Friend or foe? The strange case of J.M. Coetzee

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Book review of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, with reference to other books by him and some by Dostoevsky.

I have always felt that I ought to like Coetzee.  Ever since I was in uni and the tutor pointed out that one bit in Foe where it seems like Character 1 is knocking on Character 2’s door but if you read carefully it’s the other way around, I’ve had an admiration for linguists like savage Papuans have for sorcerers.  This led me to take Noam Chomsky seriously for too long.

But I didn’t actually trouble myself to Read More

Who the hell is Tedros?

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In my previous post, Trust WHO?, I documented the corruption and incompetence of the World Health Organization.  If you find anyone still defending those clowns, please link them to that article.  And if that’s not enough, I’ve found more dirt on them since, including ignoring tip-offs from Taiwan to the WHO in December of human-to-human transmissions of a deadly virus in Wuhan.  Instead, the WHO waited until they were officially informed of this by the Chinese government on 21 January.

You see this present catastrophe the world is in?  This is why.  It is not an act of God.  It is an infection that could have been tightly contained if Chinese authorities and the WHO had acted responsibly and professionally.

However, I admitted in the article to being unable to identify the source of China’s power over the WHO.  After all, they’d stumped up only $6 million in funding, which is only enough for a few modest junkets with lovers for high-ranking staffers.  The United States, despite Obama-era cutbacks, was still the largest contributor with total donations of $281 million.

I’ve now figured out how China exercises such immense control over Tedros and the WHO.  To understand, Read More

Intellectuals are bad, mmkay?

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Book review of Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson.

There are very few books that I have read twice.  One was The Lord of the Rings, which I read when I was eight and later when I was fifteen and actually understood it.  The only other I can remember off the top of my head is this one.  I happened to look something up for some reason, got distracted by the chapter on Sartre, and ended up reading the whole thing again.  The antics of this intellectual crowd are highly entertaining.  My favourite was the list of drunken injuries that befell Hemmingway, which stretches over three or four mirthful pages.

I thought about inserting here a check-table of intellectuals and their sins but concluded it would be too much work and you wouldn’t be that impressed anyway.  So instead I will Read More

Word from the Dark Side – filthy markets, flamin’ Aussies, and Fermi’s Paradox.

For those wanting to keep up with the latest on China, I continue to recommend the Laowhy86/Serpentza family of YouTube channels.  The latest discusses foreigners being banned from supermarkets, shopping centres and bars in China, even in Shanghai.  That part starts at 42:00, but the rest of the video is also worth your while.

There are going to be many more posts being written like this one: Delicious Tacos lost his aunt to corona.  As you start to see more of this online and in your own life, never forget Read More

Lockdown survival guide 5: reading material

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Part 1          Part 2          Part 3         Part 4

It’s come to this: people are looking for books to read.

This is my second collection of random, short book reviews.  The first can be found here.

These are books that I liked, but didn’t have enough to say about to justify a whole review post about them.  Hope you find something enticing.

Poor Folk, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This is the first novel by Dos.  It is a series of Read More

Is the West really in decline or are we just grumpy old men?

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

– Socrates

It is April 1st.  There is no fooling from me this year.  I overdid the pranks last year.  I hope by the time this post goes up someone will have got me a beauty and made me laugh.

They say the West is in decline, and I tend to agree.  However, one thing I have noticed over the years is that the average person is wrong about 30% of things he believes in, and this has been consistent throughout history.  I’m painfully Read More

Lockdown survival guide 4: chill

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Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

Lockdown survival guide 3: fitness

A long time ago, I was in a position of great distress.  I suffered a lot of intrusive thoughts that made it hard for me to do those things that I needed to do.  I went to the gym, joined a hiking group, met with friends, but none of these could calm my mind enough for me to get on with my life.

Finally I started Read More

Keynes/Hayek: the final word

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Book review of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics, by Nicholas Wapshott.

[Written in 2019]

I went into this book knowing that my sympathies already lay heavily with Hayek because I’d read more of his work and because I HATE HATE HATE inflation.  It eats directly into the fruits of my hard work and parsimony.  Few things fill me with such murderous rage.  I see Bismark Germans carrying wheelbarrows full of marks to the shops and my hearts softens slightly towards Hitler.

But preening that I am an open-minded chap, I decided to give Keynes the most generous hearing possible.  I would do this by leaning slightly towards his side, just like a fair under-12s umpire does towards the visiting team when his son is on the home side.

But actually, what struck me most about this book was not the triumph of one side or the other, but just how Read More

Word from the Dark Side – China bans foreigners, chilling escaped pathogens, and cheeky Japanese coppers

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Remember how the United States and Australia were so racist for banning travelers who had been in China during the previous 14 days?  Now China has banned all foreigners from entering, including returning residents.  This is vastly more draconian than what happened in Australia, when the government actually flew non-citizen residents and spouses back.

The World Health Organization has sternly criticized China for the move, saying that it is unhelpful, racist, and potentially counterproductive.  Oh that’s right, no they didn’t, because Read More

Lockdown survival guide 3: fitness

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Previously:

Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

Remember kids, don’t spend all day reading bad news, watching your investments plummet, and worrying about how long this thing will last.  We need routine, and the most solid part of any routine is fitness.

If you’re allowed out and about, you can continue to run and walk as usual.  If you’re cooped up at home, you’ll need some other form of cardio workout.

If you have a yard, skipping is fine.

A less boring alternative is Read More

Lockdown survival guide 2: investments

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Part 1 is here.

Hi, Zoomers.

I meant to tell you, back when I gave you The Talk about those donkey videos you’ve been watching since you were twelve, sometimes we have these horrible things called recessions.  This isn’t the first time we’ve had one.  They’re actually pretty regular.  Like, literally.  I know, it totally sucks, doesn’t it?  #OMG!

First, don’t Read More

The thoughts of an emperor

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Book review of Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius.

Poor old Marcki-poo.  High-born and bookish, he wanted nothing more than to go to Athens and study philosophy.  But duty called him to other things: in the age of the Five Good Emperors, starting with Hadrian, each new one was chosen for his virtues rather than because he was the son of the old one – though none of the previous four had had sons, so that was easily done.  And Marcus Aurelius felt the unwanted tap on the shoulder.

He insisted, against the wishes of the elite, that his Read More

My short story is up at Terror House Mag

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My short story has been published at Terror House Magazine.

Hyenas

The old fighters greeted each other with their customary, shoulder-bumping handshake. They went to their usual table in the corner of the raised section where they could look over the other customers in the restaurant. There were two types of food to choose from: Italian or Eritrean. They were so old that they could remember when this colonial-era hotel served many Italians. Even earlier, natives had not been allowed.

The Italians were long gone. The friends ordered a simple meal of lentils and injera because both were adhering to an Orthodox fast. It was late afternoon.

In any group of three people, there is a government spy, but Johannes and Tesfay were only two, and the other customers were slightly too far away to hear their easy conversation. They spoke freely of brownouts, feuds with tenants, mandated food prices, the water shortage. The coup attempt. The boys who’d been arrested. In a small city of old families, there are only a couple of degrees of separation to both sides of a conflict.

Coffee came. Now they talked about the many shops and cafés the government had closed down for supposed tax evasion. They didn’t speak of Johannes’ surviving son, who was absent. He’d presumably slipped overseas to escape endless national service, like everyone else. They were old men, so next they spoke of old times. On this occasion, Johannes was the one to bring up the hyenas and Tesfay smiled with nostalgia. He had, after all, been the one who’d almost been eaten.

“Think of it!” Johannes guffawed. “You survived the Ethiopian airstrike but nearly got killed by those beasts instead.” They both laughed. Their youthful exploits were their favorite topic because everything was different now. Complicated. It was simpler when the enemy was foreign and in the other trench.

Tesfay stretched his hand towards his upper back, where the scar was. “It’s still there. No bite marks, though! Only the burn, thanks to you. Thank you, my friend!” It was something he’d told Johannes many times before. While manning a rugged mountain redoubt on the Nakfa front, the Soviet-made bomb had sent him rolling down a cliff-like mountain slope, coming to rest against a boulder with several broken bones, unable to move as the sun plummeted beneath the horizon and the hyenas began to squeal. He’d heard other men die that way, and women. The ones too far away to be rescued by their comrades. The Martyrs never aged, never saw their country free. Or, mercifully, what had happened to it since.

Johannes suddenly grew serious. He looked at his friend intensely, as though about to inform him of another death in the family. Tesfay returned his look quizzically. Normally they bantered at this point, perhaps about how he would be a skinny feed for such large predators, or how, if things had become desperate enough, he might have had to eat the hyenas, instead.

The hush and the penetrating stare continued. Somewhere in his heart, Tesfay knew what was coming. He’d been waiting for the moment for 30 years.

Finally, Johannes broke the silence.

“Do you remember your promise?” Read More

Lockdown survival guide 1: mental health

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I’ve been in two situations somewhat analogous to our current Corona Zombie Apocalypse.  The first was in 2011, when radiation levels were rising in Tokyo following the Fukushima meltdown.  The second was during my time in Africa, when I needed to shelter alone a lot of the time in order to cope with the events unfolding around me.

About the second, I’ve already written a piece on how to stay calm.

In a stressful situation, your mental health is often the weakest point.  In Tokyo, radiation levels were not nearly so dangerous to me as the anxiety was.  In Africa, the physical threat was always limited, but the whole saga has taken a toll on me.

As the Stoics point out, there is the thing, and there is what we think of it.  Only the latter can cause us harm.  Up to a point.  And so it is now: undue stress or frustration could do you more damage than the Wu-Flu.

I confess to having panicked in the past, but I’m now better able to cope with difficulties.  In this series I’ll share some of what I’ve learned.

What is panic?

Read More

Word from the Dark Side – podcast tip, plague shenanigans, and prisoner naughtiness.

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First, I’m fine.  Thanks to all who expressed concern.  My cupboard is stocked, my compound is secure, and we’re holding the zombies off for now.  It looks like my job will still be available if I can get to Japan at some point, but let’s see what happens.  They’re probably desperate because a lot of Nervous Nellies dropped out altogether.

I’ll start a series soon on how to survive being holed up in a stressful situation as I have a bit of experience with that.  But for now, on with the Dark Side.

Filipino police chief caught sleeping with female prisoners:

A police chief was allegedly caught sleeping with women he arrested – after converting the back of his office into a love nest.

Police Chief Major Ildefonso Miranda extended his room then added two large beds at the Argao district station in Cebu, the Philippines.

This amazing video shows what happens when you Read More

Two sad stories

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There was once a forum on the main site for foreigners in Japan, Gaijinpot, and one thread was about ‘relationships’.  Here there moped a sad fellow known as Kansai Ben.  To tell his whole story would be too much for now, and would simply mirror the experience of thousands of other Gaijin like him, but in short he was divorced from a J-girl, was struggling to meet child support payments as he was unable to do anything in Japan but teach English, and he never saw his kids.

So far, so sad.

His ex always talked shit about him to the kids, about how he was a Read More

Badwhites in Cambo

Cambodia bans foreign men over 50 marrying local women ...

I live in a goodwhite bubble.  My colleagues frequently make anti-Trump comments, whereas making pro-Trump comments at work would be slightly less socially appropriate than doing a bushman’s hanky in the living room.  Any conservative thought is frowned upon.  And as for the material in this blog: it would be like licking up the detritus of that bushman’s hanky, spitting it in the Queen Mum’s face, and saying, ‘ner ni ner ni ner, ner!’

No actually, it would be much worse.  But this is a family blog so I’ll leave it at that.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that Read More

Stuck

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This is not one of my stupid pranks.

I was due to fly to Tokyo via Manila next week for my new job, but awoke to the news that Manila’s been placed under lockdown.  I tried going to the airline office to change my booking, but you’ll never guess, a few dozen other people had the same idea.  I was number 39, they got up to number 8, and they were taking about 15 minutes per customer.  I made a quick calculation about how many flights there would be until the ban came into effect vs how many people were probably trying to book them, and realized that I was wasting my time and also getting the Wuhan Virus by being crowded into this tiny space with so many people.

I rushed home and tried to book online instead.  Bingo!  I got a flight direct from Cebu City.  Getting a refund would be another issue, and for some reason the booking site gave me a return ticket instead of one-way, but I had a ticket.

Then I awoke today to hear that Read More