A Dream of Gods

(With apologies to Lovecraft)

 

A cloudy dull day alone in my study,

Flames from the fire were singing me to sleep,

As oblivion’s hand started to hold me,

I suddenly saw the place where gods go to die.

 

Some forgotten sad recess of the human mind,

A cavern built from memories, pillars of hope,

The stone floor surfaced from primitive fear,

All around: lifeless husks of the stars in the sky.

 

First, spread around collapsed white columns,

Those Titans of Olympus, the glories of Rome,

Each had fallen from their cloudy thrones,

Killed by daggers of change and a sword of Republic.

 

Poseidon, trident rusted and bent,

Only the seaweed around him with any life,

Even the King of them all, great Zeus himself,

Had been struck by his father Chronos’ scythe.

 

By his side lay Athena also now gone,

As lovely in death as she was in life,

Time waits for nothing, especially for gods,

It had conquered them all in one mighty swing.

 

A smell of sand and perfumed scents,

Sweet coolness of a great roaring river,

Shadows cast from faraway dusty statues,

And the gods of Egypt rose up from the Nile.

 

Pale and white from years in the water,

The eyes of the gods were all open pearls,

Osiris, Seth, Isis and all,

Floating away out of man’s mind.

 

Where was their immortality now?

The powers which terrified men into slaves,

All gone, including the Sun-God Ra,

His body the lifeless shell of a scarab-beetle.

 

I continued through this graveyard of faith,

Light breezes carried the laments of the dead,

So many names, so many ideas,

Blown away like so many autumn leaves.

 

“Freya,” whispered the breeze, “Freya, Freya.”

“Ishtar” and “Zoroaster”, who are they now?

Only ruins and wrecks and footnotes in books,

That’s all that is left of them now.

 

Many-armed Shiva looked down at me,

Speared on the peak of a Himalayan rock,

Flames of ignorance burned in his hair,

Brahman beside sleeping forever.

 

And here were the gods of the frozen north,

Norse giants killed by their final Ragnarok,

Thor who could make all of Heaven shudder,

Here just food for the vultures of progress.

 

From a dead black tree hanged the god Odin,

His one-eye pecked out by the hungry ravens,

All I could see was decay and decay,

The gods of old had all gone away.

 

Past Quetzalcoatl on his altar of blood,

Past Buddha stretched out under his now fallen tree,

Past the untended remains of a million temples,

A cross was on fire on the peak of a hill.

 

For here, full of men’s skulls who thought this was truth,

Was the one who had killed so many of his elder brothers,

Who thought himself so great that he became so bright,

Overshadowing the other stars in the sky.

 

And yet even this one who claimed no peer,

Once so high and glorious, the only god,

Had fallen down like all the rest,

His cross becoming a pile of dust.

 

So I sat and watched the history of man,

These burning flames, this blowing ash,

Thinking of all the life which made this,

Thinking of all the death which made this.

 

Yet suddenly a noise, a scream from afar,

Earth shook and bodies arose,

Eyes layered in silt opened with force,

And the dead gods of old woke up once more.

 

They came to me, screaming with pain,

Pointing their skeletal fingers at my body,

They gathered around my horrified form,

In one voice they spoke, with angry red eyes.

 

“You and your kind did this to us,

Created us from your own shallow fears,

Born from your minds, raised by your faith,

You made us your kings but also your slaves.

 

“Worshipping, revering, showering with praise,

Pleading with us for fruitless gains,

At times it was love, at times it was hate,

We were your joy and we were your pain.

 

“But your kind is fickle, your lives are too short,

You tire of us and treat us like toys,

Once weary of our undemanding love,

You throw us aside and search for another.

 

“Man is the god, the only one truth,

Creating us gods and killing us too,

At the mercy of whims and farcical needs,

We suffer and die and speak nevermore.

 

“And you, wretched man, continue to blame,

Placing your disastrous errors on us,

Killing and slaughtering in our forgotten names,

Spouting your own worthiness and bile.

 

“Damn you mankind for making us all,

Just beasts to carry your foolish mistakes,

Sullying us to keep your petty lives clean,

Confining us to this cavern of death.”

 

They cried in their thousands, a terrible sound,

Man’s dreams deteriorated into this dark scene,

I ran away from this broken hope,

Running towards the comforting darkness.

 

Here was the greatest god of them all,

Not belonging to man to create or destroy,

Everywhere, just nothing to see,

Infinity’s void will always be here.

 

But the world despises being ignored,

And reality (so-called) pushed itself in,

The emptiness fled with man’s sad gods too,

Man’s vivid dream appeared once again.

 

Back in my study of unsettling warmth,

I thought of the gods in their eternal prison,

Confined to death due to the folly of man,

How they must long for that darkness.

 

Book Review: Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Ted Kaczynski

Anti Tech

Yes. That Ted Kaczynski.

From Wikipedia:

Theodore John Kaczynski (born May 22, 1942), also known as the Unabomber, is an American mathematician, anarchist and domestic terrorist. A mathematical prodigy, he abandoned a promising academic career in 1969, then between 1978 and 1995 killed 3 people, and injured 23 others, in a nationwide mail bombing campaign that targeted people involved with modern technology. In conjunction with the bombing campaign, he issued a wide-ranging social critique opposing industrialization and advancing a nature-centered form of anarchism…

In 1971, he moved to a remote cabin without electricity or running water in Lincoln, Montana, where he lived as a recluse while learning survival skills in an attempt to become self-sufficient. In 1978, after witnessing the destruction of the wild land surrounding his cabin, he concluded that living in nature was untenable and began his bombing campaign. In 1995, Kaczynski sent a letter to The New York Times and promised to “desist from terrorism” if the Times or The Washington Post published his manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, in which he argued that his bombings were extreme but necessary to attract attention to the erosion of human freedom and dignity by modern technologies requiring large-scale organization…

Kaczynski was the target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) longest and costliest investigation. Before his identity was known, the FBI used the title “UNABOM” (UNiversity & Airline BOMber) to refer to his case, which resulted in the media calling him the Unabomber. The FBI (as well as Attorney General Janet Reno) pushed for the publication of Kaczynski’s manifesto, which led to his sister-in-law, and then his brother, recognizing Kaczynski’s style of writing and beliefs from the manifesto, and tipping off the FBI. After his arrest in 1996, Kaczynski tried unsuccessfully to dismiss his court-appointed lawyers because they wanted to plead insanity in order to avoid the death penalty, as Kaczynski did not believe he was insane. On January 22, 1998, when it became clear that his trial would entail national television exposure, the court entered a plea agreement, under which Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole at ADX Florence, where he remains as of 2017.

I was contacted by the publishers of Ted Kaczynski’s latest treatise Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How after writing a short but positive review of the original 1995 manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future on the website Goodreads. They offered me a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Naturally, I was eager to take up their offer.

Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How is an astonishing and, in my opinion, important attempt at analysing and outlining the root causes of modern society’s ills and the potential end result of where advances in technology may take us. A work like Anti-Tech Revolution is not easily reviewed. Since this is not a work of literature it cannot be reviewed based on its narrative flow and style. We must examine ourselves before approaching a political manifesto. Fundamentally, how positive one receives the message contained within Anti-Tech Revolution will very much depend on one’s own pre-existing values and opinions. Kaczynski does an excellent job in outlining what he sees as the situation of our current malaise, but admits himself that certain audiences are more receptive to certain ideas than others and it is a wasteful use of time to try to convince an audience that will never accept the book’s basic premise. It is no use handing a copy of Marx’s Communist Manifesto to a confirmed Libertarian and expecting an overnight conversion to Socialism. So it is with Anti-Tech Revolution. How much you will agree with Kaczynski’s conclusions is most probably already determined before you even open the book.

It is also an unescapable truth that an audience cannot separate the author from the work, no matter how predisposed they may be to his views. The fact of the matter is that Ted Kaczynski did carry out a campaign of domestic terrorism that injured 23 people and killed 3 others. It is also a fact that Ted Kaczynski pleaded guilty and is currently serving eight life sentences without the possibility of parole. Is it moral to review a book written by such a person? How you answer that question will very much depend on your own pre-existing sympathies and value system.

I do not normally discuss politics on either this blog or on my related social media feeds. Regular readers will know that apart from the occasional book review I normally confine myself to satire and parody. However, in the interests of disclosure, I will state that I am not unsympathetic to the views of Ted Kaczynski and we both share similar views on phenomena like globalisation, centralisation, bureaucracy, technology and “leftism” (as Kaczynski described his view of the origins and psychology behind mainstream liberal thought in his original Industrial Society and Its Future). That statement alone will also automatically inform any reader on how much their own view of Anti-Tech Revolution might or might not align with mine.

My first thought on reading Anti-Tech Revolution was it quickly becomes apparent that the author’s current incarceration has quite the influence on the sources gathered by Kaczynski to outline his point of view. Jailed and presumably severely limited in access to the internet, Kaczynski’s sources largely come from whatever resources he has access to in his prison library (the Encyclopaedia Britannica is referenced frequently) and assistance he has obtained from his large number of outside correspondents. This has a profound influence over the book’s structure in both positive and negative ways. Millennials may not realise that scholarly books were once written without the aid of the internet and that it was once frequent to quote books from five, fifty, one hundred and even two thousand years ago. This reliance on older sources is quite refreshing to the modern reader and gives the book a wandering style not dissimilar to that of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s when the author makes frequent detours into classical or medieval philosophy and history. It also emphasises that many of the arguments and fears covered by Kaczynski are not confined to our digital age: the consequences of rapid technological progress have been known since ancient times. However, it is admittedly a weakness of a book that discusses technology to be so outdated on recent trends in technology itself (though it does reinforce the argument that technological progress is accelerating faster and faster). The smartphone revolution has passed Kaczynski by while he has been confined to a prison cell; likewise other recent advances are conspicuously absent.

As the title suggests, Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How is neatly divided into the “why” and “how” of Kaczynski’s worldview. The book is divided into the following four chapters, with several appendices included at the end:

Part One: The Development of a Society Can Never Be Subject to Rational Human Control

Part Two: Why the Technological System Will Destroy Itself

Part Three: How to Transform a Society: Errors to Avoid

Part Four: Strategic Guidelines for an Anti-Tech Movement

Parts One and Two cover the “why” of what Kaczynski perceives as the reasons for modern society’s problems and why it needs to be destroyed. Parts Three and Four get into detail on “how” to do so. Here I shall outline each section in more detail.

The first part – The Development of a Society Can Never Be Subject to Rational Human Control – is the book’s most accessible. The reader doesn’t have to subscribe to the author’s anti-tech views to understand and agree with the arguments contained within. This is a very rational argument, but one that does need constant emphasising as its lesson does seem to be forgotten again and again by socialists, fascists, utopians, bureaucrats and all others who keep repeating the same mistake. No society can be controlled 100% by a central authority, and no central authority can forecast with 100% accuracy the direction the future will take. The development of human society, because it is composed of those strange irrational creatures called humans, can never be forced to completely follow a model concocted by some central planning theorist. Again, there are many echoes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s works on randomness and probability – more than once I wondered if Taleb was aware of Kaczynski’s writing.

Initially, it seems strange for a book dedicated to technology to devote its first section to the fallacies of economists and political theorists, but the logic soon becomes clear. Kaczynski is providing background on the human forces that have given rise to our growing use and dependence on technology. On the one hand we have competing groups throughout history who use technology to gain short-term advantages over their rivals in the eternal scramble for access to resources without consideration to the long-term consequences (though Kaczynski makes the excellent point that this is inescapable: any group that thinks too long-term will inevitably be wiped out by their more short-term thinking neighbours. A good argument as to why China’s current relentless growth may succeed but doom us all in the process). On the other hand, we have central planners who advance technology in an attempt to further control society and make accurate predictions to its future. Kaczynski argues that this is impossible. To even predict with total accuracy what would happen across the entire world in just the next sixty minutes would require an impossible amount of calculations.

We then move onto Part Two: Why the Technological System Will Destroy Itself. This section will be more familiar to readers of Kaczynski’s original manifesto and follows similar themes of self-propagating systems, accelerationism and environmental destruction. Great detail is given in this section – much more detail than can be covered in a mere review – but suffice to say, Kaczynski does not share the same views of people like Ray Kurzweil and other technologists who believe we are heading for a post-Singularity utopia where an all-knowing Artificial Intelligence will advance eternally and transform us into digital immortals. No. Though Kaczynski is unable and unwilling to give a timeline, his very forceful argument is that technology can only continue to accelerate, and we are accelerating to our inevitable ruin. The global spread of the technological system over our now tightly interconnected world means such ruin will also be global (perhaps little pockets like Bhutan may survive; Bhutan incidentally resembling probably the closest real-life example of how Kaczynski views a more sustainable society).

Anti-Tech Revolution doesn’t delve into how technology and “leftism” progress forward together as the original manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future did, but the undertone is there. Shanghai-based accelerationist Nick Land has repeatedly alluded to the metaphor of an increasingly inter-connected, tech-dominated, left-leaning world that has slowly but unstoppably grown through the course of history as something akin to an out-of-control Lovecraftian monster (although Land appears to want the monster to succeed). Fellow neo-reactionary Mencius Moldbug has also coined the succinct epitaph: “Chthulhu may swim slowly, but he always swims left.

The question is: if the technological system is fated to inevitably destroy itself (and us with it), why does Kaczynski wish to bring about its destruction and why bother writing a manifesto explaining how to do so? His argument is simple. It is better to destroy the system now rather than later. Destruction of the world’s technology would be devastating and involve death for a large percentage of the global population, but it will be nothing compared to the total destruction that awaits us when technology is even more advanced and our resources even more depleted.

With that argument, Kaczynski launches into the “how” of his revolution. Parts Three and Four discuss a strategy to create an anti-tech movement and outlines the errors to avoid. Anybody who has ever read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals will know what to expect in these two sections; Kaczynski himself acknowledges his debt to this book, though he shares zero common ground with Alinsky’s objectives. Many references are made to historical revolutions (the Bolsheviks, Mao, Irish nationalists)  and a few short-term and long-term strategies are presented as possible options for anyone who seriously wishes to take Kaczynski’s argument to their logical end. Like the chapter on human irrationality, a reader doesn’t have to share Kaczynski’s worldview to appreciate the detail and thoroughness of his arguments. Incarceration has obviously given the Unabomber time to consider every angle possible, and the steps on how to organise a community are food-for-thought for daily life, not just when organising the downfall of technological civilisation.

Inevitably, the “how” of the book is weaker than the “why” since the “how” is more conjecture than arguments based on empirical evidence. There are a small number of times when it also seems to descend into something akin to Live Action Role Playing, but these few and far between.

Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How was probably one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in the last ten years. It was the first time since university that I actually read through a book with a pen and paper to take notes. There are a handful of books that after reading them have left a deep and lasting imprint on my mind and political outlook – Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations, Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, Taleb’s Antifragility – and Anti-Tech Revolution will join them on that list. This isn’t the work of a psychotic nutjob: all of Kaczynski’s arguments are backed up with empirical evidence and his writing is both intelligent and highly logical. I can see the truth of what Kaczynski is trying to tell us, though I am personally unable to follow the logic all the way to its conclusion. Who exactly is going to carry out his anti-tech revolution and bring down everything modern society is based upon? Certainly not me. I will be the first to admit that if anybody succeeded in enacting Kaczynski’s grand plan than myself and my family will be amongst the first to be wiped out. Rootless, atomised within urban society, unable to survive without the accoutrements of modern technology and lacking the support network of someone in a more traditional way of life: I and everybody I hold dear would be dead within weeks of a large-scale takedown of the internet, an electromagnetic pulse, blowing up our energy sources or any of the other possibilities that Kaczynski outlines. That’s if the destruction of the technological system didn’t cause a nuclear meltdown or war that wiped me out first. I may be sympathetic to the views of Ted Kaczynski, but I have too much skin in the game to wish to see his vision succeed. Despite this, I agree with his conclusions on where we are heading – and it terrifies me. Culture wars and skirmishes between the alt-left and conservatives are just mere paraphernalia to what is really going on.

Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How by Theodore John Kaczynski is published by Fitch & Madison and available on Amazon. Ted Kaczynski does not receive any remuneration from the sales of the book.

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

 

 

A Handy Guide to Commonly Used Tinder Abbreviations By Expat Women In Asia

elly
Are you man enough to date me, loser?

Since Reddit user u/pomegranate2012 enlightened me that DTF in Fempat-ese actually means Din Tai Fung, I’ve now come to the shocking realisation that none of the abbreviations I’ve seen fempats use actually mean what I thought they meant.

After consulting with a “dating expert” who specialises in cross-cultural relationships and had worked for the Global Times for a whole 3 days before relocating to Thailand, I am now privileged to share with you the true meanings behind the secret fempat codewords they use on Tinder / Craigslist / Scrawled in pumpkin spice on the back of a Starbucks napkin.

If you are aware of anymore, please share.

ASL? : Any Spiced Lattes?

BJ : Burger Joint

BBBJ : Big Brand Burger Joint

BI : Will drink baijiu

BDSM : Bring Dumplings Stupid Man

BBW : Average fempat weight

DF : Diet Free

DDF : Diet and Diabetes Free

DTF : Din Tai Fung / Dumplings Taste Fabulous

DOB : Days Outside Beijing

FWB : Friends With Baozi

GSOH : Good at Sucking Off Hapas

JBY : Just Be Yuge

LDR : Like a Dumpy Rainy

LGBT : Let’s Go Buy Tacos

LTR : Lifetime Risk

MBA : Married But Asianwomanstolemyhusband

MWC : Made to Work in China

NBM : Never Bought Mons

NSA : No Schoolteachers Allowed

NSSA : No Sex Since America

STR8 : Stroke Tim’s Rigid ji8

SWS : Sex Within Shanghai

TDH : Tall Dark and Hei

TEFL : Take me Element Fresh for Lunch

TLC : Tim Loving Cumslut

W4M : Woman for Mutumbo

W4W : Woman for Workvisa

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Book Review: American Rococo by Isham Cook

AmericanRococo

 

The works of Isham Cook will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. Isham, by his own account, appears to be an American former-academic now based in China whose range of interests cover everything from massage, coffee and the old canal system of Beijing. I described his collection of short stories The Exact Unknown as “a voice outside the stereotypes” and one of the rare works on China written with “such truth, wit and honesty”. After reading his short stories, I went on to read his other works that I also reviewed for the viewing public. My favourite remains At The Teahouse Cafe: a wonderful collection of thoughts and ruminations on all things China with an insight that could only come from somebody who has been in the country for over two decades. Massage and the Writer took the same idea of having a compilation of related essays, but took the theme of massage rather than China. Again I found it to be insightful, thought-provoking and smoothly written. Finally, I found Isham’s experimental novel Lust and Philosophy to be challenging and intellectually stimulating, though I appear to be more in the minority in that view. Other reviews on Amazon described it as “rape literature” with one reviewer – Lloyd Lofthouse – even claiming “it is obvious that Isham is mentally damaged”.

So it was with great anticipation that I cracked open Isham’s latest work: American Rococo. Like At The Teahouse Cafe this is a collection of essays that have previously been featured on Isham’s blog, but this time he directs his observant eye to American society rather than China’s. Well, at least that is what I was expecting from the book’s title and the first few chapters. The name American Rococo conjured up images of a series of cutting essays on the current situation and trends within the United States – an occidental companion to his China-focused At The Teahouse Cafe. A 21st century equivalent of Dickens’ American Notes. Instead, American Rococo seems to have no overarching theme other than Isham’s own personal interests which is perhaps the greatest weakness of the book. Much more so than his previous work, your mileage will vary considerably depending on how interesting you find the topics that Isham decides to cover.

And what a range a topics there are! The erudite Mr Cook seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge on religion, Japanese theatre, Elizabethan chamber music and the roots of the English language. When my interests coincided with the author’s I raced through the pages eager to understand his conclusions and memorise any tidbits of information that had previously escaped me. His descriptions of life in South London during Shakespeare’s time were engrossing and I caught myself nodding along to his literary theories on Kafka. In fact, I will be forever mindful of American Rococo for introducing me to the idea that Kafka’s unfinished novels are better novels for the precise fact that they are unfinished. The idea of an unfinished novel that strays outside the narrative and never reaches its final destination had never occured to me as a perfect vehicle for the themes of helplessness and oppressive bureaucracy that Kafka obsesses over.

There is nothing wrong with a series of unrelated essays. As the author highlighted in his correspondence with me, the idea of centering a book of essays around a theme is a fairly recent phenomenon in contemporary publishing. Essays by Montaigne, Bacon, Emerson and others were never thematically unified. The same holds true with fiction. One of my most treasured books is a collection of all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s non-Sherlock short stories. The stories range from tales of colonial derring-do, proto-science fiction, medicine and that dreadful time when Conan Doyle began dabbling in Spiritualism. The whole point is the style, the quality of the writing, and if the essays maintain a singular world view.

However, I am only human – and I’m sure that most of the other readers of American Rococo are too. Quite simply, there were several chapters where I just did not share the same interest as the author. The articles that interested me will be completely different to those that may interest any other reader, but it is inevitable with a myriad of topics that each individual will find their own hits and misses. I had to skim-read through the (to me) long, dry and boring essays on the intricacies of lute craftsmanship in the Middle Ages or rather scholarly paragraphs on clause differences between old English and Danish that should remain in the debating halls of a university English Language department. There is also a tendency within the author to slip occasionally into the dry style of academic writing. It is obvious that Isham – self-publishing under his own Magic Theatre label and not beholden to the whims of big media – writes primarily for himself rather than for a defined audience. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this as genius stems from the individual rather than committee, but it does mean that appreciation of his writing depends greatly on your own interest in his chosen topics.

Review over? Is that all? Well, if American Rococo was just a collection of essays on music and literature, I would probably draw the review to a conclusion right now. Yet amidst the ink spilled on Philip Glass and Beowulf, there are other essays which are more focused on Isham’s personal philosophy rather than dissections of music and literature. It is these essays that provoked my strongest reactions to the book, and not always in a positive way.

A picture forms of Isham Cook after reading even just two or three sentences from any of his books. Libertine, sexually open, promiscuous, obsessive… in fact the author himself did a decent job of outlining some of these qualities in his semi-autobiographical novel Lust and Philosophy. Isham regularly recounts his joy in delving into the fleshy pleasures of life. He delights in the excessive, the sensuous and the extravagant. The title of the book American Rococo takes its name from the titular essay where Isham expands on his love of American excessiveness. To him, the rolling curves of the obese are beautiful, not disgusting. The inflated gibberish of street graffiti eye-catching rather than an eye-sore. Isham is a true child of his generation. In several chapters he promotes the wonders and delights of drug use and free love. His embrace of free love, wild extravagance, LSD trips and happy communal living seems firmly rooted in the 1960s and 70s which is when I presume Isham went through his formative years.

This utopian vision is repeated time and time again with an evangelical fervour worthy of the Christians and modern Atheists that he dissects in his chapter on modern atheism. To the libertine author, it is not enough that atheists have discarded traditional conservative beliefs when they still cling to “outdated” concepts like monogamy. To Isham, monogamy is a religion that in his position of Prophet must be destroyed and replaced with free love if we are ever to move forward as a species.

I use the word “Prophet” deliberately. I’m an advocate of Fourth Turning theory and when reading American Rococo found it very much to fit within the thinking of what The Fourth Turning described as a “Prophet” mentality. To those unfamiliar with The Fourth Turning, it was a landmark work written in the late 1990s by William Strauss and Neil Howe where they linked historical change to generational change that repeats itself in a never-ending cycle. Within their theory, certain time periods correspond almost to the seasons of the year: typically history is a cycle of Crisis (war, famine, revolution), a “High” (the post-war peace when society operates on shared principals and vision), Awakening (when a younger generation who are unaware of the horrors of war begin to rebel against the conformity of a peaceful but uniform society), Unravelling (when society begins to break down, institutions are attacked and become weak, individualism is strong) and back to Crisis. The mood and values of the generations born within those different times correspond accordingly.

With his mantra of free love and LSD for all, Isham epitomises the “Prophet” mindset of those born within the “awakening” time of the 60s and 70s. The Prophet sees it upon themselves to destroy the old establishment and create a new society based on new values. You can see this in the mentality of most baby boomers and their unparalleled success of completely transforming society in their image over the last sixty or so years. In his final essay – Advanced Love – Isham describes how he has stood at the front of the classroom in the image of the Prophet exhorting his students to embrace polyamory and communal living as his so-called most “advanced” form of love. Reading this part I wondered if Isham realised he came across just as evangelical as those Christian teachers who arrive in China and try to surreptitiously convert their students over to Jesus by sprinkling Bible quotes into their lesson plan.

I agree with a lot of what Isham Cook has to say. I also enjoy freedom and liberty and actually agree with almost all of his conclusions on the progression of society… it is the results that I disagree with. As a member of a younger generation than Isham’s, I have seen the end destination of many of his utopian beliefs. For his “American Rococo”, generations afterwards must suffer an “American Hangover”. After the Prophets have completed their great task of destroying the old, there is nothing left for the following generation but to wander through the ruins like nomads.

During the writing of this review, I exchanged some emails with Isham about his views on polyamory. In one email he writes:

[On polyamory]… this word is not to be confused with polygamy, polygyny or polyandry. I have no interest in traditional polygyny, still practiced by some Mormons in the US, in parts of Africa and the Middle East, etc. — the keeping of more than one wife, not always with their full consent. That’s a kind of slavery and is deplorable and sexist. Polyamory is simply the freedom to let people choose how they wish to organize a family and under what terms. This could be triads (2 males/1 female or 2 females/1 male), dual couples, or group or communal families. Children could be raised in common or raised exclusively by their biological parents. Sexual sharing may be allowed or not. There are no top-down rules. Each family unit decides their own rules and what kind of relationships they are willing to entertain with others. Ideally, there is no oppression, coercion, brainwashing or cult-like behavior.

I’m actually familiar with polyamory and aware of the distinctions between polyamory, polygamy and polyandry. However, I do not share Isham’s rosy view of its benefits. In my opinion, polyamory cannot and does not work in practice because of basic human nature. Both genders are naturally promiscuous but in different ways. Whereas a male will wish to copulate with as many different females as possible (since sperm is plentiful in comparison to eggs), females are more likely to gravitate towards the higher status males, even if that means sharing access and child paternity with the alpha male with other women in a kind of quasi concubinage. This is called hypergamy, and there are very good biological reasons why it exists. If you were a cavewoman in more primitive times it made sense to bear the children of the male with access to the most resources. One astonishing statistic is that before the dawn of civilisation, seventeen women reproduced for every one man.

Hence, it is my belief that the nature of hypergamy means that the ideal of polyamory will always devolve into the more nightmarish reality of polygamy. Isham writes (emphasis mine): “Ideally, there is no oppression, coercion, brainwashing or cult-like behaviour.” For me, that is the killer. The ideal may be freedom, but look at any social circle, structure, organisation or company that you have encountered in real life. The inevitable result is always hierarchy and power plays. If the group is lucky it just dissolves when the members gradually exit, if not the end result is normally conflict.

Destroying traditional family structures doesn’t result in a hippy communal paradise; it results in atomised and rootless individuals and a society drowning in anomie (the same atomised individuals that Isham describes in his essay on Airbnb hosts). Taking responsibility from biological parents for their children’s’ upbringing doesn’t result in everybody helping each other out at the top of Plato’s ladder of love; it results in broken homes and state intervention. Isham argues for a polyamorous society; my rebuttal would be to look at polyamorous societies throughout history and really see how successful they are. They went extinct. I can agree that monogamy is a kind of religion and a kind of female enslavement, but it’s equally a kind of male enslavement. It’s the promise of a wife to call one’s own and the chance to spread one’s genes into the next generation that is the basis of all true civilisation. Polyamory does not end in a loving free-for-all; female hypergamy ensures that it results in a small number of alpha males with large concubines and armies of disenfranchised men underneath. That’s not utopia, that’s a slave society. At times I wondered how much Isham really understands about the nature of women, despite the considerable amount of time he devotes to them. To put it in even blunter and cruder terms, there was more than one moment when I wanted to throw the book into the bin and I caught myself muttering “it was people like you who fucked up the world.”

(Note: if any reader wishes to read something which also discusses polyamory but comes to similar negative conclusions as the ones I have raised here, I would recommend any of Michel Houellebecq’s books)

If the preceding paragraph sounds angry and disdainful – you’re right. I did experience those feelings constantly throughout the essays where Isham expands on his utopian vision. However, let’s not let my opposition to Isham’s views colour a potential reader’s opinion of American Rococo. There is much to like here and I would still recommend it to anybody interested in good writing and intellectual debate. Just look at the passion it has invoked in me while writing the above paragraphs. As I noted in one of my previous reviews of Isham’s books, the role of a true teacher is to provoke reactions within his students and guide them into thoughts and viewpoints that they may not have considered before. In this, Isham succeeds once again. The two or three essays discussing his polyamorist ideal have probably given me more to ponder than anything else I’ve read this year.

So, go and read American Rococo. You’ll learn a few things that you didn’t know before on a wide range of topics that may even engage a new found passion within you. It will also challenge your notions of freedom and independence. I disagreed with nearly everything Isham had to say, but I had a great time doing so. Unlimited freedom has consequences. Unlimited freedom has a price. In the case of American Rococo, that price is about $10 if you buy direct from Amazon.

Isham Cook blogs at http://www.ishamcook.com and American Rococo is available on Amazon.

***

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

Juvenilia

I was going through some old junk the other day when I came upon an old notebook from my school days. Inside was a selection of short stories I had written waaaaaaay back in the day when I was probably just 13 or 14.

Of course, they’re absolutely terrible.

More for my own sake than anything else, I thought I’d post one of them here just as a little time capsule. This abomination was called Changing Times and is a steampunk story that was probably heavily influenced by The Chaos Engine that was one of my favourite computer games at the time.

 

Changing Times

 

 (Extracts taken from the diary of Sir Philip Redgrave)

August 3rd 1897

Wallace the younger announced during our daily whist session that he is to leave for the United States on the eleventh to “seek new opportunities” as he put it.

The damned fool has resigned from his prominent position at the East India Company that his dear late father left him after so much hard work. We tried to dissuade him since the club would not be as lively as it is when Wallace is intoxicated and entertains us with his medley of college songs.

Alas he has set his mind on emigrating, claiming that our Great Britain was “behind the times”! Indeed! I always knew his interest in Marx would fill his mind with queer ideas.

On my return home I was about to see Charles when Mrs. Jones stopped me saying that he desired not to be disturbed. Must see him after breakfast.

 

August 4th 1897

Charles must be working on something special; he was up to ungodly hours tinkering on his latest contraption. As usual he thanked me for the loan of my basement and for taking an interest but said he was too busy for visitors. He promised to show me his work tomorrow. I do hope the poor chap doesn’t overwork himself like Hartford did at Oxford.

The rest of the day was quiet except that one of my students, Brown, expressed a desire to study the Rights of the Zulu Nation. He seemed rather fervent about it but I convinced him to continue his classical studies.

 

August 5th 1897

Charles has created a quite phenomenal machine! Straight after breakfast I went down to the basement where Charles showed me his latest device.

It’s a small brassy hued box about a foot wide and a foot high. It’s connected to a large pipe that moves around as if it is a snake. This pipe is connected to a large steam generator that resembles a combustion engine out of those infernal new automobiles.

At the front of the brass box is a sheet of this glass with lights behind it. Underneath are a series of protruding knobs labeled 0 to 9. Pressing these buttons cause that number to appear on the glass. By typing in numbers you can write calculations which the box will supply the answer to.

Charles calls it a “computer” and predicts that it will become a boon to accounts departments across the globe. I have advised him to apply for a patent.

 

August 6th 1897

The Lord Runcie has invited me to his estate… in India! The proposal was given to me over dinner at the club this evening. I’m delighted to view the far reaches of our empire since the university is getting rather tiresome lately.

It’s a large manor which he bought with the proceeds of the spice deal he made last year.

When I returned home Mrs. Jones seemed most distressed. Questioning her revealed nothing except that she heard “strange noises” along the walls during the day. It’s probably rats.

It will be good for her to have a rest while I am abroad, like Charles I fear she works too hard.

 

August 7th 1897

Left the house in the capable hands of Mrs. Jones and Charles who continues to add small improvements to his machine. Said my goodbyes to Wallace who will have left for the Americas before I am back. The young fool will be sorely missed by all.

 

(From the notebook of Police Constable Kerr)

August 31st 1897

A number of people have reported to me strange emissions of steam from the Mayfair residence of Sir Philip Redgrave.

His housekeeper, a Mrs. Phyllis Jones, says Redgrave is currently vacationing in India.

Will investigate for myself tomorrow.

 

September 27th 1897

Finally returned from India and have vowed never to return to that wretched country ever again.

What little I saw of it due to a high fever (mercifully gone) was full of dirt, disease, beggars and mosquitos.

The crisp September air is a refreshing change to the humid Indian climate which caused havoc to my sleep pattern.

Must go to sleep as soon as possible.

 

September 29th 1897

I awoke from my slumber to find such chaos around me.

The murdered body of a police officer was found behind my residence in early September. Another Ripper of 1888 in Mayfair? The body seems to have been mutilated in the most grotesque way according to the police. The sight caused the finder, Mrs. Jones, considerable distress and caused her mind to be lost because of the trauma.

Dear, sweet, gentle Mrs. Jones. I cannot write about the amount of pity, sorrow and concern I feel for her.

Charles bothers me continually. He seems little concerned about these events and concentrates all his energies into his machine which is virtually unrecognizable to its first state.

Pipes, cogs, wheels, dials and pumps completely cover the basement forming one giant monster of metal and steam. And right in the middle of the beast still lies the shiny brass box, a beating heart supplying constant power to the computer.

As well as calculations, the machine can now perform many other feats, the most amazing is its ability to simulate any environment in the little brass box behind the glass screen. Charles calls it a “virtual reality”.

Charles too has changed. Gone are his debonair looks which charmed the ladies at St. Hilda’s. He seems much more paler and thinner. When he rarely speaks it is in a much lower voice, almost sinister.

My conscience tells me to worry about Mrs. Jones, but there is something about that machine, and Charles, that intrigues me.

 

September 30th 1897

Forced myself to visit the Joneses even though I knew the sights would cause distress.

Journeying to their East-end terrace was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. Rarely have I wondered from the comforts of the upper class society and the images that greeted me filled one with guilt.

The squalor that these people live in is mild compared to India, yet it is still rife with disease and vermin. The bad conditions must surely bring out the worse in people because the folk are repulsive, ignorant, arrogant swine. Mrs. Jones has a small but spotlessly clean terraced house; it is like a shining beacon of light amid the dirty East-end. She is in a most terrible condition, spending her day staring into blankness, never opening her mouth except to eat. Quiet Mr. Jones tends to her night and day. Thank heavens they are childless, otherwise it would be a nightmarish situation.

Latest news from the continent tells of increasing tensions between France and Prussia.

 

October 1st 1897

Spent the day browsing through the club’s library before my return to the university tomorrow. From what I read of Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days I can confirm that the parts based on our very Reform Club are well researched. When he visited the club a few years ago I was promised a part in it, so I may find myself reading about myself in a later chapter.

Sent out advertisements for a new housekeeper and got a note from Charles asking me to get some papers from his dormitory.

 

October 2nd 1897

Being back at the university was much more enjoyable than I had thought it would have been. The students and teachers seemed so eager to hear wonderful tales of India that it was hilarious to see their disappointment when I explained how little I saw of it.

Remembering my promise I went to Charles’ dormitory and saw that it hadn’t been used for a long while.

The papers seem to be a speech written by Charles about his computer for when he presents it to the university. It is interesting yet disturbing. I took the time to copy it out:

 

The Information Revolution by Charles Babbage.

 

“As we speak, the world around us changes as the Industrial Revolution improves living standards, communication, and mass production. Some people say that the future is now, but I disagree.

“To progress man has to find a way to change his environment to suit his needs, any good historian will tell you this. Mankind needs to overcome the obstacle of bad communication, transport and cultural differences if it is to achieve a one global Utopia.

“In the beginning I designed the computer as a machine that could store information and calculate any problem in seconds. Now I realize that it has the potential to achieve much more. Imagine a world where all countries are united as one and the jobs of production, cultivation and building are taken care of by a giant computer, leaving man free to enjoy life, study, and to expand the Utopia.

“To achieve this we have to be able to bend the environment to our will. This is where the technology of the computer comes in… (The next part is all about the technical details of the machine so I have omitted it).

“…with this power it is possible to “warp” space, time and matter.

“Objects could be generated out of thin air, terrain could be changed to a more suitable land, people could be teleported across the globe and time travel would become a reality. The possibilities are endless.

“With my computer, the Information and Industrial Revolutions would grow side by side, allowing man to step out into a brave new world!”

– Charles Babbage.

 

It seems that Charles envisions a new society. I fear that Marxism has deluded him with its promises.

The basement door was shut tight when I delivered the papers. Charles would not answer me despite my protests.

The machine now emits a monotonous banging that continues as I write this.

 

October 3rd 1897

That infernal racket never stopped during the night and Charles still won’t open the door.

Weariness prevented me from going to the university and I eventually resorted to staying at the club all day just for some peace and quiet.

 

October 4th 1897

The noise continued unabated until last night when it suddenly stopped.

Jardine inquired about my absence yesterday and refused to believe my story. The cur even threatened mw with dismissal if “I continue with nonsensical excuses”. Nonsense indeed! It was Jardine in ’78 that tried to convince us all in his sightings of spirits and poltergeists. Later that evening when I returned home the architecture of the room seemed strange and warped. Maybe I should lay off the sherry.

 

October 5th 1897

Something eerie is afoot and I’m sure that machine is the root of it.

I awoke to find my surroundings nearly unrecognizable. All the furniture and walls seem to be distorted and twisted to quite grotesque standards. From the outside the house is normal, but the interior resembles a macabre freak show.

What is happening to me? The bizarre happenings that have occurred recently are scarcely believable to myself. I must admit that I am now afraid of my own house yet I daren’t leave it for fear of what will await me when I return. The computer’s ability to “warp matter” is surely the reason for this devilry and Charles persists in ignoring my pleas to allow me into the basement. Perhaps he is dead and the machine is out of control, that would explain why a cloud of chaos has descended on Mayfair.

Tomorrow I must force the basement door open to try and stop that engine of destruction.

May God help me.

 

(The handwriting now is less cursive and is gradually reduced to a childish scrawl)

October 6th 1897

This will be my last entry, dear diary. Charles is dead. He had good intentions for that beast but it was not to be.

I managed to burst into the basement early this morning and was astounded at what I saw. How the machine grew to that size is beyond me. It was like a factory below my house. Rivets turned, pumps pounded away endlessly, cogs clicked into place and the steam… oh the steam! It was beautiful yet menacing, a huge monster never ceasing it’s work, forever growing, towering ominously. And right in the centre, supplying the amazing power, was the shiny brass box pumping energy into the creature’s veins.

As I stood in awe, Charles approached me not shocked in the slightest at my presence. Only his closest friends would have recognized him. His entire body was pure white and it radiated a soft luminance. I only dared to look into his eyes once and the sight still makes me shudder. Wild flames basked in a brilliant white glow danced in his white pupils like wicked devils.

He talked like a mad man, eyes darting in all directions, speaking of a new order where man and the machine lived together in harmony building a new Utopia.

It sounded so wonderful! The computer would spread British influence through Europe, the colonies, then the world! As the talk became more frenzied, the machine seemed to grow angrier. Every part of It’s body moved faster and faster until Charles reached the highpoint of his speech when suddenly It let out a huge piercing jet of steam from It’s furnace.

When the steam cleared Charles lay dead on the floor scorched to a cinder. The machine had turned on its creator.

I write this locked in my dining room in a state of abject fear. I have decided I cannot live in a world run by a machine with a mind of it’s own.

The last thing I saw before I fled from the basement was the little brass box. On It’s screen It showed something growing and growing until It filled the entire globe. Humans will not be needed in this world as the Beast can create further machines from within It’s bowels.

God created Man and Man nearly destroyed the Earth. So what of Man’s new child?

– Sir Philip Redgrave

 

So ends the diary found near the body of Sir Redgrave. The body of Charles Babbage was found in the basement scorched beyond recognition.

There is no sign of “warped furniture” or a giant machine; the basement is completely empty. The writings are probably the work of a deranged mind due to the fever Sir Redgrave contracted in India. The official verdict is that Sir Redgrave murdered Charles Babbage then took his own life.

The rest of the day was quiet except for some of the East-end populace making reports about “a huge mechanical flying bird” heading towards Westminster. Such reports have been dismissed as nonsense.

– Detective Inspector William Bull

Why Anyone Can Be Daniel A. Bell

My Profile Photo
This is my story.

Who is Daniel A. Bell? The answer may seem simple at first: Daniel A. Bell is Daniel A. Bell.

But you would be wrong. Imagine a young man born and brought up in the UK, a man who later moved to China and who also happens to have many of Daniel A. Bell’s physical and emotional traits: a skinny build, a fondness for black rimmed glasses, and lurid fantasies that somehow involve the Chinese Communist Party being a meritocracy worth emulating. My real name might not be Daniel A. Bell, but I sure as hell like to tell people it is. I even wear traditional Chinese clothes when I’m with Chinese people dressed in suits.

Why can’t I be Daniel A. Bell?

Let’s reconsider my case. Like Daniel A. Bell I have Caucasian physical features, I have lived and worked in China for more than two decades, I speak the Chinese language, I identify with Chinese culture and I also have written complete and utter nonsense online. But almost no one considers me to be the real Daniel A. Bell. When I tried to enter Daniel A. Bell’s office in Tsinghua University I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.

Instances like these point to the difficulty with a view that is deeply ingrained in media outlets like The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and at least implicitly endorsed elsewhere: That only Daniel A. Bell can be Daniel A. Bell.

I have tried to feel welcomed and loved since I based my whole identity around Daniel A. Bell fifteen years ago. His wife is Chinese, and I’ve done my best to stalk her since the Bells arrived in China in 2004. One night, when Daniel A. Bell was out on the international lecture circuit talking about “Chinese Exceptionalism”, I broke into their house, put on Daniel A. Bell’s pyjamas, and crawled into bed next to Mrs. Bell. But before I could even warm her up by stroking her hair and telling her about the limits of democracy, she had called the police and once again I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.

Some people try to help. My British friends sometimes tell me that I am being a “Bell-end”. It’s meant as a compliment, but the implication is that I’m only a “bell-end”. I don’t want to be a bell-end. I want to be Daniel A. Bell.

My sexy glasses
Me. Yesterday.

The obstacles are not insurmountable. I moved to Montreal so that I could claim the same Canadian citizenship as Daniel A. Bell then later devoted my life to writing fawning articles about the Chinese Communist Party. It has been said that Daniel A. Bell brown-noses the Party leadership so much that “When Xi Jinping farts, Daniel A. Bell sneezes.” I am determined to do the same – and more. When Xi Jinping farts, I want to be covered in shit.

My failure so far to be recognised as the real Daniel A. Bell certainly isn’t due to any lack of commitment on my part to imitate Daniel A. Bell. I’ve been working on slagging off freedom and democracy for many years, and it inspires the way I lead my life. Every time my wife asks if she can leave the house I slap her round the face and tell her that freedom of movement is unnecessary within my meritocratic household. I’m told over and over that my commitment to being Daniel A. Bell is more “Bellish” than Daniel A. Bell himself. At conferences in China, I often find myself the only person who is willing to share a stage with Eric X. Li.

I understand Daniel A. Bell’s fear of other people claiming to be Daniel A. Bell. During my research on Daniel A. Bell I discovered that he was relentlessly bullied at school by bigger kids who would steal his glasses, put them on, and chant “I’m Daniel A. Bell! I’m Daniel A. Bell! I like Confucianism and I smell like hell!” Such bullying must have left deep mental scars for life.

But I also learnt that there have been times when Daniel A. Bell was more welcoming to others claiming his name. A close relative of his – who I now have tied up in my basement – related to me the tale of when one of Daniel A. Bell’s cousins bought him a beautiful golden bell for Christmas. Daniel A. Bell christened the bell “Daniel”, and when I once parked my car outside Daniel A. Bell’s house at three o’clock in the morning I saw through his window that he still possesses his treasured bell and has engraved upon its surface – “Daniel: A Bell.”

Despite these ups and downs, Daniel A. Bell has come through it all and stands today as the respected author of such great political books like the catchily-titled Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times. It is time he put the past behind him and accepted that other people also wish to be Daniel A. Bell… like me. Slicing off his skin and wearing it as a macabre “skin-suit” should not be punishable by the law, as I explained to the Shandong police just last week. It is unacceptable that in 2017 when so many victories have been won for people of colour, our LGBTQ allies and those that identify as gender-fluid, that nobody will recognise me as “Trans-Bell”.

Daniel A. Bell describes his view of the perfect government to be “meritocratic”. Perhaps it is time for Daniel A. Bell to heed his own advice. If other people are better at being Daniel A. Bell than Daniel A. Bell, then why shouldn’t they be Daniel A. Bell? That is my modest dream: to be viewed as Daniel A. Bell not just in my own mind but by the people responsible for payroll and salaries at the Wall Street Journal.

— Dr. Daniel A. Bell is dean of the school of political science and public administration at Shandong University and a professor at Tsinghua University. His most recent book is Party Members.

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This ABOMINATION was once published in a certain blog post called “Panda Hugger Top Trumps”. Disgusting.

Note: If you are confused as to what the hell this post may be talking about, perhaps this might help.

Love and the Law: A Propaganda Tale of Woe

Every generation a story emerges which perfectly encapsulates the mood of the times. Euripides perfectly summarised the Ancient Greek love of murdering all of your immediate family members in Medea. The Canterbury Tales provides a fascinating insight into medieval life. Capturing life in Regency Period Britain for the upper middle-classes was Jane Austen’s speciality. And, of course, Keeping Up With The Kardashians perfectly displays our modern degeneracy and descent into a society of soulless harridans with plastic injected into our grotesquely oversized buttocks.

Yet what magnum opus has China pumped out to capture a window on its society as it entered the new Millennium? Some might say Shanghai Baby by Wei Hui. To those people I spit in their faces and later throw their children down disused mine shafts. Nay, the greatest work of literature produced in China around the year 2000 was the epic The Contest of Love and the Law produced by the Beijing Police and stuck on billboards across the city. Thought lost to the world for the last 15 years, luckily a copy has finally re-emerged. Originally stolen by a drunk British student on his way home from The Den in 2002, this blog is proud to present a translated performance of…

The Contest of Love and the Law

OR

Don’t Marry That Man From Jinan Who Didn’t Go To University

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The Contest of Love and the Law.

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This is how the masterpiece looks in its glorious entirety.

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Edited by notable and acclaimed turn of the century police poet: Liu Renqing. We salute you.

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Notice how Xiao Qing’s hand is just millimetres away from Cheng Ming’s cock. The dirty little minx deserves everything that is coming for her. Notice the rocking red turtle neck on Cheng Ming: years before Steve Jobs started wearing them.

In 1980, 18 year old Cheng Ming graduated from a certain Beijing upper secondary school. He didn’t get into university, but managed to find himself a girlfriend. Xiao Qing was a much-liked girl. As soon as Cheng Ming knew her, he became deeply attracted to her. He appeared to be a real manly man, occasionally acting as her guardian angel. He was considerate towards her and even spent money on anything for her. Xiao Qing was conquered by Cheng Ming’s love, so the couple started seeing one another.

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You will know this is China in the winter as everybody is wearing their coats inside: just outside the picture you would have seen the window wide open in order to allow the minus twenty fresh winter air in. Readers of Party Members will be interested to note that the mother is drinking a refreshing glass of F-Max: the lightly sparkling fish-flavoured drink made from workers’ piss.
However, after meeting Cheng Ming, Xiao Qing’s parents really didn’t like him. Every time Cheng Ming would visit the house, the parents were indifferent to him. Cheng Ming would always buy them presents on his visits in order to impress his future father and mother in law. Yet no matter how hard Cheng Ming tried, Xiao Qing’s parents still wouldn’t agree for them to be together. Since Cheng Ming was kind to her, Xiao Qing decided not to let her parents’ disapproval stop her. They still remained a couple. After several years, Cheng Ming couldn’t leave Xiao Qing’s side.

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In the world of “Love and the Law” everybody likes to wear plain unbranded coloured shirts. I’m sure there is some symbolism going on here: the strong woman wearing revolutionary red, the evil man wearing capitalist blue.
However, without the approval of her parents, Xiao Qing wasn’t prepared to marry Cheng Ming. Cheng Ming harboured a deep grudge towards Xiao Qing’s parents because of this. Following this understanding, the relationship between Xiao Qing and Cheng Ming entered into a crisis. Xiao Qing realised that Cheng Ming wasn’t the man she thought he was, and that they had very different personalities. They began to argue frequently over small things. After several arguments, Xiao Qing decided that things were too hard, and was increasingly disappointed in Cheng Ming. Thus she decided to break up with him.

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If this was the present day they’d both be staring at their phones right now.
One day in 1985 Xiao Qing passed Cheng Ming a break-up letter, saying that her parents didn’t agree with them being together and that she must listen to her parents.

Cheng Ming was very angry and thought that Xiao Qing had led him on; concluding that this was all due to her parents’ meddling. At the same time, he also felt that he had spent a lot of money on Xiao Qing and her family. He thought: “Although you lot have not been benevolent, I have not been righteous! I want all my money back. I’m not losing both my girlfriend AND my money.”

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Lovely thermos of HOT WATER behind the father there. Obviously a man who cares about his healthy. Little does he know that his hot water won’t protect him from Cheng Ming’s hammer of justice in the next panel.
On November 16th 1985, Cheng Ming brought a dagger and entered the house of Xiao Qing’s parents in Beijing’s Fengtai District. At the time her parents were not home, so Cheng Ming used a key he had previously copied to open the door and enter the house. Then Xiao Qing’s father returned home, and upon seeing Cheng Ming in the house asked him what he was doing. Cheng Ming said: “I have come to get my money back.” Xiao Qing’s father said: “We don’t owe you any money, get out.” Cheng Ming said: “I bought many things for Xiao Qing and you two. Now she won’t stay with me. I have come back to settle the score.” Xiao Qing’s father said: “You’re talking nonsense. Your relationship with Xiao Qing is your own doing, we don’t owe you anything.”

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Cheng Ming finally takes his Thor cosplay too far.
The two of them argued back and forth. Cheng Ming thought back to all the attitude that Xiao Qing’s parents had given him in the past, all of their absolute opposition to him being with Xiao Qing, and he couldn’t help but to be full of hate towards Xiao Qing’s father. In his eyes, Xiao Qing was the enemy standing in his way of happiness, and he became filled with murderous rage. He turned around and pulled out a hammer that he kept on his person, and violently hit Xiao Qing’s father three times on the head. Xiao Qing’s father collapsed onto the floor. Fearing that he wasn’t dead, Cheng Ming pulled out a knife and slashed him several times across the neck, also stabbing him several times in the chest with his dagger, until Xiao Qing’s father was dead.

(Can I just say how completely implausible it is that Cheng Ming would have not one, but THREE murder weapons about his person. A glass of cold water would probably have been sufficient.)

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As a foreigner who first visited China in the 1990s, I can attest that the bed covers are an authentic depiction of pre-2000 bed covers. I also had blood on my bedroom floor too.
Cheng Ming dragged the body into the bedroom and placed it next to the bed, then covered the body with a blanket. After killing Xiao Qing’s father, Cheng Ming still felt it wasn’t enough. So he hid in Xiao Qing’s house waiting for her mother to return. After some time, Xiao Qing’s mother came home. Before she could even speak, Cheng Ming leapt over and viciously stabbed her in the chest and neck with his dagger. Xiao Qing’s mother fell into a pool of blood. Cheng Ming dragged Xiao Qing’s mother’s body into the bedroom, covered it with a towel, then sat in the outer room waiting for Xiao Qing to come home.

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For a woman who has just seen her parents stabbed to death and has a bloody knife being pointed towards her face, Xiao Qing looks remarkably nonplussed. Her face is only emitting the type of mild disgust shown upon, say, finding that the person before you in the toilet didn’t flush.
That evening after six o’clock, Xiao Qing finished work and came home. When she opened the door she saw Cheng Ming approaching her from the north room with a dagger in his hand – she couldn’t help but be shocked. Cheng Ming said to her: “Don’t move, come with me into the room.” Xiao Qing was terrified as she followed him in. After entering the room she said: “What the hell has happened here?” Cheng Ming said to her angrily: “I will tell you straight, I have killed your parents. Listen to me, I cannot let you go.”

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It must be difficult for Xiao Qing and the police to continue their conversation with the police vans outside still continuing to keep their sirens and lights on. Still, it is probably quieter than living next door to a Chinese apartment that is being redecorated, so perhaps they are used to it. Also, where in the Beijing-Jinan vicinity is there a nice uncluttered police station that has a wide boulevard outside it with room to park two large police vehicles? So many questions…
To stop Xiao Qing from running away, Cheng Ming used a rope to tie one of her hands to the bed. He tied the other hand to himself. The next afternoon Cheng Ming decided that he could stay in the house no longer, and told Xiao Qing that she was to go with him back to his hometown. Xiao Qing was afraid that he would kill her, so she could only say yes. After arriving at Beijing train station, Cheng Ming bought two train tickets to Jinan. After boarding the train, Cheng Ming felt that Xiao Qing couldn’t possibly run away, so he leant over the table and went to sleep. As soon as the train arrived at a station, Xiao Qing seized her chance and ran off the train and straight to a police station to make a report.

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“YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE LONG ARM OF THE GIANT SQUARE-JAWED CHINESE POLICE AND THEIR HANDCUFFS OF JUSTICE! NOBODY CAN!” Cheng Ming also looks like he is sporting a massive erection in this panel. Well done, lad.
After waking up, Cheng Ming realised that Xiao Qing had run away. He knew she would go report to the police. Therefore he decided to change trains and fled to Longhua town in the Jing County of Hebei Province. Changing his name to Cheng Chen he hid for awhile. At the beginning, Cheng Ming was nervous all day and night. He realised that he had committed a fatal crime, if he was caught there was no doubt that he’d be executed. Hence he started to have nightmares every day. In his dreams the police would suddenly appear in front of him before locking him in handcuffs and dragging him off to a police car. Occasionally when walking down the street, if he spotted a uniformed police officer, even if it was just a security guard, he would think that they had come to arrest him.

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Women hold up half the sky. Boxes too in this story.
In his extreme fear, the days slowly passed. Cheng Ming realised that nobody knew he was a murderer on the run – the police hadn’t taken any action against him. Hence he gradually recovered his courage. No longer did he spend the whole day hiding in a small rented room; he began to go out everywhere. Not long after he found himself a job and built up the appearance of being a very honest person. In his job he was more hard-working than others. Whenever his neighbours needed help he would always gladly assist. Normally he was a quiet person, somebody who didn’t want to cause any trouble. Everybody considered him to be a practical, capable and honest person: somebody who could be a friend and help out in time of need.

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“I love you darling, which is why I have brought you to the muddy banks of this traffic overpass. The diesel fumes are beautiful, but not as beautiful as you.”
Before he knew it, several years passed by, and Cheng Ming had settled down in Jing County. In his heart he thought: “Several years have gone by, the police have probably forgotten about me. I hope that Heaven can protect me and let me continue my life this way.” Now that his work and life were in place, the almost 30 year old Cheng Ming decided to seek out marriage. Before long a woman called Feng Jie was introduced to him. As soon as they met they had a good impression of one another. Feng Jie really liked his Beijing accent and thought he was cultured, polite, honest and capable. Cheng Ming also wasn’t too picky about Feng Jie, as long as a woman liked him and was willing to spend her life with him he thought it was enough. Cheng Ming kept his past a secret and after one year they were married.

(There seems to be some inconsistency here in Cheng Ming’s back story. Here it says he has a Beijing accent, but earlier it says his hometown is Jinan. Also, why did he choose Hebei as his place to hide out? Come on Beijing Police, get your facts straight!)

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If that is a speaker system next to the stereo in the top right corner then – despite his many crimes – Cheng Ming was the most badass muthafucka in 1990s Beijing… even when wearing a v-neck sweater.
After getting married, Cheng Ming was thoughtful towards Feng Jie in all ways, and after the birth of their son, he was a shining beacon to Feng Jie and his son and carried out the role of a good husband and father well. In order to give his wife and son a better life he thought of many ways to earn some extra money. Afterwards, they purchased a house in his work unit and also a tractor. The money in their pocket was growing bigger all the time. They bought several appliances for the house. Feng Jie also started to spend lots of money and would often buy fashionable clothes; because of this their neighbours started to envy them.

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The artist just gave up on the policewoman’s face, didn’t he?
Cheng Ming was secretly proud of the fact that he had evaded the law and was living a happy life, however in 1999 the whole country carried out the task of looking for him. One day in September the Fengtai District police received news from the Jing County police that the missing murderer Cheng Ming had appeared in Jing County. On hearing this the officers quickly arrived in Jing County and prepared to catch Cheng Ming. However, it was as if the crafty Cheng Ming had smelled them coming, and he had already hidden elsewhere. The officers found nothing at Cheng Ming’s house. When they asked Feng Jie she said she wasn’t clear where her husband was, and the officers could only leave empty-handed.

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“Darling, do you ever feel that we could be fictional cartoon characters in a government propaganda campaign? I don’t know any other 1990s working class families in Beijing with their own corner office, especially families led by men from Jinan who didn’t go to university. Something just doesn’t feel right. I’m scared.”
After hiding out, Cheng Ming realised that there were no further movements so decided to return home. Feng Jie asked him: “Why do the police want you? What have you done wrong?” Cheng Ming replied with an understatement: “I had a fight with somebody and beat them into a vegetable state.” Feng Jie said: “Is it really because of this? Are you lying to me?” Cheng Ming said: “How could I lie to you?” However, don’t tell anybody else about this. If I’m really arrested, what would happen to you and our son? What would happen to our family? I can’t bear to be without you and our son. Right now only you can help me. As long as you don’t tell the police they won’t be able to find me.”

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In this panel, Cheng Ming decides to flee to Puyang in Henan Province rather than go to jail. Personally, I would have chosen jail.
When she heard that her husband had really committed a crime, Feng Jie felt extremely nervous. She considered urging her husband to surrender himself so that he would receive a lenient punishment. However, after thinking it over, she felt her husband was speaking the truth. He was the foundation of this family, the whole family depended on him. If he was really arrested, what would happen to her and her son? Furthermore, if other people knew her husband was a criminal, where would she be able to show her face? When she thought of that she decided to keep her silence and not go to the police. Although Feng Jie had said she wouldn’t go to the police, Cheng Ming thought that there were too many eyes nearby watching him, so he decided to go and hide out temporarily in the city of Puyang in Henan Province.

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I’m not sure that adding the lipstick to the blue-tinged background really helps. Feng Jie looks like a necrophiliac’s dream come true. Either that or this is a David Lynch movie.
In Puyang, Cheng Ming pondered that he could no longer stay in Jing County. Since the police had already been to his house to look for him, there were definitely people who knew he was a criminal on the run. If he appeared at home again, he couldn’t be certain that nobody would report him. After much consideration, he decided to let Feng Jie sell of all the household items and come with him to Puyang. He gave Feng Jie a phone call: “I am now in Henan. Sell the house and the tractor and bring yourself and our son to Henan.” Feng Jie asked: “It sounds like you’ve committed a serious crime. Why won’t you dare to come home?” Cheng Ming said: “Look how we’ve bought a house and a vehicle, other people misbelieve that we have a lot of money. Some people can get very jealous and you can’t be sure they won’t try to blackmail us. It’s better that we change location and save ourselves the trouble.”

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The women in Cheng Ming’s life only appear to own red or yellow clothes. Xiao Qing did have a green jacket in panel 2, but that was only in exchange for the green hat she gave Cheng Ming after 5 years of illicit pre-marital sex.
Feng Jie asked: “Is it really because of this?” Seeing that Feng Jie didn’t quite believe him, Cheng Ming simply and openly said to her: “I have committed a serious crime, but I have already reformed into a better person. I really can’t bear to lose you and our son, I don’t won’t you both to become a widow and orphan. I love you too much. In this world I only have one person close to me. Only you can help me. We are husband and wife, bring our son and come to Henan.” Cheng Ming’s words moved Feng Jie so she agreed to Cheng Ming’s request. She quickly sold the house for 35,000 yuan and also sold the tractor plus all the other household belongings that were worth money. Then she brought their son and went to Puyang together to be reunited with Cheng Ming.

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I have NEVER seen this many police in Beijing take a matter so seriously unless it was a drunk foreigner giving out free cigarettes on Sanlitun.
After Cheng Ming’s family disappeared from Jing County, the police did not rest in tracking him down. After much investigation, they finally found out Cheng Ming’s new address. On the night of April 24th 2001, the police in Henan’s Puyang City arrested Cheng Ming and Feng Jie and returned them to Beijing. On August 30th 2001 the No.2 Beijing People’s Procuratorate charged Cheng Ming with the crime of murder and Feng Jie with the crime of harbouring him, and sent them to the No. 2 Beijing People’s Middle Court for trial. The Court thought that Cheng Ming had disregarded the state law, and had carried out cruel means to deliberately take the lives of others resulting in two people dead. This behaviour already amounted to the charge of murder, but his criminal nature was especially evil, deceitful, and ended in serious results. He represented a serious danger to society and should be punished in full accordance of the law.

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Cheng Ming and Feng Jie were sentenced to be handcuffed to dummies of police officers in a Beijing Police Waxworks Museum for eternity. Let that be a lesson to all.
Feng Jie knew clearly that Cheng Ming had committed a crime. When the police sought to arrest him, she aided Cheng Ming in evading the sanctions of the law. These actions were enough to amount to the crime of harbouring and should be punished in full accordance of the law. On 17th September 2001 the No. 2 Beijing People’s Middle Court sentenced Cheng Ming to death according to the law and to be deprived of all of his political rights to the end of his life. Feng Jie was sentenced to two years detention, with a suspension of two years. The master criminal Cheng Ming finally received the full punishment of the law a whole 15 years after his crime. As for Feng Jie who should have had enough of an average citizen’s consciousness of the law to report Cheng Ming to the police, her regard for the law was weak so she helped her husband to escape. Thus she also received due punishment. This should give cause for everybody to consider: between love and the law, which one should you choose?

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“Today’s episode of government propaganda has been brought to you by the letters B, J and the number 8.”
The Law of the People’s Republic of China.

Section 232: The crime of murder is punishable by death, life imprisonment or a minimum of ten years imprisonment. If the motives are lighter, it carries a sentence of between 3 to 10 years imprisonment.

Section 310: The crime of knowingly harbouring a criminal from justice, either financially or through other means, carries a sentence of 3 years or less imprisonment. If the crime is more serious, it can receive a sentence of 3 to 10 years imprisonment. For repeat offences, cases will be considered individually.

ATTENTION WOMEN:

THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER MARRY A MAN FROM JINAN WHO HASN’T BEEN TO A GOOD UNIVERSITY AND DOESN’T OWN HIS OWN HOUSE. 

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

The People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper

Recently I was searching through my old drawers in the hope of finding a piece of retro-treasure that I could sell to fund this month’s booze requirements. Perhaps a Millennium Falcon or even a homemade Tracy Island play set. Alas, no. However, I did stumble upon some of my old Chinese propaganda collection.

Back in the day I used to collect quite a large amount of Cultural Revolution bric-a-brac. Today, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you some selected passages from the May 1976 edition of the People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper – just four short months before the Great Helmsman was due to pop his clogs and enter the big Communist Party in the sky.

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A solid choice for the front page of the PLA Pictorial. The classic Chairman Mao in full colour waving at the masses. I don’t think there was ever an edition of the PLA Pictorial that didn’t have Mao as the front page celebrity – a bit like how Philip Schofield is ALWAYS on British TV no matter what you are watching.

The main story of the month was the monuments meeting between Chairman Mao meeting some representatives from the Laotian Communist Party. Remember, this was just four months before Mao shuffled off this mortal coil and he is looking decidedly decrepit in this photo. Lie him down, stick him in a glass coffin, and he doesn’t look much different now.

Inside front cover: lovely red-tinged (literally AND politically) poster wishing victory to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Only the front and back pages, plus a central section, are in colour. The rest of the magazine sees a huge decrease in quality and even the paper is a little rougher. The same can’t be said for the content though! Here we have a fascinating pictorial on how the Party’s decisions are benefiting the masses all over China and being welcomed by everybody. Surely true Communism was only mere months from being achieved if it hadn’t been for that meddling Deng Xiaoping and his dastardly reforms.

Images from Xi’an, Lanzhou, Kunming and Guiyang in uniform dull black and white. The signs all basically say the same thing: uphold the Central Party’s wise two resolutions. What those two resolutions are I have no idea. Interestingly, the lower sign in the bottom left picture (Kunming) exhorts people not to follow the incorrect capitalist path of reformer Deng Xiaoping. Note how the two characters for Xiaoping have been deliberately slanted to an angle.

The glossy centrefold section. No nudes or Playboy bunnies here though, just morally upright images of everyday life in the worker’s paradise.

This is a performance in Guizhou of the revolutionary opera Sha Jia Bin which you can watch here if you are interested. It’s basically just about fighting the Japanese.

See how the women of China were set free from their chains and given the liberty to spend their lives working in factories. Women hold up half the sky! This liberated young lady is inspecting a high-pressure insect killing light.

Look at these wonderful products. It’s astonishing how the West didn’t just collapse overnight in the face of this astonishing industry. Above picture is a tractor, below are some generators.

This is how the full page looks. The bottom right picture shows the peasants warmly welcoming their new agricultural equipment.

I love this photo. It’s amazing how people’s faces actually looked different back then, as if they were infused with the holy revolutionary spirit itself. This is a branch of the Wuhan Party Support Team who have “organised some revolutionary cultural activities for the cause of class struggle”. These activities mainly consist of singing in large groups and writing slogans on walls. Not my words, the words of the People’s Liberation Army Pictorial Paper.

The Secretary and Deputy Secretary of a factory. The headline says that previously they had “never touched the oily parts of a machine, but now have become technical masters!”

The rest of the magazine is more or less the same: photos of people holding up banners, photos of machinery and photos of Mao. The editorial team certainly didn’t have to worry about clicks so you won’t see eye-grabbing headlines like “This one weird trick to denounce your neighbours!” or “Capitalists hate him! Find out how Wang Yang increased his class solidarity overnight!”

While looking through these magazines, I also found some of my large collection of Cultural Revolution era pin badges that I have amassed.

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The last one is my personal favourite. It shows an Asian, European and African hand rising up in solidarity to hold aloft a portrait of Chairman Mao. How quaint.

The badges above are fairly generic pin badges that people would wear on their lapels. Below are some special collector’s sets that were never meant to be worn but were meant to be showcased in one’s home and treasured as great revolutionary tat.

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Inside are badges of “New China’s Ten Greatest Marshals” and “New China’s Ten Greatest Generals”.

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The Marshals.

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The Generals.

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Close up of the Marshals. Here you can see (from top to bottom) Zhu De, Peng Dehuai and Lin Biao. The write-up for Lin Biao denounces him as a counter-revolutionary and mentions his death in a plane crash over Mongolia.

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Not as rare or as exciting as the Marshals and Generals badges, here are some generic Mao badges that anybody can buy in Tiananmen Square or in Mao’s hometown. The slogan on the left refers to Mao as “The Red Sun in the Hearts of the People.”

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Quite who would wear all of these badges in this day and age is beyond me, though I would dearly love to see somebody rocking all twenty badges of China’s greatest Marshals and Generals. Maybe somebody can open up a restaurant that is a cross between TGI Fridays and a 1960’s commune kitchen so that the staff can strut their flair.

flair

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If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.

You’ve been Chinar-ed!(POTUS edition)

It can happen to the best of us…


“Of course we will stop working with North Korea. We are friends – pengyou – that means you can trust us. Relax. No problem. Have a beer – it is called Tsingtao, verr delicious. Go well with your American hamburg. Don’t worry about Pyongyang. You are verr handsome, do you know it? How much you pay for Mar-a-Lago?”

China Crayon Colours

Well, well, well… look what I found.

It’s the famous China Crayon Colours from our old Sinocidal blog!

Fairly self-explanatory and mostly still relevant. The only ones that haven’t aged well (don’t worry Zhang Ziyi, I’m not looking at you – in fact, nobody is since 2010) are the ones relating to now dead blogs.  The green was a reference to John Pasden’s background colour on Sinosplice that appears to still have a few breaths of life in it and is now mercifully free of the counter in the top-right corner that informed the world how long John had been in China. Chinabounder was the erudite sex blogger who was big news back in 2007 but has since disappeared like an out-of-favour former ally of Mao Zedong. Peking Duck still survives online but now posts so rarely that he’s more of a Mauritian Dodo than the eponymous tasty Beijing bird.

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If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my book Party Members – a dark comic fantasy that exposes the corrupt underbelly of modern China.