Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

The Republican Race as a Risk Game

February 25, 2016

risk board.jpg

Since I played Risk so much in high school it’s obvious to me why the other candidates aren’t attacking Trump. In politics, as in Risk, any attack you make on a fortified position hurts you as well as the enemy, especially if you know the other guy will turn in his cards and hit you back his next turn. There’s also the psychological obstacle of how well Trump’s been rolling. All the other candidates want someone else to be the one who sacrifices his armies to weaken Trump. Even the donor class does!

Here’s how the present race would look on a Risk board, a 5-man game (formerly a 6-man game) in order of number of armies:
1. Trump: Holds North America, unquestionably has the most armies, and his already big lead will continue to grow unless the others attack him to break his hold on the continent now.
2. Rubio: Holds Africa. Could attack Trump via Europe (which is now open, see #6) but would rather consolidate Europe (not enough time for that though!) or attack Cruz and take over South America.
3. Cruz: South America. Can only expand by attacking Trump or Rubio. Rather than attacking the stronger one, Trump, he’d like to eliminate Rubio and get the South America-Africa combo, which would give him as many bonus armies as Trump’s North America does.
4. Kasich: Australia, but only recently. Has too few armies to attack anyone and is hoping for the other players to destroy each other so he can rise up several turns later.
5. Carson: Wandering in Asia. No continent bonus and his once-formidable armies are almost entirely drained away, but has too few cards and is too distant to be worth the trouble of attacking.
6. Jeb!: Recently eliminated by Trump and Rubio after repeatedly failing to execute the difficult strategy of holding Europe.


Live-action “Attack on Titan” is a Disaster

August 18, 2015

The basic problem with this movie is it seems like the director and the studio thought “this is a scary movie for junior high school boys” and what’s worse, they have very low opinions of the tastes of junior high school boys. It’s also extraordinarily sexist as I’ll write in detail below.

The manga had very complete and mature characters and plotting from the start, but these guys were all turned into thirsty idiots who are too busy having sex to realize there are Titans right next to them.

The major themes of the story, like family love and sacrifice, and political class conflict, were completely absent. All that was left was an army, and it was the world’s most disorganized army.


Ask Haruki Murakami — Translation of the Question Form

January 16, 2015


The site for Haruki Murakami’s advice column is open until Jan. 31 and while it’s in Japanese, he’ll also take questions in English. Want to ask him something but don’t know Japanese? Don’t worry, I’ve translated the fields for you:

Go here to write your question:

The ten fields are:

1. Pen Name (anonymity is ok)
2. Gender: Left Bubble=Male, Right=Female
3. Age
4. Job
5. Question Category: This is multiple choice and there are 4 options: (1) There’s something I’d like to ask or discuss with Mr. Murakami (2) There’s something I’d like to say to Mr. Murakami (3) Place(s) I like or dislike (4) About cats or the Yakult Swallows [baseball team]
6. My Question/Comment (1200-character limit)
7. Email Address
8-9. I agree with House Rules and Privacy Policy (must be checked)
10. I’d like to receive emails about Murakami and his works in the future (warning, they’ll be in Japanese)
To send click on the big black button on the bottom.

If you have any other questions let me know!

The Joy Luck Club

September 13, 2014

Just finished this and want to talk to you all about it. Get your thoughts together and meet me in the comments.


I’m glad I read it. No book should be made The Definitive Story Of An Entire Race like this was made out to be in the ’90s (“ok ok you guys can have ONE book in the canon!” see also The House on Mango Street), but the stories it had to tell were certainly worth passing on and hearing.

The title is what tricked me into not reading this for so many years; I thought it’d taste like a mooncake. Nope. It was a bitter melon. The suffering was affecting me that reading a book about the Chinese Communist Party consistuted a halftime break. But bitter melons are healthy, and I eat them a lot, and I needed to eat this once since I’ll be a future ABC parent myself.

My favorite story was “The Red Candle”. I know the passage of cultural memory is the stated theme but the battle against patriarchy was where the real meat was. The characters take a lot of shit and close their arcs when they learn how to fight back against it. Besides the clueless white husbands, the naive boys and wicked old male and female power-abusing antagonists in China blended together so well they gave the impression the Japanese were merely the latest and biggest problem for a profoundly unhealthy society. (Putting more wind in the sails of my antipathy toward the Chinese ruling class, I might add.) In this book belief in the existence and power of ghosts is seemingly the only effective tool the weak have against the strong.”There’s so much suffering in this book,” I said. “That’s China,” Jean replied.”In the end she got back at them,” I said. “By dying,” Jean replied.

All the mother protagonists were World War II immigrants, and I thought more than once of how different they were from the highly educated, very filtered East Asian migrant population the US allowed in the decades afterward. Immigrants from Taiwan, for example, are more often than not privileged, not escapees. Anyway, those who ran away from suffering to the US came emotionally wounded and the unintentional effects of that on parenting are pretty clear in my opinion.

American and Chinese culture are set up as foils. Interestingly enough, the Chinese Culture defined here with flourishes of folk tales, feng shui, and the search for symbolism in the mundane has receded greatly since then not only in the States but also here in Taiwan and presumably in China as well as science and data have increased their influence. But if the redeeming power of ghosts leaves China what can replace it?

First Falun Gong, and now Christianity, it seems. In fact an honest portrayal of Chinese Christianity in America is what was really missing from the Joy Luck tapestry in my opinion. The characters are preoccupied with Eastern Culture VS Western Culture when the solution is to fulfill the best of both. However, contemporary Christian culture, on both sides of the Pacific, is still too westernized to make this avenue clear for many.

Anyway, the book settles on Family as The Answer and of course that’s a massive part of life that gives us a lot of joy and deserves more credit. It’s not Everything but it’s so much that I was moved to tears by the ending and enough to make for a satisfying read. Now let me know what you think.


August 14, 2014


The conceptual bridge to police actions in Ferguson had already been built. Many many people have always (wrongly) thought of majority-Black neighborhoods as foreign countries. Now the public has been conditioned to think of foreign countries as Iraq, and our institutions, down to local government, have come to act and spend like occupying armies themselves.

I woke up thinking of what Henry David Thoreau said the Mexican-American War would do to our country: “The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man swallows the arsenic, which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.”

Recommended Reading:

Recommended Social Network: Twitter

A Land of One-Man Islands, or Shootings are a Symptom of Social Sickness

December 16, 2012

It’s a rare beautiful winter morning in Taipei, but after checking my feed, my first thought of the day is, “May God have mercy on our souls.”

The last time this happened, many people asked me what it is about America. Generalizations are never Gospel truth, but my opinion is we have a widespread Mental Health epidemic, abetted by unnatural medication and environmental and dietary contamination but ultimately caused by family and community breakdown.

I believe only a one-man island, someone without any healthy people close to him, caring for him and knowing his activities and state of mind, could do a thing like this. And almost every town in America, from Newtown, CT to Carmel, Indiana, is full of one-man islands.

Even those who never attack another person suffer alone daily. They fall and no one hears the sound.

This story, and the additional detail that Lanza’s own brother hadn’t been in contact with him since 2010, following a 2009 divorce splitting the family in half, tells the tale of Adam Lanza in very broad strokes:

“A relative told ABC News that Adam was `obviously not well.` Family friends in Newtown also described the young man as troubled and described Nancy as very rigid. `[Adam] was not connected with the other kids,` said one friend.”

Lanza’s brother called him autistic. In reality, due to the explosion of home entertainment and the Internet in recent decades, all of us are more autistic than ever. We interact with other people face-to-face less frequently, and it’s easier than ever to avoid other people for a long period of time. Independence is part of the American ethos, which is why we’ve gone this direction faster than other countries, but we’ve also seen troubled, isolated killers crop up in more communitarian societies like China and Japan.

Here’s what we can do to make things better.

1. More love, more connections, more community organizations. This is what we can all do personally, do passionately, and do right now. We should reach out especially to estranged family members and people we find disgusting or troubling and bring everyone into the fold and into positive lifestyles. We should try to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

Let’s try to be as heroic as Donnie Andrews, the original Omar, was:

2. Most people on my wall are discussing gun control. That’s fair. But prior to a total ban, I’d like to look into how these weapons are sold. The killers aren’t going to the corner store to a vendor who knows them and their families well and can use discretion; they’re buying weapons by mail from people who couldn’t care less. A criminal background check tells you much less than enough about a person.

If we want to ban assault weapons, then we also have to disarm our police departments, because they are weaponizing to a terrifying degree. Otherwise, we will make the paranoid more paranoid. Almost every country suffered a mass police or military slaughter of civilians at some point in the 20th century. People don’t buy assault rifles to blow bigger holes in burglars’ heads; they do it to head off a future 228 Incident.

3. As I alluded to earlier, America is physically contaminated, and we need to clean it up. So is the rest of the industrialized world on a lesser scale. Besides unhealthy food and water there are even clothing problems – look up “Greenpeace and Zara and Levi’s” – and ATM contamination – look up bisphenol A. I could go on forever. My parents are part of the vaccine-reform crowd; they say US vaccines are made using tissue from aborted fetuses and some kids react to that. Environmental and consumer protection should be mass movements, not niche ones.

America is also by far the most medicated place in the world. Which makes everything worse. I mentioned our prescription pill plague two weeks ago. Besides that, we’re the Ritalin generation. You must know of others who suffered from this.  When I taught in Japan, the number of students on medication for mental health issues was practically zero…and by and large the kids were doing fine.

All these chemicals and tampering are making us sick. And physical and mental health are connected.

Every generation sees evil and suffering. The proper response is not despair but positive reform. Thank you for reading, and God bless you as you move forward tomorrow.