liddell Gibson looks up from the job application he studies and flashes a grin to Jazz, the man seated across the cafeteria table. Jazz returns it with serenity, and Liddell notes his concrete jaw, wide brow, and hint of stubble the same hue as his long Viking gold locks. They were about the same age, but Gibson had ten years of fast food service experience, six years as a manager. “ You studied creative writing in college,” Liddell says. “I don’t see any fast food in your work experience. In fact, I don’t see much work experience at all.” Jazz stretches his long arms. The plastic round seat is too small, his knees almost graze the underside of the table. Still, he looks almost comically comfortable. “ If I’m hired by Big Brown Burgers, I promise to show up on time, be respectful, and listen to you and my coworkers. I want to help Big Brown Burgers succeed and promise to dedicate myself to achieving that glorious success. I have many talents—” “ Wait. Wait. You know it’s just