Book Review – The Plotters by Un-su Kim

The PlottersThe Plotters by Un-su Kim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an remarkable book. Even though it is a translation from Korean, it is written beautifully. It takes a little while to get into but soon you’ll be unable to put it down. It was a very quick read for me.

The story is set in Korea, and features for hire assassins and plotters. One particular assassin is Reseng, a killer who religiously does his job but with a sense of honor, soul and compassion. He still has dreams of how life would be like if he had a wife, a child and a job perhaps in a factory, he even dreams of moving to another country and working a normal job once.

Reseng is an orphan, raised by Old Racoon, a kingpin in the killing machine in “The Library” – the center of where plotters come to find assassins for hire. Although he is discouraged from reading, he learns to read, he becomes an intelligent and self-taught and becomes a sort of philosopher, living in an apartment with two cats named Desk and Lampshade. One day he finds himself a target, and also Old Racoon, because the new generation of assassins want to establish their own ways of doing business and change the center of power. As you get along, different characters – Bear, Trainer, Barber, Mito, Miso, are introduced and they help push the story to a thrilling end.

Not a literary masterpiece, and although violent and dark, it is still very powerful, engaging and enjoyable if you like thrillers.

View all my reviews

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Young People Reject Socialism in the Classroom

International Liberty

Redistribution has a corrosive impact on both ends. Recipients are harmed because they get trapped in dependency, and workers are harmed because taxes discourage productive behavior.

Yet young people seem susceptible to this ideology, even when they are among the main victims.

While it might be tempting to shrug and assume they’re hopelessly clueless, this video shows young people are quite capable of grasping why redistribution is a bad idea.

I’ve previously shared a similar video, as well as a couple of written versions of this redistribution challenge.

In this case, though, we have some additional analysis.

Here are some excerpts from the accompanying article.

…for the first time ever, more young people say they’d prefer to live in a socialist country over a capitalist one. Whether it’s free healthcare, free college tuition, or universal basic income, students around America increasingly support higher…

View original post 400 more words

Best Books I Read in 2017

largebookstore

The Last Bookstore – Los Angeles, CA

My favorite genres in non-fiction are mostly science and history, and in fiction – Science Fiction, Scandinavian Noir, Japanese Thrillers to mention a few – but I read whatever I can get my hands on and books that someone recommends to me.


In 2017, I read about 50 books (down from 62 books in 2015), here are some of my favorites of the year.

1.  Homo  Deus – Yuval Noah Hariri

His first book Sapiens was very enlightening, this is just as great. A stimulating read and also provocative! This isn’t about predicting the future, but a broad and intelligent look at the past of humanity and the abundance of possibilities for the future – discussing areas such as such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, algorithms, etc..and how they may affect our future. Nothing is guaranteed, but many of the ideas discussed in this book are certainly possible. This should be a must read for anyone pondering the future of humanity.

2. Artemis – Andy Weir

If you loved The Martian – you will absolutely love “Artemis”. It’s not a sequel, but still a really great, different and well written science fiction thriller.

Mankind has a colony, Artemis, on the moon in the distant future. Our heroine is Jazz (Jasmine) Bashara, a Saudi woman, extremely courageous, fierce, intelligent but sometimes makes poor choices, somewhat of a female Han Solo, a smuggler. She gets caught up in a dangerous situation and has to use her wits, talent and fitness to deal with corruption, murder, crime syndicates and more. A complex but truly satisfying story. It moves very fast and is addictive, you won’t be able to put the book down. Sure to become a movie but I don’t always trust Hollywood to do justice to the book.

3. The Wandering Falcon – Jamil Ahmad

This is a beautiful book, in the future it will be regarded as a classic and one that I recommend everyone should read. It’s a story set in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas about a boy who later gets named Toz Baz (Black Falcon). He loses his parents and goes wondering from place to place, and each place has a story to it. Sometimes the story is very raw, sad, brutal and sometimes humanizing. The stories are moving and reveal the tribal culture of a remote region that most of the world still know nothing about.

4. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

Best book of 2017, it was the winner of the LA Times Fiction Book of 2018 and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. An amazing story of two young people living in an unnamed land, fall in love in the midst of a war and decide to migrate to flee the violence, first to a Greek island, then to the UK, and then America. Each place they go to, they face challenges, backlash and the violence they were fleeing from is following them everywhere. A fascinating book and  extremely relevant in today’s world of wars, violence, refugee crises, etc. Mohsin Hamid writes very beautifully, takes you on a moving and emotional journey with his words. He’ll sure to be considered one of the greatest writers of the 21st century.

5. The Course of Love – Alain de Botton

In today’s day and age, too many people believe that love should be like a fairy tale, that everything should be how they envision it, like and want it to be. This book is a tale of Rabih and Kirsten, a story of a marriage and the everyday joys, pains, duty, betrayal and sacrifice. However, the story happens in a mundane sort of way that is more like reality. This book is really a teaching tool. The story reflects the life, turmoil and love that is part of every marriage. For those that believe there may be a perfect person for you or some sort of fairy tale partnership; this author opens your eyes to the reality that this does not happen, but that one can have hope and be content in what is.

6. Snowblind – Ragnar Jonasson

This is the first book of a brilliant new Scandinavian thriller crime series – The Dark Iceland series. The setting is an old fishing village  of Siglufjördur in Northern Iceland, it has only one mountain pass to get into, during the winter avalanches occur and no one can get in or out of the town. Also, in this part of Iceland, they live in 24 hours of darkness due to the mountains hiding the sun until summer approaches. The protagonist is Ari Thor who has just graduated from police academy and takes a job in the isolated village after the retirement of one of their officers. His first adventure is a murder mystery in the town where nothing ever happens. The story is full of twists, suspense and mystery with interesting characters. The rights for a TV series have already been acquired by a British company.

7. 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

This is the first book I read by Haruki Murakami. It was long but fantastic. He’s indeed a brilliant writer and tells very unique stories. This novel is very well crafted, the story flows incredibly well taking the reader into a mildly dystopic alternative world, an endlessly engaging one, giving the reader in turn an alternate view of his or her own world. It will keep you thinking about it long after you have put it down. I will definitely be reading more books by him.

8. Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi – Elif Shafak

This came highly recommended by my friend Umi, an avid reader, and indeed became the best book I read that year and one of my all-time favorites, one you want to read again. When I finished reading it, I wanted everyone to read it too. There are two parallel stories weaving in and out. One is set today about a middle aged American woman and Aziz, the author of the book she is reading to write a review on. The other story is of the great 13th century scholar Rumi and his relationship to Shams, the Sufi mystic that inspired Rumi to become one of the greatest poets, scholars and Sufi figures of the world today. Although it is a novel,  it is rich in history and philosophy as well as literature. It will have a deeply profound effect on you as it did to me. The “Forty Rules” provide reflections that offer insight into the foundations of Sufi philosophy.

9. The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Vaseem Khan

Another Umi recommendation that was delightful. Set in Mumbai, Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a police officer with strong morals, principles and values. Due to a heart attack, he is forced into early retirement. On his last day, a boy is found dead, his superior decides to call it a drowning/suicide and closes the investigation. However, even though Inspector Chopra is retired he follows up secretly on the investigation on his own while in retirement. At the same time, he is gifted a baby elephant by an uncle that becomes his sidekick. The story is full of humor as well as suspense, thrills and adventure. The first in the series but definitely worth the read – light, simple writing and an uncomplicated story that goes down very well.

10. Whispering Shadows: A Novel – Jan-Philipp Sendker

An Umi recommendation that introduced me to a fantastic new author. This story takes place in Hong Kong and mainland China. Paul is a retired expat journalist in contemporary China who tries to crack a murder case as he battles his own personal demons. Both a murder mystery and an account of a father’s attempt to come to terms with his young son’s death. There are some observations about contemporary China that are deftly woven into the story…politics, corruption, history, and culture that make it interesting as well.

 

Other highly notable ones I recommend:

The Book of Yunus Emre – Paul Smith

The life and poetry of one of the most important Turkish poets has had a tremendous influence on Turkish literature. He was a Sufi mystic and a contemporary of Rumi but wrote in Turkish instead of Persian, which was the dominant language of the time and region. His poetry expresses a deep personal mysticism, humanism and his love of God.

In the Bazaar of Love – Paul E. Losensky/Sunil Sharma

This is the translated poetry of the immortal legend…Amir Khusrau. He was one of the greatest poets of the India, his poetry, songs and verses are found everywhere today…from people singing his songs in villages in India, to Qawwals like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, to present day Bollywood and Pakistani films featuring his songs. His contribution to Northern Indian Classical music is seen everywhere also…he is the inventor of Qawwali, the Sitar and the Tabla as well.

A Couplet of Khusrau: 

oh Khusrau, the river of love runs in strange directions.
the one who jumps into it drowns, and one who drowns is the one who gets across…

 

And another one: 

I have become you, and you have become me

I am the body, you the soul

so that no one can say, hereafter,

that you are someone else and I am someone else…

 

The Silent Dead – Tetsuya Honda

The first in a new Japanese thriller series, this one features a female detective.

Police – Jo Nesbo

10th book in the “Harry Hole” series and doesn’t disappoint. A densely plotted thriller with twists, turns, thrills, tense moments with some new characters and some of the old memorable ones. The way the characters have changed throughout the series is brilliant and entertaining. If you like Scandinavian thrillers, this is a must read best to start from the first Harry Hole book in the series.

The Stranger – Camilla Lackberg

The 4th book in the series, the vivid narration is really great and will take to Fjallabacka, where you become familiar with all the characters, the drama and feel like you are living in that town. I heard there is a TV series made as well.

The Ice Beneath Her – Camilla Grebe

For fans of Scandinavian thrillers, a dynamic thriller.

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

A masterpiece of graphic novels. An exceptionally charming, funny and real account of the Iranian revolution and its aftermath, through the eyes of a young woman who lived through much of it.

Last Word on “Net Neutrality”

This was heard on the Internet on a Facebook comment – author unknown:

“Net Neutrality was essentially a Trojan horse for greater government control and regulation of the core traffic of the internet. It is a solution in search of a problem. Remember, Net Neutrality was only implemented in 2015, so it’s only been around for two years. But, they sold it to us to solve the “problem” of ISPs selling access to different services for different prices.

Now, I want you to tell me when your ISP charged you a different price for access to email, or social networking, or streaming video prior to 2015?

The answer is…they didn’t. It never happened.

The government essentially created a problem so that they could be the solution. This allowed the FCC to begin regulating the Internet as a semi-public utility, and allow five people to decide who will be allowed access to what on the internet. It was their foot in the door.

Remember, the Internet was the answer to the censorship that FCC regulations created in the first place. The Internet was the answer to having only four TV networks, and only a handful of radio stations. The Internet was the answer to not being able to say “shit” on the radio. The Internet was the answer to not being able to see boobies on TV. The Internet was the answer to the FCC limiting your freedom of speech, and your access to unconventional ideas.

All of a sudden, the FCC is there to insure that we have freedom of choice?

Also, you should consider who supports Net Neutrality. It is the companies that have the largest share of internet traffic, among them Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Perhaps not coincidentally, these are the same companies who have collected more personal data on you than anyone else.

So, let’s do a thought experiment. What if your ISP told you that you had to pay extra to use Google…or Facebook…or Amazon? You’d probably find another ISP, right? It would make absolutely zero business sense for an ISP to do that.

And, why would the largest content providers support it, knowing full well that no ISP would ever try to charge more for their content? I mean, would you want an ISP that told you you had to pay extra for Facebook?

Here’s why they support it. Google, Facebook and Amazon (GFA) would be one step closer to monopoly status. They want to blur and merge the line between content providers (them) and content delivery (ISPs). Once the Pandora’s Box that is FCC regulation is in place, GFA would have the regulatory body necessary to ensure startup competitors could not comply with the regulations. Currently, GFA simply purchases companies which have the potential to compete with their core products. However, that cost them billions to do so. In many cases, once they purchase the small competitors, they shelve them, and redirect their traffic to their core products.

However, if GFA were to have a regulatory body, such as the FCC, regulating ISPs and ultimately content providers, they would have a much cheaper way to prevent start-up competitors from gaining a foothold in the market. And, lobbying government to implement regulation favorable to them costs exponentially less than buying competitive companies.

So, net neutrality is a long play for them. It doesn’t matter WHAT the FCC is talking about regulating on the Internet. To them, it’s about ensuring the FCC is simply regulating. It’s about getting that government foot in the door to protect their content monopolies. But that’s not even their longest play. Their ultimate goal is data collection and behavior control.

Because that’s really the business that GFA is in. If they can limit your choices for content, they can ensure they have access to the most data about you, and control your purchasing behavior…at minimum.”

  • Unknown author

Despacito Conquers America

Forget the ramblings of xenophobes and threats of building walls.

Music demolishes all barriers to Love… Latino culture today is being embraced even more despite the vitriol in our political landscape. The success of this song is a reminder that America is more diverse today than ever. Yes….we may not live in an equal America, or a fair America, but it does mean we have the opportunity to experience America’s many rich cultures, listen to more stories, whether those stories are told in English or not. They still touch us.

Singer/songwriter Luis Fonsi stated on Instagram that “Music has no language”. Actually, Luis…Music is the language of Love…it is and has always been universal. If we want to understand humanity and love…we have to understand music first.

This is the first Spanish song since “Macarena” (1996-1997) to grace the US Billboard number one position for weeks while refusing to give up its number one position in the UK charts. You hear it blasting out of every sound system today in America. With a boost from Justin Beiber (who adds an English Intro to the extremely catchy Spanish lyrics and beats).

Personally for me though I prefer the original without Justin Beiber which has reached over 2 billion views on Youtube:

R.I.P. Robert Miles, Dance Music Pioneer

DJ Robert Miles has died after a brief illness. If you listened to music in the 90s, you can’t have missed the genius of Italian born DJ/music producer Robert Miles, even today DJ’s sample his music worldwide.

“Children” is the most iconic of hits in the history of dance music and really defined his career and revolutionized dance music, creating an entire genre “Dream House” which brought trance music to the mainstream. In clubs they used to have this as the last track of the night.

It is a track that is very moving and brings strong emotions.

After Miles performed this music in a club, a girl approached him in tears. “What music is this?” she asked him. It was a moment he will never forget that moment, realizing that his feelings had been conveyed through his music. His dream turned into reality.

Children:

Fable was another one of his fantastic tracks…featured in the movie “Ever After” (with Drew Barrymore).

Fable:

 

 

 

Obama is Now a “Fat Cat”

Hypocrite: Noun; A person who calls others “fat cats” for charging a lot of money, but then himself charges obscene amounts for speaking a crock load of bull shit.

Barack Obama, spent much of his eight years in the White House pointing critical fingers at Wall Street and Big Business, but today he isn’t as adverse to the almighty dollar as he let us to believe.

The ex-prez is about to earn $400,000 to deliver a speech (AKA a crock load of bull shit) at a Wall Street conference being run by Cantor Fitzgerald LP — the same type of people Obama used to blast as “fat cats.”

We can’t even count the number of times Obama blasted Wall Street for its greed — slammed Big Business for its salaries at the so-called expense of the little people. Fat cats, he called them — over and over, ad nauseum to the free-market, capitalistic crowd.

But now that he’s got a speaking gig with these undesirables that’s valued at $400,000?

It’s goodbye, principles; hello, greenback!

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/04/26/obama-under-fire-400k-speech-wall-street-fat-cats

 

Excerpts:

while Obama railed against “fat cat bankers” on the campaign trail, during his tenure as president he oversaw the massive bailout for the firms responsible for the 2008 crisis, picked former Wall Street executives for his cabinet, and not a single banker went to jail.

As Aaron Blake writes in the Washington Post, there are many problems with the arrangement:

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did this, too, as have Hillary Clinton, Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan. And the more that Wall Street firms give out-of-office presidents and big-name politicians these paydays, the more they become the norm. Other presidents will know that such payments are on the table, and it risks coloring their decisions with regard to Wall Street and special interests.

Which is already happening with Obama, retroactively.

“Whether fair or not, it’s not difficult to look at Wall Street paying $400,000 to Obama as a reward for [the lack of prosecutions for anybody involved in the financial crisis]. In that way, it’s tough on both precedent and Obama’s presidency,” Blake observes.