Monthly Archives: March 2013

End The Fed by Ron Paul

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Ron Paul makes a bold statement, End The Fed.

With our economy falling into chaos the foundation of our lives had turned from rock to sand. The housing bubble was the latest in a string of many that suddenly went bust. The events of 911 shocked the nation and lead to the ongoing War on Terror. Slowly a picture began to be formed which revealed Wall St. crocked business practices as a key element in the housing collapse. Two massive bail outs, at the tax payer’s expense, did not deliver the results promised. People got angry, they organized into the Occupy Movement and we’re met with clubs and pepper spray by our police. Yet the economic disaster continues to grow.

At the crest of this tidal wave Ron Paul shouts his message—End The Fed.

In his book, End The Fed, Ron Paul challenges the reader to rethink the nature of money. It is such a central part of our lives, but the nature of how it functions is almost a complete mystery. What exactly is the dollar? What controls its value? And why is it failing? These are all questions many of us never bothered with before, but the economic catastrophes have created a demand for answers. The American people know they’re being squeezed by some type of scam while CEOs are pulling in record breaking figures, yet the question of “who” and “how” remains purposefully unclear. Ron Paul provides a clear and strong argument that the Federal Reserve Bank’s ability to print unlimited amounts of money, with no discretion of the people it affects, is unconstitutional and the exact reason for the mess we’re in.

I know most people are cringing at the thought about reading a book on economics. Economics isn’t sexy compared to the subjects of war or civil rights, I admit that. And you’ll probably have to reference Wikipedia and youtube videos for all the Econ stuff you’ve forgotten since graduation. But once you begin to see the big picture of how the Federal Reserve fudges with the supply of money to fund an ultra, massive government that’s reaching fascist proportions before an inevitable self-destruction, complacency will no longer be option. I found this book to be one of the most fascinating reads on social critique since discovering the works of Noam Chomsky. In time it will become clear that next Occupy Movement will no longer be at Wall St., which is only the middle man, but at the headquarters of true masterminds, the Federal Reserve. The longer we let them work, the longer we’ll be trading real liberty for counterfeit bills. When the masses final wise up to whose pulling the strings, they’ll surround the hideouts of these government crooks, and their yell will be, “End The Fed!”

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Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima

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Confessions of a Mask is Yukio Mishima’s second novel which is thought to be heavily biographical and gained him recognition as brilliant young writer. The story centers on Kochan, a boy growing up in Imperial Japan during WWII. From a young age he realizes he is a homosexual yet forces himself to pass as a heterosexual in the Right-wing militaristic society. Kochan has a perverse fascination with death. From a young age he fantasizes about how he will die. As he becomes a young adult these fantasies take on a darkly erotic tone that interweaves death and sexuality. The struggle of fighting his true nature results in a deeply agitated state of mind which Mishima conveys masterfully. The majority of the story plays out in the backdrop of Japan’s final years before the atomic bombs lead to the unconditional surrender.

This is a heavily psychological book that is concerned with death, eroticism, polite society, emotional secretiveness, and inner conflict. The story is told as a thoroughly written confession in the form of a long letter. The strong emphasis on isolation and use of interior monologue reminded me of J.D Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Mishima’s exploration of human sexuality and isolation is tuned at a fever pitch that many writers have never reached in their works. There are a few memorable statements about the absurdity of war, yet I would not say there is an anti-war theme. The anxiety of war is presented clearly in lives of all the characters involved.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in books that push the limits of literature and societal norms. This book is definitely not an easy going read. It is a disturbing novel that will agitate even seasoned readers. Mishima’s use of language is impressive. Each word is carefully selected to create a written style that is direct, profound, and confronts the reader unwaveringly. This is the fifth book I’ve read from Mishima and I have yet to read anything that hasn’t left a lasting imprint in my mind. I would go as far to say that a person could choose any of Mishima’s works, blind folded, with perfect confidence of selecting a literary treasure. I am planning on reviewing Mishima’s entire collection.

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War is a force that gives us meaning by Chris Hedges

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Chis Hedges was a war correspondent for the New York Times in many of the defining warzones of our times: the Balkans, Central America, and the Middle East. He has reported on wars from the inside, surviving ambushes, diving for cover alongside his military escorts, and witnessing the aftermath of every atrocity imaginable. The psychological scars from knowing the face of mass produced death are still with him. In his travels around the world he’s found a recurring dynamic at work, the addiction of soldiers and citizens to the ecstasy of war. Hedges covers this topic exclusively in his book, War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning.

This book is journalistic, philosophical, and part social critique. It is effectiveness rests in analyzing the myth of war. He explains how it’s created, who perpetuates it, how it’s disseminated in society, what function it serves, its psychological effects, how it’s maintained, and what happens when it’s finally punctured by the undeniable reality of war. He cites his own experiences and the accounts of soldiers and citizens in war to illustrate where and how these recurring themes unfold in real life. These accounts include graphic accounts of murder, rape, torture, suicide, genocide that deflate the glorious lie which herds generations of men into battle. Yet amongst all this carnage there is a lust for combat and its incomparable rush that fills the emptiness felt by entire nations. No longer is anyone insignificant in the theater of war, we are elevated to the calling of destiny, and to push back against it feels almost impossible. To avoid its intoxicating effects is outright hopeless.

I have often wondered how people I’ve greatly respected for their intelligence and wisdom, people I have personally known, would become incapable of discussing war in any rational way. Their responses on every aspect of the War on Terror would be variations of the empty, clichéd reasons parroted from mainstream media; “they hate us for our freedom”, “Muslims are evil”, and “torture is permissible when we do it.” I wouldn’t accept such absurd reasons for going to war, and so I turned away from the news and began reading writers like Noam Chomsky who gave a grimmer picture of what’s going on. When I approached people with this newfound evidence they’d dismiss it all and hold tighter to robotic ways of thinking. I increasingly became an outsider, an intellectual minority. The whole time I’ve been wondering what this hypnotic like way of thinking is. Could it simply be effective propaganda? The answer is that war is a force that gives us meaning. It is a longing for death that is inside us all. We decorate and justify it with patriotic and glorious gestures, but that death drive is always there. This is a work that lays bare our naked desire for death and recognition. Nobody in our generation can afford to miss out on this highly enlightening work.

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the brotherhood of the grape by John Fante

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John Fante is an American writer who doesn’t get his due respect. The man writes with passion, anger, and a craving for life. The Brotherhood Of The Grape is the third book I’ve read from Fante. So far the man is three for three with all aces. This book is about Henry Molise, a professional writer who was living a comfortable life in Redondo Beach until his brother calls to tell him their elderly parents are getting a divorce.  Henry’s father, Nick, is an alcoholic stone mason who never gave up his crown as King Asshole. His mother is a devout catholic who is desperately juggling her husband and sons to salvage anything resembling a normal Italian American family. Mamma mia!

First off, the book is hilarious. The quarreling between the family members is authentic. It’s sure to take everyone back to their childhood days of fighting with their siblings and cousins. The characters have their scars from growing up in a tightknit family which is funny in a dark comedy sort of way. There’s an ample amount of wine flowing to inspire some outrageous scenes. The family dynamic is done superbly. Fante adds the elements of anger, death, resentment, forgiveness, and alcoholism to produce a story that reads bitter sweet. The central theme is that between a proud father and reluctant son who’s grown up. They both know the father’s time is running out, but how do they bridge the gap that has always been there?

I can’t emphasize how much I recommend this book. The funny parts had me laughing out loud, the absurd antics of the father literally made my jaw drop, and the sad parts we’re enough to give me a heavy heart. Fante is a man who writes with a directness that is simple and powerful. The Brotherhood of the Grape is a leisurely with a lot of depth and comedy. I’ll be reviewing the rest of Fante’s collection as I obtain the copies.

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Black Friday by David Goodis

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I’m hooked on that noir. My last review was Jim Thompson’s After Dark, My Sweet, and while I try to vary my reviews by genre I couldn’t resist following up with more another work of vintage crime. Black Friday is the first book I’ve read from David Goodis. Now I must admit after reading the deeply psychological work of Jim Thompson, Goodis felt dry and somewhat stiff. For a moment I had wondered if Black Lizard press finally dropped that dreaded bomb of disappointment. By the halfway point I glad to have discovered another master of the craft. Black Friday is a story about Hart, a desperate man running from the law for an unforgivable crime. He finds a man in the street dying of a gunshot wound. From there is taken in by the gang who murdered the man. The cops are looking for everyone involved and so they’re trapped in the hideout together. Hart must keep his nerves sharp if he wants to keep alive in a crowded little house with violent men and vicious women.

This is one of the more explicitly violent old school noirs I’ve read. Goodis has a detached style that zooms in on the brutality with a shocking swiftness. If I had to describe this book in one word I’d use, “economical.” Goodis pulls the maximum worth out of the fewest amounts of scenes, dialogue, and characters. The majority of the book takes place in single setting, and yet the book never becomes dull. The confrontation between the characters keeps the tension strong with a threat violence looming over them at all times. There is also enough sex to throw in a scandalous edge. Black Friday is like a game of chicken where the loser gets fried and whoever goes too far only guts himself.

Black Friday is another short novel which read more like a long short story. Goodis’ detached style does take a little while to get used to, but it feels almost as if he’s baiting the reader to lower his guard before throwing a sack over his head. This is a claustrophobic tale that can be appreciated by crime fans of either the classic works or the modern style. Who can resist the combination of classic noir story telling with the level of violence used today? I already have my next Goodis title lined up.

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After dark, my sweet by Jim Thompson

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Jim Thompson is quickly becoming my favorite noir writer with books like my latest read, After Dark, My Sweet. It’s a story about Williams Collins, an escapee from a mental institution who tries to blend into a small town as a normal person. He’s a very kind man who is too easily persuaded and is subject to violent episodes. Quickly he becomes entangled with a wickedly alcoholic woman named Fay Anderson who pulls him into a sinister plot with her partner in crime, a crocked ex-cop named Uncle Bud. Collins easily sees that he’s being setup to be the fall man in their plot, but his desperate loneliness compels him to stay in tragic company. Fay and Uncle Bud figure him for a prime sucker until they find themselves trapped in their own web and it becomes a deadly game of cut-throat.

Thompson creates a deeply intimate connection between the reader and Collins. We get to feel the inner working of his paranoia, desires, and morality. The characters are deeply flawed people who are surviving by any means necessary. Fear and sex are used for bargaining chips in a game of poker with no cards. It’s interesting to begin psychoanalyzing the characters in an attempt to predict their next move and play their motives. Thompson creates a bond between the reader and Collins in which his existence becomes shared. You don’t want him to get killed because it would mean your death too.

 This book is short read of only a 133 pages. It’s amazing how much Thompson can accomplish in such a short time and still make it feel complete. The violence in his work is balanced by the gentle and charming nature of Collins who in the end is both a victim and aggressor.  The suspense is worked supremely like a symphony raising and falling with dramatic affect. Murderous sexual tension is never in short supply. O’ how the fragility of people makes for such rewarding entertainment! Jim Thompson is considered a master from the school of hardcore American noir. This is the second book I’ve read by him and I’ll be reviewing another of his books soon.

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Ten Questions for five writers

James Newman

James Newman, writer of Bangkok Express

Fellow writer, James Newman is currently doing a little project in conjunction with writer and publisher, Tom Vater of Crime Wave Press. The idea is do a chain interview with five other writers working in the East. I’ve been asked to participate.

What is the title of your book?

Blubber Island.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A comedic slasher, post modern, metaphysical mind fuck.

What genre does your book fall under?

It fits into the trashy and realty bending genre of “Gutter Surrealism.” Newman has called it “Splatter Punk,” I’d go with that too.

 Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was sick of the virtually absolute grip the US Government’s propaganda has over people. That’s how the idea of “mind stealing” came to me. I wanted to write something that showed how precious our minds are because people seem so willing to surrender it. Dadaism was an anti-art, art movement that ridiculed modern art as the domesticated pet of those behind World War II. Blubber Island follows in the Dadaist spirit as an anti-literature novel.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took a little over a month. I hardly left the house during that time.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The book was written for my sister who was going through some very hard times. I wanted to tell her to never submit even under crushing oppression. My brother inspired me with his declaration, “I AM NOT A CORPORATE ROBOT!”

As for books, Stephen King’s On Writing put the fire under my ass to finally write a book. Blubber Island is my work. Since moving to Japan, I’ve been reading more Japanese writers such as Haruki Murakami, Yukio Mishima, and Banana Yoshimoto. I tired to incorporate a non-western feeling. And lastly, there is Wyoming lawyer and writer, Gerry Spence. His views on neo-slavery are profound.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

100% self published.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s film The Holy Mountain. His film is nontraditional and subversive. It attacks the psyche on multiple fronts with the intention to bring about enlightenment.

John Davies’s film Hobo With a Shotgun, directed by Jason Eisener, is the ultimate underdog film. It lays on the gore with a cheesy style in a fairy tale context.

Again and again my readers have compared my book with the works of William S. Burroughs. To be honest I’ve never finished any of his books.

I tried to make Blubber Island as original as possible. If it started sounding like somebody I’ve read, I changed it.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a
movie rendition?

They’d all be “nobodies.”

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

As offensive as this book is, the primary message is spiritual salvation and a return to harmony.

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Give Me Liberty! by Gerry Spence

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I picked up Give Me Liberty! because Gerry Spence’s How to Argue and Win Every Time greatly influenced me. I would have never read either of these books if it were up to me. First off Gerry Spence looks like some shit kicking cow boy that going to lecture me about how on how rope steer and read the bible. My wife bought, New York Times Bestseller, How to Argue and Win Every Time because she says I’m an argumentative person and wanted some inside tips on how to smash me. Ironically she didn’t end up liking the book, and I got a lot out of it.

In Give Me Liberty! Spence puts forward a bold statement: We are all slaves in an American era of neo-slavery in which the Government and Corporate world have merged together into what he calls “The New Master.” We all serve this non-person master that has gone out of control and is designed to burn up human life and the earth in the self-destructive quest for dead money. It’s sort of like George Orwell’s “Big Brother,” but nobody even knows it exists because we’re free, according to the never ending propaganda. For some people the premise will sound too outrageous to even be considered. But many others are becoming aware of the constant chipping away of their rights, of the government preference towards aiding corporations, and faulty rational for continuing the never ending War on Terror.

This book reads like the memories from a man who’s spent the better part of his professional life deep within the power system, the courts. Spence isn’t a shock jock media personality whose only credentials are the network’s blessing. Spence has been through the legal battles and has the track record to prove it. What I truly enjoyed about this book is that he instills a human feeling. He puts a face on the people affected by this abusive system. His ideas are radical as any of the championed counter culture figures, but since he doesn’t drop acid and jam out on a guitar, he isn’t as appealing. The spirit of the Enlightenment thinkers and Pamphleteers of Revolutionary America runs deep through his work. Spence is a true patriot, but first he’s a real human being.

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